Cooked by the people for the people: Third annual Boston Black Restaurant Challenge celebrates across the city

Rep. Chynah Tyler (left) and owner of Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, Nia Grace (right) at the Boston Black Restaurant Challenge kickoff Saturday. Photo by Rachel Kelley / BU News Service

By Rachael Kelley
BU News Service

Boston — Only two days into February, the third annual Boston Black Restaurant Challenge was already two restaurants in, and residents were eager to try the dozens of Black eateries in the city.

After kicking off the challenge on the first day of Black History Month at Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen, a southern-style and jazz-infused eatery on the corner of Columbus Avenue and South Hampton Street in Roxbury, Rep. Chynah Tyler of Massachusetts’s 7th Suffolk District said she thought the challenge would be an opportunity to uplift Black-owned restaurants in Boston.

Darryl’s was selected because it is one of the few restaurants in Boston owned by women of color, Tyler said. 

As challenge participants arrived, they were given a “Boston Black Restaurant Challenge Passport,” a card that each diner gets stamped when leaving the restaurant with four images of the restaurant challenge’s symbols, three Black Power fists – most commonly known as Black Panther Logo – one fist holding a spoon, the second holding a whisk and a third holding a fork packed into each image. The passport is to be stamped by a member of the restaurant staff at the end of a meal. 

“My number one goal is to try to create pathways out of poverty, or pathways of upward mobility for people of color to be able to then make more money,” Tyler said. “Not only make more money just to have money in my pocket but making money to be able to afford to live in Boston.”

Tyler also said that if diners brought their completed passports to the District Seven Tavern in Roxbury at the end of the challenge, they would then be entered into to raffle.

This year’s prize is a $200 catered event from the winner’s choice. To assist with the challenge, Tyler’s office has compiled a list of Black-owned restaurants categorized by neighborhood. The number of restaurants being featured has grown each year, with 38 being featured in 2019 and over 50 this year. 

The list is categorized by neighborhood from deep-fried to organic vegetarian options in Dorchester, Downtown, Greater Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Roxbury and the South End. There is something for everyone and all Black-owned. 

“More than half Black-owned restaurants fail within the first year, and the Boston Black Restaurant Challenge is a pathway to changing that,” Tyler said in a statement Friday.

As an eighth-generation Bostonian, Tyler said she knows how gentrification has made Black communities struggle to stay in the city, as they are often driven out by rent increases and the cost of living. 

Boston has been criticized for being unwelcoming to Black and minority populations. Not everyone believes that the restaurant challenge will bring people together and support Black businesses, but rather further divide the many different cultures in Boston.  

“The fact that they’re Black shouldn’t necessarily impact our allegiance to them, more so the business product and offering of the enterprise,” said Myles Gosman, a native of Boston, standing outside of Darryl’s.  

Nia Grace, the owner of Darryl’s did not agree. As a restaurant owner, she believes it’s important to market to Boston that these businesses are Black-owned. 

“Let’s talk about it,” Grace said. “How many faces of color will you see? There are not a lot of Black-owned restaurants in the industry. We have to show we are our own and be proud of it. There was a time we did not want people to know the color we were. We have pulled away from that time and we don’t have to be ashamed.”

The challenge can be followed on Twitter @bostonblackrestuarantchallenge and Facebook with the hashtag #BOSTONEATSBLACK. 

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