February marks Black History Month, and for the first time, restaurant owners have organized Chicago Black Restaurant Week to help black-owned establishments. The inaugural event launched Sunday and goes through Feb. 13, with the hope of upping exposure for a community of restaurants that feel they're sometimes under appreciated. One participating restaurant owner even told WBEZ that many of Chicago's 100 or so black-owned restaurants have never heard of Chicago Restaurant Week, which officially ended on Thursday — though a few decided to extend the availability of their menu offerings.
So far 15 restaurants have committed to Chicago Black Restaurant Week. These establishments aren't offering prix fixe menus like the original Chicago Restaurant Week. Instead they are offering discounted specials on individual items. The event was organized by Lauran Smith, a social media consultant who counts participating Truth Italian Restaurant as one of her clients.
Choose Chicago, the city's tourism arm that organizes CRW, isn't involved with Chicago Black Restaurant Week. Though Choose Chicago tries to get the word out, sometimes signals do get crossed and they don't connect with all restaurants. Choose Chicago and the Illinois Restaurant Association have in recent times emphasized neighborhood restaurants, touting them during CRW. They also touted them when the city hosted the James Beard Awards. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's critics have long held that the city's money and attentions are too concentrated on downtown areas. The spots participating in Black Restaurant Week aren't all in Chicago, with a few suburban spots included. But they are all south of downtown, with only one north of the Eisenhower Expressway. A message requesting comment from Choose Chicago wasn't immediately returned.
Check out the full list of participants here.