Authentic. That’s the word of the day ahead of Black Restaurant Week in Madison. For the third year in a row, black-owned restaurants will be featured in a very special edition of Black Restaurant Week as this year is dedicated to the memory of Rod Ladson.
Ladson, who was the chef behind the popular and expanding Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse and later owner of the west side upscale Bonefish Grill, died unexpectedly this summer. Ladson epitomized the cultural themes that Black Restaurant Week is meant to celebrate.
With that in mind, 10 brick-and-mortar restaurants, seven food carts, four catering services and four dessert specialties will be participating this year. The ten restaurants are spread out all over Madison and each will feature a specially-priced meal during the week.
So what exactly does it mean to be “authentic”? That’s the theme of this summer, after all. But isn’t food just food?
Milele Chikasa Anana, one of the organizers of Black Restaurant Week, says it’s all about original recipes and perfecting one’s craft.
She points to That BBQ Joint, over on Williamson Street, as being the epicenter of authentic recipes and perfecting a craft.
“Clemente Henriques of That BBQ Joint has worked for the past ten years to perfect smoked wood techniques for his meat,” Anana told Madison365. “He is a master now and serves the best ribs, chicken and brisket in the country. His ribs stack up against Kansas City, New Orleans and Memphis. He was selected as the People’s Choice for the Isthmus competition for best ribs in town in 2018 and for Madison Magazine’s Best Ribs in Madison 2018.”
Anana also said that the chefs at The Anointed One, a soul food restaurant on Junction Road, use recipes that go back to their grandmother. Anointed One opened last October and has become particularly known for its catfish.
The Anointed One is one of two new restaurants participating this year. Kingdom Restaurant, on East Washington, is the other. Kingdom serves up traditional African fare with flare and has been so successful that the owner, Mahamadou Tunkara is already wanting to move to a bigger facility.
This year Black Restaurant Week is also partnering with FUDUworks, a food delivery service for workplaces, so customers can order from participating restaurants using the FUDU app. The FUDU app can be downloaded to smartphones and tablets and make life easy for people at work in need of some lunch or dinner.
Anana says that people can find some of this great food at the City Festival in Madison’s Central Park. That BBQ Joint will be there serving up brand new menu items. Buraka will have a sampler plate, Kingdom Restaurant will be offering chicken and fufu, George’s Chicken & Fish will have a chicken plate, Wing King will have a wing plate special and Anointed One will have a catfish special.
“Madison has responded heartily to Black Restaurant Week in that people in Madison patronize these restaurants all year long,” Anana told Madison365. “The business owners are quite happy that past and new customers come in to try out their dishes. Hopefully, the first-time customers will become regular customers, and existing customers will increase their patronage.”
Black Restaurant Week is the brainchild of The Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, who pioneered the idea. Madison was one of the first cities in the nation to hold Black Restaurant Week and Anana says it has increased awareness of the overall economic impact of 313 Black businesses.
The participating restaurants are:
Falbo Brothers Pizza
George’s Chicken & Fish
That BBQ Joint
Participating food trucks include:
Cafe Costa Rica
JD’s Soul Food
Little Red Barn
Fast Soul Food
Participating caterers include:
Curtis & Cake
Mo’ Betta Butter Cookies
Valice’s Sweet Potato Pies & Cakes