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Ways to Support Black-Owned Restaurants and Other Food Businesses in Seattle

Takeout lists, land trusts, entrepreneurial organizations, farms, and more

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Jerk Shack dishes, including corn bread and ribs, on the outdoor patio
Jerk Shack in Belltown is raising money for a land fund so it acquire space in a black community.
Jerk Shack/Facebook

For the past two weeks, impassioned protests against police violence and racial injustices have prompted a larger discussion about creating more equity across various industries. That extends to the Seattle food world, as many look to direct their dollars to black-owned restaurants, bars, bakeries, and cafes. As such, a variety of local guides have collected names of such businesses to make discovery a little easier.

Laura Clise, founder of The Intentionalist — a comprehensive Seattle-based online shopping guide that highlights businesses owned from underrepresented communities — says that traffic to black-owned places listed on her site has increased five-fold since protests began. “People are seizing this moment to change the way they make their eating and purchasing decisions,” she says. “They are becoming more intentional with their spending as an act of solidarity.” Likewise, Isolynn Dean, owner of Cortona Cafe in Central District, says that there has been a major influx in business recently and has been encouraged by the support.

Consistent patronage will be key to cultural change, however, as both Clise and Dean note. While ordering takeout is a good way to directly support black-owned restaurants, that’s just one small step in the process — inadequate on its own without deeper engagement. Among some avenues to pursue through advocacy efforts are land trusts to secure spaces for entrepreneurs, funds for black farmers, more recognition for the work that many black chefs are doing in the community, and education on the cuisines that so many innovative restaurateurs are serving.

In that vein, below are some recent guides of black-owned food businesses in the area, along with resources that may be useful to help build sustainable change. As Dean says, “Just show up.”

Lists of Black-Owned Restaurants

The Intentionalist. Businesses on this website can be sorted through various filters (bakery, bars, coffee shops, etc.) and by neighborhood. There are also virtual gift certificates available to purchase, and programs such as Intentionalist “tabs,” in which the site pre-pays a certain amount at a local business, aiming to draw more diners in. “The decisions we make about who we support truly make a difference,” Clise says.

Seattle Times. Critics Tan Vinh, Bethany Jean Clement, and Jackie Varriano collected a list that references The Intentionalist and also links out to several features and reviews on a select list of restaurants, including Plum Bistro, Fat’s Chicken and Waffles, and Emma’s BBQ.

The Infatuation. This restaurant review hub has a list and spreadsheet of black-owned restaurants divided by Seattle neighborhoods, as well as towns north of the city proper and extending down south to Tacoma.

Seattle Met. The city’s lifestyle and culture magazine published two lists recently: one featuring recent takeout services at black-owned restaurants throughout most of Seattle proper, and one focused on the Eastside.

EatOkra. This mobile app for finding black-owned restaurants in cities around the country include ratings, links to delivery services, and other information. There are about 30 listed in Seattle, with categories that include brunch and vegan-friendly places.

Seattle Refined. This food, fashion, and entertainment website also referenced the Intentionalist for its guide, but also embedded a map that encompasses many black-owned businesses around the city.

Crowd-sourced spreadsheets and social media posts. As has been the case around the country, many members of the food media are creating their own lists on Google Sheets or other programs. Some of the local ones include those curated by recipe developer Rose DeMun and food writer Naomi Tomky (an Eater contributor). Meanwhile, local dessert shop Trophy Cupcakes and accounts such as Seattle Black Businesses have also been sharing lists on Instagram.

Organizations, Funds, Farms, and Other Resources

Land funds. Dean talked about the importance of finding more space for black-owned restaurants, especially in a city that’s seen sky high rents in recent years and has become increasingly gentrified. To that end, Belltown Jamaican food restaurant Jerk Shack is raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to buy land so it can “serve our community where they live.” Meanwhile, the organizations Africatown Land Trust and Forterra secured funds to preserve the Liberty Bank Building, which will soon house caterer Kristi Brown’s upcoming restaurant That Brown Girl Cooks. And there are some national land justice organizations listed via Civil Eats.

Educational resources. For those looking to get an education on the roots of Southern black cuisine and other culinary history, chef Edouardo Jordan’s JuneBaby encyclopedia describing food, cultural, and geographic terms is essential. In the intro, it also has action items on dismantling bias. Step one: “Educate yourself on anti-blackness, systemic oppression, privilege, and the role you and your communities play in upholding systems of white supremacy.” Also, Food52 has a list of cookbooks by black authors, and the Northwest African American Museum near Judkins Park in Central District (temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic) has a virtual book club as well as other online experiences worth checking out.

Entrepreneurial support. Clise mentions the civil rights organization Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, which bills itself as an “economic first responder” and has a wide array of services, acting as a liaison between community members, local businesses, and the government. It has been directly involved in recent talks with local leaders about addressing racial disparity. And part of its mission is to promote more equitable hiring practices, something that may help develop a stronger pipeline of black chefs and restaurateurs in Seattle.

That’s an effort that Seattle Restaurants United is working on as well, according to representative Jeanie Chunn. “When hiring for restaurant positions, do we have a clear pathway for black employees to become managers?” she asks, adding that there also needs to be plans in place for more transparent compensation among area restaurants. Devoting funds to organizations like the Urban League and the black entrepreneur-focused Black Dot Underground can help. And, on the commerce side, Pike Place tourism company Savor Seattle has put together a “Solidarity Box” featuring products from local black-owned businesses, with a portion of sales going to Black Lives Matter.

Community kitchens. In March, Jordan turned his Ravenna restaurant Salare into a community kitchen as part of the Restaurant Workers Relief Program. Meanwhile, pop-up chef Tarik Abdullah — of Midnight Mecca — has long made community service a vital part of his work, from operating a community kitchen called Feed the People, to participating in Seattle Community Kitchen (with Kristi Brown, Musang chef Melissa Miranda, and others), to launching a culinary program for young people.

Strengthening the food pipeline. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, small farmers across Washington have been struggling. That’s why it may be more vital than ever to support black-owned farms, such as Clean Greens in Duvall, Washington (with a produce stand in Seattle on Jackson Street) and Sky Island Farm in Hoquiam. There are CSA boxes, along withe avenues to donate and volunteer. A Juneteenth barbecue box from Seattle wine cafe Vif is also raising funds that will go to supporting black farming, agriculture, and food sovereignty.

If there are other lists, businesses, or resources you’d like to see added to this page, email seattle@eater.com.

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