I Ate Only Black-Owned Restaurants for 30 Days: Here’s What I Learned

Food from Upper Kirby Bistro

“What does change for Black people really look like?”

Someone at my table of friends asked the question over the muted tones of Frankie Beverly’s crooning, and it hung in the air for a few seconds. We were sitting at one of the round tables at Upper Kirby Bistro, socially distanced, but close enough not to miss the smell of buttermilk chicken batter wafting through the air, aided by a light breeze from the patio, with the sweet scent of hot maple syrup trailing not far behind. Our waitress brought my chicken and waffle plate and I dove in — the crisp on the edges of the waffle, quickly balanced out by the fluffy center and pools of maple syrup in each of its wells. Heavenly.

“I’m gonna try and just eat black owned for a little bit…”
I offered up the delayed response through a mouthful of chicken. Everyone nodded in agreement, too engrossed in steaming oxtails, savory grits, and leafy greens to ask for details. It was June 7th and we were more than 2 months removed from Breonna Taylor’s death, 2 weeks removed from George Floyd’s death, and 2 days from his funeral. Everyone was hungry — for food and a little human interaction in the middle of a pandemic. But we were all mentally exhausted. Houston had taken a gut punch.

My pledge, made under the influence of tender, deep-fried chicken somehow turned into a 30 day challenge to eat Black-owned exclusively.

It was not easy.

Through the ups and downs of my food journey, I traveled to or ordered from somewhere between 15–20 Black-owned restaurants.

Here are 5 key things I think we can learn as customers and business owners:

As I wrap this writing up, I just shoveled the last piece of tender garlic roasted baked chicken from Esther’s Cajun Cafe & Soul Food down my gullet. I don’t know what change looks like for Black people collectively, but maybe it’s just like this chicken — you don’t try and swallow too much at once; you take it on a little piece at a time, and savor every bit of it, knowing it was worth the wait.

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