Photo: M.K. Koszycki
Photo: M.K. Koszycki

DMV Black Restaurant Week Highlights Local, Black-Owned Businesses

From November 4 through 11, Washingtonians will be able to enjoy good eats and empowering signature events poised to tackle issues of diversity and inclusion in the restaurant industry. The inaugural DMV Black Restaurant Week will highlight black-owned restaurateurs, chefs and caterers in the region, with 20-plus locations serving discounted deals or prix fixe menus for $25 or less.

“We want to be able to create a platform,” says cofounder Erinn Tucker, who describes the new restaurant week as locally grown but globally aware. “We want to use this opportunity to really give back.”

Tucker, a Georgetown University professor for the Master’s in Global Hospitality Leadership program, is one of three restaurant/hospitality veterans behind the already well-received and well-publicized event. She’s joined by Andra “AJ” Johnson, who is in the process of publishing White Plates, Black Faces, a book that puts a spotlight on black culinary talent and addresses cultural neglect in the industry. Third cofounder Furard Tate worked as the chef for H Street-based Inspire BBQ before it closed and is now getting ready to open Brookland’s Love Market, a business designed to train those between the ages of 19 and 25 in a fast-casual restaurant setting.

“I’ve watched this city change and have been a part of it as a business owner as well as a resident,” Tate says. “I know this city, so this is something that we have been collectively working on for awhile. We want to educate the community [on how to] support these restaurants, because a lot of them are closing. An educated consumer is a much better consumer.”

Po Boy Jim’s Jeff Miskiri says he’s hopeful the restaurant week will be advantageous for newer establishments participating in the event, including his five-year-old Cajun restaurant on H Street.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he says. “It’s not just about me. It’s about everyone coming together as a whole.”

DC icon Ben’s Chili Bowl is also participating, and cofounder Virginia Ali says it’s spectacular that the District has so many restaurants representative of various cultures across the globe.

“DMV Black Restaurant Week is something new and exciting for Washingtonians to come and enjoy, and hopefully it’s going to grow over the years,” she says.

The restaurant week’s three signature events include a kickoff networking opportunity on November 4 at the Union Oyster Bar and Lounge near Union Market, the R. R. Bowie Bartender Club competition on November 5 at Service Bar in Shaw, and the Business of Food and Beverage Education Conference on November 10 at the University of the District of Columbia.

Conference panels will range from “Workplace Culture: Rethinking the Workplace” to “Miseducation of the Black Diner,” including discussions on important topics like employee safety, tipping, stereotypes of the black diner, and treatment of the black server.

The theme of the bartending competition is “Black History Makers of the DMV,” and contestants will pay tribute to the DC area through their cocktails.

Participating restaurants will not only be able to enjoy continued support from the community, but also from their peers like the Restaurant Association of Maryland and National Restaurant Association.

“We’re not just letting people [try] the food,” Tate says. “We’re also helping these restaurants sustain themselves [through] our allied relationships and partnerships.”

Plans are also in the works for quarterly programming to further bolster the local restaurant community, according to Tucker.

“In five years, we really see this as an initiative [that becomes] a signature event for the globe,” she says. “We are a global city. We are a global environment. People will be traveling in for this particular event.”

The full roster of restaurants, bars and other spots participating in this year’s DMV Black Restaurant Week has not yet been announced but check www.dmvbrw.com for updates. Follow the event on Twitter and Instagram @dmvbrw.

Note: DMV Black Restaurant Week is in no way affiliated with Black Restaurant Week, LLC, which plans on expanding to the District in 2019. The event is also not the first of its kind in the area. In 2015, a Black Restaurant Week was organized by ABlackLife LLC and New York-based I DON’T CLUBS brought Black-Owned Restaurant Month to DC.