This past week I was working on a project and had a chance to do a detailed ride thru the neighborhood and to my dismay I was disappointed and confused. Over the last several years I have written post about the lost of soul food restaurants and post about the community becoming a dining destination for Pan-African cuisine. With restaurants such as Yassa, Five Loaves Bakery, Cafe Trinidad and soon to open Fleck's Coffee there are still some good options but not enough. I define Pan-African as foods from all parts of the African Diaspora (Africa, Carribean, US South, etc).
As I ventured down 71st,75th and 79th there were three notable food businesses closes. The Burger Bar, Wings around the World and Quench. Now some will say that its no major loss because they define these restaurants as "junk food". But I would beg to differ as the mantra I continue to here in my community is "we want healthier foods". Both Quench and Burger Bar fit that bill as they both did not serve pork products and offered vegan/vegetarian items. This summer we saw the end to a 50+ year era as Izola's Soul Food restaurant closed the doors for good. Although a new entity has moved in, Luversia's Soul Food, they have yet open to public on a daily basis but only as a banquet hall. The other soul food restaurant Josephine's (former Capt's Hard Times) is open but is struggling.
Last year I had a chance to visit the commissary kitchen of Washburne Culinary(Kennedy King College) and met a food entrepreneur specializing in vegan cuisine. In our discussion he did not feel that there was a great enough demand on the Southside for him and his partners to go out and open a restaurant. Also, I spoke with a local grocer who echoed the same sentiment we spoke about healthy food options and he stated that the only items that were selling were low sodium items. He stated low cal, diet, etc were not selling and he had to discount the items to get them off the shelves. Lastly, at the last month Park Manor Neighbors meeting (PMNCC) there were several entrepreneurs both proposing Subway and Dunkin Donuts at several locations. One also stated that he only wanted to bring in national fast food chains to his location.
So what do you want to eat? When the dollars match the rhetoric then the entrepreneurs can start to approach the community with options.