A map locating more than 200 Black-owned restaurants is circulating in Philly, based off a list started last week by TV host Kae Lani Palmisano. It includes several casual neighborhood spots that don’t usually get the attention that leads to awards lists and “best of” roundups, as Billy Penn points out in an article detailing how it evolved.
“This list is not just a resource for diners, but a resource for my fellow peers working in food media,” Palmisano told Eater. “All of these places deserve our attention.”
Palmisano, a food editor for USA Today 10 Best and host of WHYY’s restaurant-focused show Check, Please! Philly, was already working on the Philly-area version of Dining at a Distance, a database of restaurants open during the coronavirus pandemic. After seeing people in other cities create lists of Black-owned restaurants while Black Lives Matter protests took place nationwide, she went through her Dining at a Distance collection, pulled out the Black-owned restaurants, put out a call on social media to find more, and started a second spreadsheet.
South Jersey-based food writer Jenn Hall, who has contributed to Eater, joined in to help with research and fact-checking. Charles Rumford, an IT architect who works at the University of Pennsylvania, learned of the list and turned it into a map. Meanwhile another Philadelphian, Ron Holgado, was making a similar database with restaurants and other businesses — it’s since been added to the map, which can be found at BlackOwnedPhillyRestaurants.com.
“I think it’s worth noting that I come from a multiracial background and acknowledge that I am a white-passing woman of color, which has significantly shaped my experiences and my personal views,” says Palmisano, who goes on to add that there are “no more excuses” for a lack of representation.
“These conversations around more representation in food media — from what restaurants get covered to including Black writers and writers of color in these conversations — are not new,” Palmisano says. “So many writers, editors and people trying to break into the industry have raised these concerns, and many of them get punished by gatekeepers for raising these valid points.”
The backlash people speaking out face can take several forms and is often subtle, Palmisano notes: Opportunities are quietly withheld, people are blacklisted and don’t have their stories told or their voices included, people are “cautioned.”
“Sometimes punishments are ... creating hostile environments where they feel like their livelihoods are at risk if they speak up,” she says. “That needs to stop.”
Palmisano shared her list with Eat Okra, an app she recommends that maps out Black-owned restaurants in several cities. The app is easier to navigate, since it breaks out restaurants into cuisine categories and is searchable, though it doesn’t yet include Philly’s full list.
Philly is also the home base of Black and Mobile, a delivery service that works exclusively with Black-owned restaurants.