Each November Cynthia Daniels doesn't just look forward to Memphis Downtown Dining Week — she has a game plan.
"My friends and I go every day. We have a strategy. We save our money. We do the whole nine yards," Daniels, public relations coordinator for the Workforce Investment Network, says.
At the same time, the Atlanta native has a strong appreciation for the sense of community her new hometown of Memphis practices, and she wanted to get in the middle of it. So she came up with the idea of developing a dining week for minority-owned restaurants and has dubbed it Memphis Black Restaurant Week.
"There wasn't a place to go and get the numbers, but African-American-owned restaurants are few and far between," Daniels says. "I thought why not bring some awareness to those restaurants and get people spending money there. A lot of people don't know who they are."
The first annual Memphis Black Restaurant Week will run March 7th through 13th.
Eight local African-American-owned restaurants are participating.
They include: Scoops Parlor at 106 E. G.E. Patterson; the HM Dessert Lounge at 1586 Madison; DeJaVu at 51 S. Main; Onix at 412 S. Main; Evergreen Grill at 300 S. Main; Mot & Ed's at 1354 Madison; the Bistro at 2945 Millbranch; and the Office @ Uptown at 594 N. Second.
"I focused on Midtown and downtown because of easy access," Daniels says.
She tried to mix it up cuisine-wise to keep the African-American restaurant scene from seeming boxed-in.
"I didn't want it to necessarily be soul food, because that's what it's generally known for," Daniels says.
Scoops specializes in savory and sweet crepes and gelato, and the HM Dessert Lounge offers unique savory cupcakes as well as desserts such as key lime cheesecake.
Each restaurant will offer a specialized menu of two-course lunch specials for $15 and a three-course dinner for $25.
"I wanted to keep it as easy as possible," Daniels says.
Daniels, who has worked in the world of fund-raising, conference planning, and event planning, found it impossible to resist the community spirit of Memphis.
"I'm from Atlanta, and I moved to Memphis in 2009. This is a culture that supports local business, and I volunteer for a lot of different organizations, so I bought into the culture here immediately," she says.
She says she sees MBRW as an annual event and hopes to grow it each year and let it do the work she set out for it to do.
"We have a committee, and we'll be collecting data from the week, looking at the numbers and how much spending power it has brought. Then we will take that data and make it bigger and better going into the next year," she says.
"It makes me feel good to be able to create a week that brings attention to these restaurants and hopefully get them some new customers."
For a list of restaurants, their locations, and the menus, visit blackrestaurantweek.com.
BACON & BOURBON FEST
Peas and carrots. Chocolate and peanut butter. Coffee and cigarettes. Some things are just made for each other.
Take bourbon. While bourbon goes with a lot of things — water, Coke, mint, ice — the "it" food bacon probably takes home the gold when it comes to what best to pair with the oak-barrel-aged corn liquor.
The Flyer took one for the team and labored through a cumbersome amount of research, came to the same conclusion, and wanted to offer to its readership the same divinely inspired coupling while serving a good cause.
On Saturday, April 16th, the first Bacon & Bourbon event will take place downtown at the Memphis Farmers Market at Central Station, located at the corner of S. Main and G.E. Patterson.
"They just go so well together," event planner Jackie Sparks-Davila says.
For just $35, bourbon enthusiasts, or pork enthusiasts, or some combination of the two, will receive a sampling card with 10 bottles marked on it.
Bourbon reps from all over the country will be stationed throughout the market to keep the alcohol flowing and talk about their product, while 20 local restaurants will serve up pork-inspired dishes and show off their bacon expertise.
Confirmed restaurants so far include: Central BBQ, Celtic Crossing, the Brass Door, Bardog, Aldo's Pizza Pies, Paradox Catering, IPOP Gourmet Popcorn, Ray'z World Famous Dr. Barbecue, and Broadway Pizza.
Attendees will be able to sample as many of the bacon dishes as they can stand, and if after 10 shots of whiskey, the party just ain't over, there will be a cash bar with alcohol available for purchase.
Papa Tops West Coast Turnaround will provide their usual bourbon-infused ballads and such, and if bacon is bourbon's soul mate, its mistress will be lurking somewhere on the premises, as there will also be a cigar-rolling station.
Bacon & Bourbon is presented by The Memphis Flyer, Roadshow BMW, Miss Cordelia's, and Southland Park Gaming and Racing, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Memphis Farmers Market.
The event is 21-and-up only, and ticket prices will increase closer to the event.
"We do expect to sell out. Tickets are limited," Sparks-Davila says.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to memphisbaconandbourbon.com.