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First Annual Chicago Black Restaurant Week Starts This Week

phil-seed-friends-jazzThis Sunday marks the launch of a new restaurant week in Chicago. Its called called Chicago Black Restaurant Week and it’s the brainchild of social media management specialist Lauran Smith. The event is aimed at spotlighting Chicago’s black-owned eateries.

The Black Restaurant Week begins as Chicago’s annual Restaurant Week activities come to an end. But Lauran says the weeklong event is not so much a reaction to the other Restaurant Week as an addition to it. She also says the timing of her event is just a co-incidence.

In an interview with WBEZ 91.5 Smith said, “I chose the week because before there was Black History Month, way back in 1926 Dr. Carter G. Woodson created Negro History Week, which was always the second week in February. So I said let me honor his initial vision to honor African Americans who have played a part in our history. And let me do the restaurant week so it can commemorate what he did and so we can start something new in 2016.”

To get the project going, Smith invited about a dozen Chicago area restaurants and bakeries to discount some of their top dishes for the week. Some participating restaurants include Truth Italian Restaurant in Bronzeville, The Chuck Wagon Grill, Peach’s in Chicago, Flavor Restaurant in Richton Park and TurkeyChop Gourmet Grill in Chicago. For a complete list of participants, go to the Chicago Black Restaurant Week web site here.

Peytyn Willborn, owner of Truth Italian restaurant in Bronzeville. Is one of the participants in the first Black Restaurant Week in Chicago. “People need to know that we offer great food, that black people can cook,” she said. “Even though I don’t cook here. But we’re drowning. We’re small fish in a big sea and people need to know we’re here. So I love the fact that we are having our first Black Restaurant Week.”

When asked why she and many other Black restaurant owners didn’t participate in the main Restaurant Week, she said that many of them weren’t aware of it. Plus, she adds, there are relatively few African-American entrepreneurs who get into the restaurant business.

“I was one of the blessed ones,” she said. “But African Americans have dreams, we just don’t have the money and we have to have someone to believe in us.”

But even with financing barriers, Chicago’s black entrepreneurs have opened dozens of restaurants all over the area, and consumers are hungry to know about them.

Only a fraction of those 120+ black owned restaurants in the area are signed up for this year’s Chicago Black Restaurant Week. But Smith says she’s just getting started and hopes to expand every year. In the meantime, she hopes this year’s effort will encourage Blacks and others to give a few more black-owned businesses a try.

Know any great black owned restaurants in your neighborhood? Post their information in the comments below.




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