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Black Restaurant Week's rapid growth stirs up excitement in Buffalo food

There's great barbecue in Lovejoy, promising soul food downtown and underrated fried chicken in Schiller Park. New businesses on Hertel Avenue and in the Northland Workforce Training Center are eager to make an impression, while a popular bakery with nearly 11,000 Facebook likes has become a household name.

These businesses are united by a few traits: They're all local, black-owned food businesses participating in Black Restaurant Week 2020, which runs from Feb. 18-23 and fits well within Black History Month.

"All cuisines should be shared," said Mark Glasgow, the Buffalo Urban League Young Professionals president spearheading the 2020 effort. "[Black Restaurant Week] is about broadening reach, celebrating diversity, community and entrepreneurship."

This year marks the second time BULYP has presented the restaurant spotlight for a full week, with 15 businesses taking part in 2019. Former President Kendra Brim inspired and kicked off the endeavor in 2018, highlighting five restaurants over a weekend.

For 2020, Glasgow released the initial list of 12 participating restaurants (see below), but noted other black-owned food businesses may join before or even after Feb. 18. (Update: Two more have joined since the initial post). The cost to join is $50, through Eventbrite, which pales in comparison to the $225 required for Local Restaurant Week.

Pastors Al and Vivian Robinson run La Verdad Cafe in Lovejoy, one of the communities represented in Black Restaurant Week. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

Park Vue, 34 S. Crossman Ave.
Buffalo Soul, 454 Pearl St.
PhatCatz of WNY, 965 Kensington Ave.
Brothers Takeout & Catering, 1281 Hertel Ave.
At Eleven Wings & Cuisines, 3225 Main St.
The Oakk Room, 1435 Main St.
The Rose, 199 Scott St. in Fairmont Creamery
Cake Crazy Bakery, 2525 William St., Cheektowaga
Je Ne Sais Quoi, 1633 and 1673 Hertel Ave.
Manna Culinary Group, 683 Northland Ave. in Workforce Training Center
La Verdad, 1132 E. Lovejoy St.
Ike and BG's Restaurant, 1646 Genesee St.
Ms. Goodies, 1836 Bailey Ave.
• Mattie's Restaurant, 1412 Fillmore Ave.

Find their respective menus and Black Restaurant Week specials here.

PhatCatz owner-chef Kim Collins-Jones is one of the restaurateurs participating in Black Restaurant Week 2020. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

While there's no affiliation with Local Restaurant Week, the biannual celebration that includes more than 200 restaurants, there are a few similarities. Black Restaurant Week participants must operate out of the Buffalo area independently (no chains) and must offer at least one healthy option on their menus.

Real Life Dietetics, run by Rachel N. Laster on Jefferson Avenue, is working with the 12 businesses to determine the nutritional facts of their healthy dishes.

While not mandatory, the participants are encouraged to promote deals for $20.20, reflecting the year. An overarching menu of the deals should be posted around Feb. 18, but some restaurants, such as La Verdad, already have determined their deals. Here are a few of the barbecue joint's specials:

• 2 small rice bowls, topped with pulled pork or chicken, for $7.25.
• 2 small brisket rice bowls for $10.75.
• Three sliders – either Stretchmark (brisket, mac & cheese, kale-slaw) or the Bridge (pulled pork, mac & cheese, kale-apple slaw) – and chips and a soda for $10.25.
• Small green salad with garden cheddar soup for $6.25 (healthy option).
• Mini Feeling Burnt: Four burnt ends, two pieces of brisket, a third of a rack of ribs and a soda for $22.22.

[Related: Can brisket change a district? La Verdad contends in Lovejoy]

The Stretchmark sandwich from La Verdad – a trio of sliders of the variety will be available as a deal for Restaurant Week. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

La Verdad co-owner Vivian Robinson cites her family history as one reason why she wanted to get involved with Black Restaurant Week.

"I want to pass down the rich culinary heritage that I learned from my mom, grandmother and my Southern-born family," Robinson said. "It's in these flavor profiles we laughed, loved and grew closer together as a community of families."

From a larger perspective, Glasgow wants to showcase restaurants that have helped turn around predominantly black communities with troubled reputations.

"They're really bettering their communities," he said, "bringing positives to neighborhoods that need them."

email: btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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