Black Restaurant Week offers discoveries for purveyors, positive impact for owners

The lunch special Thursday at Jackie’s Place restaurant in San Jose, and other Black-owned restaurants, is a healthy heaping of soul food, served with an invitation for the larger community to come and enjoy.

First-time purveyor Tiffany Nguyen said she would never have known Jackie’s Place existed if not for a friend’s advice.

"Which kind of sucks. But I’m excited that I get to try this place out," she said.

The Bay Area, Friday, sees its third annual Black Restaurant Week begin.

Dozens of brick-and-mortar eateries, food trucks and dessert shops from the Bay to Sacramento are participating.

"You don’t really see a lot of black establishments that are mom-and-pops that are thriving. And there are a lot of us out there. So I think weeks like this area really important," said Kiana Jackson, co-owner of Jackie’s Place.

Nationwide Insurance reported the restaurant industry as a whole had largely bounced back from COVID shutdowns and reduced indoor service. However, locally, crime, inflation and worker shortages have continued to make it tough for owners to pay the bills.

"This is a difficult time for the restaurant industry. People have been slow to go back to the downtowns, where a lot of restaurants are," said Dr. Robert Chapman Wood, a strategic management professor at San Jose State University. 

Added Jackson, "There is a stigma against Black or businesses of color in general. And we want to fight against those stereotypes as business owners."

Part of that fight means courting a loyal constituency.


The Cats restaurant in Los Gatos relaunching under new ownership

The building was originally opened in 1896 as a roadhouse, and then it became The Cats in 1967. The new owner says he wants to keep things the same, all while bringing a freshness to the restaurant and its menu.

"We try to support the entrepreneurs here in San Jose, by going to their restaurants," said Claudette Lindsay, president of the San Jose chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Her 50+ members routinely hold meetings each month at a black-owned restaurant, as a way of paying it forward.

"Makes it easier for us to share the information and to critique the restaurant and let others know about that venue," Lindsay said.

Word-of-mouth messaging has been a proven way to generate business.

Leo Lopez visited Jackie’s Place for the first time Thursday afternoon.

"I saw like, Jackie’s Place, and I was like, okay, this looks kind of interesting. Like a good chicken place. Black-owned restaurant. Let’s give it a try," he said.

Many owners of Black restaurants around the Bay and beyond are hoping they’ll get a similar benefit, from one week filled with new discoveries.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and Instagram, @jessegontv