Over the past two weeks, passionate protests against police violence and racial injustice have sparked a wider discussion about creating more justice in various industries. This is true of the Seattle food world as well, as many are trying to channel their dollars to black-owned restaurants, bars, bakeries and cafes. For this reason, various local guides have collected names of such companies to make discovery a little easier.
Laura Clise, founder of The Intentionalist – a comprehensive online buying guide based in Seattle that highlights businesses from underrepresented communities – says traffic to black-owned locations listed on their website has increased fivefold since the protests began. “People use this moment to change their eating and shopping decisions,” she says. “They are more targeted with their spending as an act of solidarity.” Likewise, Isolynn Dean, owner of Cortona Cafe in the Central District, says there has been a large influx of stores lately and has been encouraged by the support.
However, consistent patronage will be key to cultural change, as both Clise and Dean note. While ordering takeaways is a great way to directly support black-owned restaurants, it is only a small step in the process – in itself insufficient without deeper engagement. Opportunities that can be pursued through lobbying include land trusts to secure space for entrepreneurs, funding for black farmers, more recognition for the work that many black chefs in the community are doing, and education about the kitchen that is so innovative Offer restaurateurs.
With that in mind, below are some up-to-date guides for black-owned food businesses in the area, as well as resources that can be helpful in building sustainable change. As Dean says, “Just show yourself.”
Lists of black-owned restaurants
The intentionalist. Companies on this website can be sorted by different filters (bakery, bars, cafes, etc.) and by districts. There are also virtual gift certificates available for purchase and programs like “Tabs” by Intentionalist, where the website prepays a certain amount with a local company to attract more guests. “The decisions we make about who we support really make a difference,” says Clise.
Seattle Times. Reviewers Tan Vinh, Bethany Jean Clement, and Jackie Varriano have compiled a list referencing The Intentionalist and pointing to a number of restaurants, including the Plum Bistro, Fat’s Chicken and Waffles, and Emma’s BBQ.
The infatuation. This restaurant reviews hub has a list and table of black-owned restaurants broken down by Seattle neighborhood, as well as cities north of the city proper, which extend south to Tacoma.
Seattle Met. The city’s lifestyle and culture magazine recently published two lists: one listing current take-out services at black-owned restaurants in most parts of Seattle, and one focusing on the East Side.
EatOkra. This mobile app for finding black-owned restaurants in cities across the country includes reviews, links to delivery services, and other information. There are about 30 listed in Seattle. Categories include brunch and vegan-friendly places.
Seattle refined. This food, fashion, and entertainment website also referred to the intentionalist as a guide, but also embed a map that includes many black-owned businesses in the city.
Crowd sourcing tables and social media posts. As across the country, many members of the food media create their own lists in Google Sheets or other programs. Some of the local ones are the ones curated by recipe developer Rose DeMun and food writer Naomi Tomky (an Eater staff member). Meanwhile, the local dessert shop Trophy Cupcakes and accounts like Seattle Black Businesses have shared lists on Instagram.
Organizations, funds, farms, and other resources
Land Fund. Dean spoke about the importance of finding more space for black-owned restaurants, especially in a city that has seen sky-high rents in recent years and has become increasingly beautifull. To this end, the Jerk Shack Jamaican food restaurant in Belltown is raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to buy land so it can “serve our community where they live.” Meanwhile, Africatown Land Trust and Forterra have raised funds to maintain the Liberty Bank Building, which will soon house the upcoming restaurant, That Brown Girl Cooks, by caterer Kristi Brown. And there are several national land justice organizations listed on Civil Eats.
Educational resources. For those looking to learn about the roots of southern black cuisine and other culinary history, Chef Edouardo Jordan’s JuneBaby encyclopedia, which describes food, cultural, and geographic terms, is vital. In the intro it also contains action elements to reduce distortion. Step One: “Find out about anti-blackness, systemic oppression, privilege, and the role you and your communities play in sustaining systems of white supremacy.” Food52 also has a list of black author cookbooks, and The Northwest The African American Museum near Judkins Park in the Central District (temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic) has a virtual book club, as well as other online experiences that are worth checking out.
Business support. Clise mentions the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle civil rights group, which describes itself as an “economic first responder” and has a wide range of services that liaise community members, local businesses and government. It was directly involved in recent discussions with local leaders about eliminating racial differences. Part of his mission is to promote fairer hiring practices, which can help build a stronger pipeline of black chefs and restaurateurs in Seattle.
This is also an effort Seattle Restaurants United is working on, according to Representative Jeanie Chunn. “When recruiting restaurant positions, do we have a clear path for black employees to become managers?” she asks, adding that there must also be plans for more transparent compensation between restaurants in the area. Funding for organizations like the Urban League and the black entrepreneur-centric Black Dot Underground can be helpful. On the retail side, Pike Place tourism company Savor Seattle has put together a “Solidarity Box” with products from local black companies, with part of the sales going to Black Lives Matter.
Communal kitchens. In March, Jordan converted his Ravenna restaurant Salare into a communal kitchen as part of the Restaurant Workers Relief Program. Meanwhile, Midnight Mecca pop-up chef Tarik Abdullah has made community service an integral part of his job, from running a communal kitchen called Feed the People to participating in the Seattle Community Kitchen (with Kristi Brown, Musang cook Melissa Miranda) and others) to start a culinary program for young people.
Strengthening the food pipeline. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, smallholders across Washington have had problems. Because of this, it may be more important than ever to support black-owned farms like Clean Greens in Duvall, Washington (with a Seattle product stand on Jackson Street) and Sky Island Farm in Hoquiam. There are CSA boxes as well as opportunities to donate and volunteer. A June 19 grill box from the Vif wine café in Seattle is also collecting donations to support black farming, agriculture and food sovereignty.
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