For organizer Ryane Smith, Black Restaurant Week San Antonio isn’t just opportunity to have a great meal. With a full slate of cooking classes, wine tastings, special events, and deals at participating restaurants running February 24 to March 3, the busy entrepreneur is also looking to foster community.
After retiring from the military, Smith decided to take some time to travel. During her adventures, she found the best way to learn about her various destinations was through food.
“If you really want to learn about a culture, see how they eat,” Smith says.
When she returned to San Antonio, she sought to build that same sense of togetherness in her own backyard. “The black population [in San Antonio] is very small, so it’s hard to connect to different cultures,” Smith explains.
She came up with the BRWSA as an opportunity to support all black-owned businesses, not just the restaurants. Although several Texas cities have similar black restaurant weeks, she wanted to put her own spin on the event, starting with highlighting diversity.
“It’s not just soul food,” Smith says, referring to the participating eateries. Instead, the week offers a wide variety of cuisines ranging from Caribbean treats from Jamaica Jamaica and the wildly popular burgers from Mark’s Outing to Nigerian food from Kobams, and pizza from Tank’s.
“I wanted to shake up people’s perception of what is black,” says Smith.
Smith has no previous hospitality experience, describing herself as “just somebody who likes to eat and likes to travel,” but she hopes BRWSA will eventually make a lasting impact on the culinary scene. In future years, the organization plans to set up a scholarship fund that will yearly pay a student’s entire tuition for a semester.
Until then, Smith sees the inaugural event as a call to action. “This is an opportunity to support black-owned businesses this week and throughout the year, she says. “This is just the beginning.”