LOS ANGELES — There are restaurant weeks to celebrate cities and certain cuisines.
There is currently an extra-special week going in Los Angeles and Orange counties celebrating the flavors of African, African American and Caribbean cuisine at Black-owned businesses.
What You Need To Know
- Black Restaurant Week goes on through Sunday, Aug. 15
- Organizers say that in 2020, the event helped 670 businesses throughout the U.S.
- Participating businesses experienced an average 34% increase in sales
- Grants have also been awarded to some businesses
One of the restaurants included in the celebration is Sky’s Gourmet Tacos, which has two locations in the LA area. The third location is expected to open at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
Sky's is a place where you can get shrimp tacos, potato tacos, shitake mushroom tacos and all kinds of flavors. Barbara “Sky” Burrell, owner and founder of Sky’s, loves everything about tacos. But the question is, does she ever get tired of them?
"Never, never," she said. "How could I get tired of tacos, something that has been so good to me?"
Burrell has officially been in the taco business nearly three decades. Unofficially, however, she’s been at it since she was 12, which is the first time she had a taco. She explained that she grew up in the South and that tacos weren’t a regular, everyday cuisine.
Burrell said she ate a taco, “and the filling I wasn’t particularly happy with. So after that, I become a taco aficionada.”
Burrell turned her passion into a business by opening up Sky’s Gourmet Tacos in LA in 1992. Burrell noted that her menu is “Mexican with a touch of soul.”
The restaurant is one of the businesses included in LA’s Black Restaurant Week. In addition to free marketing and waiving the registration fee, the organization’s nonprofit wing has also awarded grants to several businesses.
Burrell said she is proud to be part of the event for the past three years.
"It has brought the presence of a Black business to the forefront."
Burrell added that she is also thankful to be a part of it because she said the event helped her survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Without Black restaurant week, I’d hate to say really what would have happened to Sky’s," she said.
The event helped Burrell "get the word out," as she explained. "Therefore, we got new customers, customers that returned that decided they wanted to be a Sky fan, Sky team."
According to a study out of the University of California, Santa Cruz, 41% of Black-owned businesses have closed since February 2020, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses.
Black Restaurant Week helped support 670 Black-owned culinary businesses across the U.S. last year. Organizers said the businesses received an average of a 34% increase in sales.
In Orange County, Bred’s Nashville Hot Chicken food truck owner Scott Kearse said that even though things are starting to recover from the pandemic, “it’s still really tough.”
Kearse added that any help getting the word out is helpful but also an honor to be a part of an event like Black Restaurant Week. He is proud to “just to be able to share some of the entrees and some of the palettes that I’ve grown up with the LA area and Orange County area as well.”
Burrell said the support she received through the event last year helped her avoid layoffs. She was also able to kick off her sauce line on Amazon thanks to the increase in sales that the event brings. She said she was one of the lucky ones who made it through the pandemic.
“The reason our Black businesses don’t survive? Oh, for real? We don’t have the capital, we don’t have the support, we don’t have the support economically. This is why Black Restaurant Week has been a real asset.”
Burrell said that she will forever be grateful to Black Restaurant Week because it’s the reason she gets to continue to share her touch of soul with generations to come.
Black Restaurant Week happens at different times in different cities across the U.S. The event in Southern California is going on through Sunday.
To see a full list of participating locations, visit here.
The event has also partnered with SoCal Gas this year. On Tuesday, SoCalGas partnered with Careers Through Culinary Arts Program to host students from the program who are interested in careers in the culinary industry. The students will have a chance to meet industry professionals and learn about different career opportunities.
The event will take place at a participating Black Restaurant Week restaurant.