Tuesday, May 29, 2012

'Why Are African Americans Not Participating in Chicago's Vibrant Dining Scene?'


That was a question a reader posed to me over the weekend, and he went into detail:

"I am a married African-American man in my late 40's who has been in Chicago since the early 1990s. My wife and I have been dining out in the city since moving here. Over past 5 years we have become more adventurous with our dining options, trying many of the new and established mid priced restaurants (i.e. avec, Davanti Enoteca, xoco).

"Lately, I have become more sensitive to the fact that A.A's are largely absent from the fine dining scene. What I have noticed is that it is not just a Chicago issue. I have traveled across the globe (NYC, London, Paris). It seems to be worldwide. I didn't expect to see it in Asia because many blacks don't live or travel there.

"I am not naive or saying that this is a major problem, nor I'm I trying to push my values on others. I also know that economics, tradition and history has a role to play (not feeling welcome). I'm just wondering if more can be done by the industry to entice A. A's. to participate in this wonderful culture."

Interesting! What do you think?!


Nikolas X[patriate] said...

Speaking from my perspective and background, many answers abound, but what is THE answer? I'm unsure there is one. You can point to the number of Black folk that live downtown ("...that's too far..."). You can point to the number of Black folk that are interested/immersed/connected to the high cuisine environment ("...I'm not into pretty food..."). You can point to the direct connections Black folk have to the clientele/associates/management of these restaurants ("...I don't know anyone there..."). Any one of these is an appropriate answer, in addition to many, many more, that would still get contradicted by many other answers, and also would overlap similar issues with other ethnicities, cultural groups, and cultural identities.

Allow me to digress from all that gray area. Any establishment that wants to do focused marketing to attract more African Americans, or a more diverse crowd, is more than welcome to do so. I trust that there are already some that do. Beyond that, what do each of US do to bring more African Americans to these restaurants? Do we call/text/tweet a friend to join us for a quick look at a place? Do we turn a focused "date night" into a double-date or group outing? Do we get serendipitous and speak to people when we're out, making the outing enjoyable beyond what's in front of you? Those are ways to make these environments/activities more congenial and "grow the party". If folk aren't there, they aren't there, but I'm sure we definitely know how to get more there. I respect the views of Mr. Reader, but the party is only as closed as he wants it to be.

C-Style said...

It is been my experience that most of US are not adventurous when it comes to trying something new. Yes, some establishments make you feel like you don't belong there, but many are more than friendly and thoughtful to their customers. As a lifestyle writer, I am usually the only dark-skinned person at an event, but I am comfortable in who I am and picked up my love for exploring new things from my father. Most of the people I know, however, want to stick with what is familiar and aren't open to trying new things. Sadly, they're missing a world of fun!

kwintessential said...

I will agree with comment about just not being adventurous and wanting to try new things. I remember when the Waffles/chicken restaurant opened in Bronzeville, you had people lined up around the block. However, when a new sushi restaurant opens in the River North area, we are vacant. Why is this the case? Not many AA's are into to the idea of exotic foods. How can this be changed? I do not have the answer.