Black Restaurant Week

Black Restaurant Week was founded by, from left, Derek Robinson, Falayn Ferrell and Warren Luckett.

Since Nubia Stephens opened Downtown’s Numaade Café in March, she’s endured forced closings due to the COVID-19 pandemic and riots. 

Thanks to Black Restaurant Week, which runs through Sunday, August 16, Nuumade Café is getting the recognition the eatery deserves and needs.

“I’m participating to get awareness out there,” Stephens said. “Any kind of advertising I can do is great. It’s been difficult.”

Numaade Café, which, Stephens said, focuses “on the healthier side,” is one of a handful of restaurants participating in Black Restaurant Week throughout the LA area. 

The trio of founders hope the event will bring dollars to eateries like Numaade Café—at 548 S. Spring Street, Suite 114—that are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Supporting the entire culinary industry, from farm to table, is necessary for providing more opportunities for the whole community to thrive,” said Black Restaurant Week founder Warren Luckett. 

“From the increased exposure for black-owned restaurants on our new national website to the professional business guidance gained from the educational events, Black Restaurant Week helps businesses expand its customer base and receive resources for ongoing success.”  

The palate-pleasing showcase celebrates more than the flavors of African American, African and Caribbean cuisines.

“There are a lot of Harold & Belle’s-type restaurants that have been in business for more than 50 years,” said Black Restaurant Week co-founder Falayn Ferrell. 

“We have some newer restaurants, like Numaade Café. We have vegan restaurants, barbecue, Memphis grill and Caribbean restaurants. It’s definitely a mixture, and that’s the beauty of it. We’re not monolithic in our food. We’re not just soul food. You can find a bit of everything. Gwen’s Specialty Cakes and Catering has wonderful pecan tartes. There’s literally something for everyone to try during the week—sit-down, formal or fast casual.”

Stephens specializes in sandwiches with fresh ingredients—no additives or lunchmeat here. 

“I have a chicken chipotle sandwich that’s popular, and a vegan protein cheesecake, too,” she said. “People can’t believe it has 18 grams of protein in it. I’m baking them now because they sell out really quickly.

“I do no-sugar-added desserts and lots of vegan, gluten-free, salads, sandwiches, wraps and soups. We roast our own turkey and we use roasted chicken for our sandwiches and salads. Everything is fresh and top-grade quality. When you get your sandwich, we serve it with chips as a special treat.”

During Black Restaurant Week, foodies, culinary influencers, locals and guests will be treated to prix-fixe brunch, lunch and dinner menus at participating restaurants within the area. Foodies can also participate in virtual cultural events, too.

“We usually have live events,” she said. “That’s how we showcase the caterers, the food trucks and bartenders. However, we’ve had to suspend live events. We are still able to do digital programming. 

“One of the things we always do is a business panel discussion with SoCalGas. We have resources businesses can use. We’re having a virtual bartending competition with Maker’s Mark featuring 16 bartenders from all over the country. They have a chance to win $5,000.”

Set during a time of financial uncertainty and injustice incidents, Black Restaurant Week waived the financial participation fee for all restaurants. 

Luckett and Ferrell co-founded the week with Derek Robinson in 2016 as a one-city food experience. 

“It started in Houston as a way to connect the local community to the Black culinary industry, bartenders and caterers,” Ferrell said. “We created restaurant week to bring community awareness to what restaurants existed in the local neighborhood and to help the small businesses that didn’t have the marketing budget to do mass citywide campaigns on their own.”

Since then, the culinary experience has expanded to 11 cities with involvement from 270 minority businesses and professionals nationwide. 

“Houston was a really great success, so in 2017, we expanded and added Atlanta and Oakland,” she said. “In 2018, we added New Orleans, Philadelphia and Dallas. Last year, we premiered LA. We were testing the waters to see if it would be a good fit. 

“This year is our most aggressive year. We have 11 campaigns. We want to help as many businesses as possible recover from COVID.”

During “normal” times, businesses fail because the community didn’t know they existed, she said. 

“They didn’t know about some of these local gems in their neighborhood,” Ferrell said. “We wanted to see who the Black-owned businesses are in different cities. Some have said, ‘All we have is soul food.’ We did some digging and we’ve found African and Caribbean restaurants. We want to expand that awareness.”

Ferrell said she hopes the efforts snowball. 

“We understand you’re not going to eat at all participating restaurants during the week,” she said. “But now they have this awareness. We hope guests will say, ‘I didn’t get to try that during Black Restaurant Week. Let me try it now.’ We want to continue the conversation.”