The River Lillie is just one of several restaurants participating in this year's St. Louis Black Restaurant Week.
Reggie Williamson noticed that St. Louis had its share of restaurant weeks — Downtown Restaurant Week, multiple Clayton Restaurant Weeks — but there was one voice missing in these celebrations of the city's food scene: black-owned restaurants.
This September, Williamson hopes to rectify this with St. Louis Black Restaurant Week. The event, which will run September 3-8, has the dual purpose of promoting economic diversity while celebrating some of St. Louis' best food.
"To me, this is about trying to patronize African-American-owned business,"Williamson says. "There are a lot of restaurant weeks, but few African-Americans are involved in this. We want this to be about inclusion."
This is the second year that St. Louis has seen a STL Black Restaurant Week. The first event happened in March of 2017 after founder Jessica Bailey brought the idea to town from Memphis. Williamson was heavily involved in the 2017 event. After 2018 came and went, and Bailey decided she would no longer be organizing it, he took over.
During STL Black Restaurant Week, diners will be able to enjoy a three-course dinner for $30 at one of the participating restaurants. Popular spots like River Lillie
, Prime 55 Restaurant & Lounge
and TKO Grill
are among those who will take part in the event.
Williamson says the first STL Black Restaurant Week, in 2017, generated a total increase in $60,000 in sales for participating restaurants and attracted 5,000 diners to these establishments throughout the week. However, he also notes that an increase in profits and visibility are only part of the mission. The event also connects black-owned restaurant owners to industry workers and financiers, which also have significant impact on businesses.
The week also has a philanthropic component. Following the event, five percent of gross proceeds will be donated to the Urban League's food pantry.
His main mission, however, remains unwavering: to ignite a love for dining out and a deeper understanding of St. Louis food culture — something he sees as only occurring when everyone has a seat at the table.
"Some people are saying that I am trying to separate the city," Williamson says. "I'm not trying to to that; I'm trying to bring awareness to these businesses people may not know about. Food is universal. It's a common denominator to everyone."
For information on STL Black Restaurant Week, visit stlbrw.com
of check its Eventbrite
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