Why Memphis Black Restaurant Week is the week to beat

Memphis Black Restaurant Week highlights the rich Black history of the Southern city through its legendary cuisine.

Memphis Black Restaurant Week, Black food, Black food culture, soul food, Memphis Tennessee, Memphis history, theGrio.com
An array of dishes from Mahogany Memphis. Photo: Alex Shansky

While Memphis is often hailed as the birthplace of blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll music, there’s an equally revered hero in the heart of this cultural haven — its soul food. Each March, the city hosts a delicious journey known as Memphis Black Restaurant Week, when locals and visitors alike are invited to savor the flavors that define the essence of “Bluff City.”

While Memphis is a top tourist destination, the city’s culinary scene has emerged as a highlight in its own right. Memphis Black Restaurant Week provides Black-owned restaurants with a platform to showcase their offerings through special dining deals, not only attracting new customers but also raising awareness and support for minority-owned eateries across the country.

Established in 2016, Memphis Black Restaurant Week (MBRW) stands out among myriad restaurant weeks across the United States. This unique culinary event embodies Memphis’ unwavering commitment to diverse flavors, particularly from its thriving Black-owned establishments. The City of Memphis Office of Business Diversity & Compliance emphasizes the importance of supporting Black restaurants, asserting that MBRW “plays a crucial role in achieving socioeconomic upliftment, and the sustainable implementation of these beliefs will strengthen our communities and open opportunities for future generations.”

Rooted in a rich historical tapestry, Memphis has long been a destination with a legacy. Initially renowned as a hub for African-American blues musicians, Memphis laid the groundwork for the genre’s national prominence. The city later evolved into the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, with luminaries such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis launching their careers at Sun Studio in the 1950s. Subsequently, Memphis became a home for soul music, giving rise to legends like Otis Redding, Booker T., and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who was born in Memphis and would later return to record chart-topping hits at the legendary Stax Recording Studio

Concurrently, the city played a pivotal role in civil rights movements, drawing leaders to support causes like the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968, advocating for improved wages, working conditions, and union recognition. The city witnessed numerous marches, meetings, and gatherings that garnered nationwide and global attention. Tragically, on April 4, 1968, Memphis faced a significant loss when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel while in town to support union workers. The site now houses The National Civil Rights Museum.

Memphis Black Restaurant Week, Black food, Black food culture, soul food, Memphis Tennessee, Memphis history, theGrio.com
A view of the famous Beale Street in Memphis. (Photo credit: AdobeStock)

Memphis boasts an unparalleled Black history that echoes through the ages. From the iconic Beale Street, which pays homage to the legendary Black musicians of the early 20th century, to thriving Black-owned businesses and the vibrant music scene, the city preserves its rich heritage. Landmarks like the Lorraine Motel and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, along with Graceland, Presley’s former residence, weave a narrative of cultural significance. Graceland, in particular, stands as one of the most visited private homes in the United States.

See all this and more in Memphis, where this year, from March 17 to 23, foodies can experience the best offerings from over 28 Black-owned establishments, featuring a selection of over 95 meals. Exclusive discounts, including $15 two-course lunches and $25 three-course dinners, are available only during this week. Explore a diverse culinary experience, including traditional Southern Black dishes, Caribbean cuisine, and options for vegan and vegetarian palates. Can’t make it this Memphis Black Restaurant Week? Indulge in one of the city’s acclaimed culinary tours, available year-round. 

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Noel Cymone Walker theGrio.com

Noel Cymone Walker is an NYC-based writer specializing in beauty, fashion, music, travel, and cultural anthropology. She has written and produced visuals for several notable publications such as The Recording Academy/The Grammys, The Fader, Billboard, OkayPlayer, Marie Claire, Glamour, Allure, Essence, Ebony, and more.

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