CINCINNATI — This could be the best week of the year for those looking for a new place to grab a bite to eat in the Queen City.
On Monday, 24 local restaurants began offering daily specials as part of this year’s Cincinnati Black Restaurant Week. Participating restaurants range from the well-established such as Olley’s Trolley in the West End to new places like K&J Seafood Co.
“This is major for us. It sets the tone for being able to get the word of mouth around about your business,” said Keyona Armstead, who along with Joy Phillips opened the New Orleans-inspired seafood company at 2561 Clifton Ave. near the University of Cincinnati on March 1.
Phillips and Armstead, who left careers in corporate America to pursue their dream of restaurant ownership, are offering discounts on their savory shrimp tacos, poboys, gumbo, grits and jambalaya for the restaurant week that ends Sunday.
“Everything has a little bit of spice and a lot of flavor,” said Phillips. “A lot of seasoning in a lot of love. Everything is homemade.”
The Urban League of Young Professionals of Greater Southwestern Ohio organized the first restaurant week in October 2018 to promote businesses such as KJ, according to league member Kirsten Hampton.
“Not just black-owned restaurants, but a lot of small restaurants have a hard time sustaining,” Hampton said.
The goal of Cincinnati Black Restaurant Week is to spread the word about these restaurants to enough people so they not only stay open but grow, she added.
That is in part why the Urban League partnered Cincy Soul: The Black Taste for its second year. Local businessman Julian Rodgers launched that food festival on Fifth Street, Downtown, three years ago to coincide with the Cincinnati Music Festival held each July at Paul Brown Stadium.
Rodgers grew Cincy Soul from 15 participating vendors in its first year to more than 40 local vendors this past July. The number of restaurants participating in Cincinnati Black Restaurant Week this year nearly tripled, going from eight to 24.
Rodgers said there’s an added benefit to promoting and holding the week during this time of year.
“It’s the week before Thanksgiving,” he said. “It’s normally the slowest week in the restaurant business and we want to make sure everyone can make their rent for December.”