It didn’t take a pandemic for Cynthia Daniels and organizers of Memphis Black Restaurant Week to embrace the need for a sixth year of the highly-anticipated event. The ongoing public health emergency simply served to enhance an already-rooted commitment to build upon success.
Memphis Black Restaurant Week (MBRW) kicks off on Sunday, Mar. 7 and extends through Saturday, Mar. 13.
“For black restaurant owners, this year is one of the most important events we have hosted,” said Daniels, the event creator. “As we get through the last of this pandemic, we’ve seen some old friends have to close their doors for good. We must support our own.”
Support and patronage of African-American restaurants is a “life-and-death” prospect for many eateries barely holding on in the midst of the year-long pandemic, Daniels said.
“It has been hard for so many operating at 25 percent or 50 percent,” said Daniels. “Rent and utilities still have to be paid. Employees must be paid. It has taken everything they have to stay afloat for many Black restaurants. MBRW generates hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for these businesses. Our support is more important than ever.”
Daniels said restaurants will offer delivery, pick-up and curbside options to “keep everyone safe during the pandemic.
“Only about five or six of restaurants being featured will offer in-house dining . … So, online orders are going to be essential to the success of another Memphis Black Restaurant Week.”
SugaShack, a new spot on Beale Street, opened during the pandemic.
“We’ll be open for dining and dancing,” said Larry Springfield, a well-known entertainer and owner of SugaShack. “People ask me how we opened during the pandemic. It was just a matter of making a decision and going out to look for a venue. So, here we are.”
Springfield said there will be live entertainment at designated times.
Merritt Bailey, proprietor of Orange Mound’s award-winning Ball Hoggerz BBQ, located near the corner of Park Avenue and Airways Blvd., will be participating for the third year.
“We’ve been competing in the barbeque competition each year. That’s how we got started. Our pick-up window will be open, and if the weather is nice, there are a couple of tables outside where people can sit and eat. We’re looking forward to another great year.”
Roger Brown of Meals For You said, “We are looking forward to next week with great anticipation. … We were on a roll last year, and the pandemic hit. It was like we just hit a brick wall; everything just stopped.
“But it will be all hands on deck (for MBRW). I told everybody to just be prepared to stay until the fat lady sings. We are looking forward to next week with great anticipation.”
Participating restaurants are:
- Curry N Jerk
- 901 Wings
- Evelyn & Olive
- Mahogany Memphis
- Arnold’s Bar-B-Q & Grill
- Chef Tam’s Underground Café
- The Four Way
- Ball Hoggerz BBQ
- Bala’s Bistro
- Trap Fusion
- Eggxactly Breakfast & Deli
- Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken
- Electrolyfe Juice Bar
- Smooth Living Health Food Restaurant
- A&R Barbeque
- Meals For You
- Mr. P’s Buffalo Wings Hacks Cross
- Big Momma’s and Granny’s
- Bones & Yams
“We have the power within our own community to put our collective dollars together and build wealth,” Daniels said. “When Barack Obama was running for president, he asked for a $5 donation, just $5. And look what our collective dollars did.
“We can be the answer to our own prayer and the solution to our own dilemma.”
(To participate in Black Restaurant Week, go to: www.blackrestaurantweek.com.)