The inaugural Soul Food Culinary Tour, in collaboration with the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce and Black Restaurant Week, was a success. There were a few challenges; serving 20 guests can overwhelm the staff at a restaurant (thank you for reserving tables and hosting us!), a few folks ran into traffic on their way to the event and got a late start (but we saved you lots of food!), and at the last minute one of our food cart vendors was sadly unable to participate. But even with those minor glitches, guests arrived in great spirits and left full and happy. More importantly, I believe the event forged a connection between the guests and our Black owned restaurants and food carts, and a sense of camaraderie and support for the owners and our diverse Madison community. I am optimistic that small steps can lead to big change.
We started at Jamerica, a Willy Street landmark. Martin Deacon, the owner, opened Jamerica nearly 20 years ago. You can usually find Martin sitting in the window seat of his casual eatery, or on the bench outside, chatting with customers. We happily devoured the generous portions of jerk chicken and mango rundown tofu.
Next we headed to Buraka, one of the regular stops on our Willy Street tour. Owner Markos Regassa has also been in the restaurant business for many years, but is newer to Willy Street, and has a loyal following. Once you try his Ethiopian specialties such as dorowat, misirwat or any of the other delectable sauces, you will know why.
We headed down Few Street past the mural honoring Tony Robinson and along E. Wilson to Ingersoll where 2 food carts were waiting for us, Haynes Kitchen and Little Red Barn. Yaminique and her husband Larry Brown greeted us at Little Red Barn, and told us a little about their venture. Their cart is new to Madison this year, but they have both worked in restaurants for many years. Their pulled pork sliders, corned beef sandwich and veggie wraps were hits!
Haynes Kitchen owner Stacey Haynes offered our group samples of brisket, rib tips, cheese curds and fajitas. Stacey said ”there’s a story” about his cart, but we didn’t get to hear it. I guess that’s how he guarantees we’ll be back. Well, that and the swoon-worthy rib tips.
Finally, we enjoyed slices of sweet potato pie at That BBQ Joint, on the corner of Paterson and Williamson Street, a sweet ending to a great tour. As one guest summed up, “Thanks so much for an interesting and fun food tour on Friday night. We had a great time. It was so fun to learn a little more about the Willy Street Neighborhood combined with delicious soul food and company.” I am very thankful, too, to have had the support and partnership of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, Black Restaurant Week, the owners of the carts and restaurants, and of course the guests that came on the tour!