by JR Valrey, the Minister of Information
Last week Black Restaurant Week ended after bringing together over 24 Black restaurants from cities around northern California as diverse as Oakland, San Francisco, Campbell, Hayward, San Jose and there was even a restaurant participating from Sacramento.
“I founded Black Restaurant Week in 2016 with the help of my good friends Falayn Ferrell and Derek Robinson because we shared a unified passion for our community. It began as a one-city food experience in Houston where participants can dine in or order from a litany of Black-owned restaurants in their city,” explained Warren Luckett, co-founder of Black Restaurant Week.
“Our mission is to provide complimentary marketing and PR services for the business under the BRW campaign, educate consumers on the abundance of cultural cuisines within their neighborhood and share the disparities faced by minority-owned businesses. In eight years, the organization has supported more than 3000 restaurateurs, bartenders, chefs, caterers and food trucks.”
The Puerto Rican and Cuban restaurant, El Nuevo Frutilandia, located 3077 24th St in San Francisco’s Mission District is a legendary eatery that has been in the neighborhood for over five decades and they participated this year in Bay Area Black Restaurant Week.
“El Nuevo Frutilandia has been in SF’s Mission district for over 50 years! Originally it was a small fruit milkshake and Cuban coffee shop that turned into serving Puerto Rican food. Hence the ‘Frutilandia’ part,” said Tyrisha Frias, co-owner of El Nuevo Frutilandia.
“Over the span of Frutilandia’s existence there have only been four owners including myself. The business start date is unsure, as it’s based on memories from the owner I purchased Frutilandia from, however my partner Rafael Frias and myself have owned El Nuevo Frutilandia since April of 2012. Caribbean food is very rare on the West Coast, especially in San Francisco.
“Absolutely, I see the similarities in Puerto Rican and Cuban influenced by Black and African culture. Plantains, Cassava, Taro Root, rice and beans are signature items that you’ll find on any menu,” says Tyrisha Frias, co-owner of El Nuevo Frutilandia.
“We offer Cuban & Puerto Rican Cuisines. Our most popular dishes include our Mofongo made from green plantains and our Lechon Horneado – tender Pork Shoulder.”
According to the Independent Restaurant Coalition, 500,000 restaurants and bars are faced with an uncertain future due to lost revenue and increased debt over the past two years. Additionally, 1.1 million minority-owned businesses often face heightened challenges and disparities when securing business funding.
“Covid, social justice rallies, inflation, homelessness, property damage, higher food costs, higher hourly wages … EVERYTHING has gotten way out of control. Business is so unpredictable and you never know if a Mother’s Day Weekend will be profitable,” lamented Tyrisha Frias.
“Black Restaurant Week’s campaigns assist Black-owned culinary businesses with complimentary marketing support to boost awareness in their respective regions. The systemic barriers faced by Black-owned restaurants, such as disproportionate access to business loans demonstrates the importance of the campaign.
These disparities have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic; 41% of Black-owned businesses have shuttered since February 2020 compared to 17% of white-owned businesses.
Black Restaurant Week is an annual event, so if you missed it, you might want to mark the calendar now for next year, because it is the average foodie’s dream come true.
“During Black Restaurant Week we offered our new Papa Rellena, Veggie Mofongo, Pork Shoulder, Shrimp and Mango Salad and a yummy Cuban Sundae,” said Tyrisha Frias.
“Through the success of the campaign, Black Restaurant Week is able to financially stimulate small businesses and help them create job opportunities in their local communities. Some businesses are not set up to survive economic downturns, but we are dedicated to helping as many as possible stay afloat in their community,” explained Warren Luckett co-founder of Black Restaurant Week.
JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, is also the editor in chief of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. He teaches the Community Journalism class twice a week at the San Francisco Bay View newspaper office.