black-restaurant-week-showcases-new,-growing-blacked-owned-eateries-in-tampa

Black Restaurant Week Showcases New, Growing Blacked-Owned Eateries In Tampa

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Black Restaurant Week

Briona Arradondo reports.

TAMPA, Fla.As more new restaurants line the streets of Tampa, the city is shining a spotlight on the Black-owned eateries on the food scene during Black Restaurant Week.

Currently, in its soft opening, Lepley’s Kitchen and Lounge in Seminole Heights has added its name to the roster.

“I think we see ourselves differently from other restaurants, outside other restaurants, because we have very little Caribbean Southern infused. That’s where we’re bringing that home-grown here,” said Celeste Cooper, the chef at Lepley’s, who has also worked as a personal chef for about five years. “The number one thing that a chef loves to do when looking at people eating is we like the expressions on their faces after they have taken that first bite off our plate.”

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Co-owner and Tampa native Jovanna York dreamed up Lepley’s place with three other business partners, including actor Tyler Lepley. She said the building where the restaurant is located had always been on her mind until it went up for sale.

“It’s been about five years. I used to always drive down Florida Avenue and, for some odd reason, I always just, I wanted that building. I want that building, something about that building I need, and I want,” said York. “We know it’s a growing area, more so for that millennial vibe that we like, and it’s gentrifying for sure, and we want to go somewhere where we know we can capture something and be able to build something in a community that’s already building.”

A grand opening is planned for December 1, York said.

“That day will be pretty much the Hollywood meets Tampa. We want to do it big, something that Tampa hasn’t done yet. So, we decided with Tyler’s name behind it, we want to kind of cultivate that,” said York, adding that they wanted a restaurant to add to Black culture in Tampa. “It wasn’t about just trying to have a restaurant. It really was about having something for the culture, for people to come and just relax and take a load off honestly.”

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Among the new Black-owned restaurants in the city is Table 22 off Busch Boulevard, where they are two weeks into serving up all-day brunch.

“For the African American community, we love the traditional waffles and chicken. They go to L.A. for Roscoe’s waffles and chicken. The whole brunch thing is a vibe across the country, so for us to have that in our community was a big feat for us,” said Angela Brewton, the operations manager at Table 22. “We wanted something that you didn’t have to travel to these major markets to do and have hometown people with hometown chefs. We have hometown dessert makers.”

Brewton said the restaurant’s name is also homegrown. 

“The name Table 22 comes from 22nd Street, so [the owners] were born and raised in the neighborhood, and they wanted to put something back into the neighborhood that was nice and classy and where they can get a great meal for decent prices,” said Brewton.

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The restaurants add Southern-style and Caribbean-infused cuisines to the city’s main course. The side is the spotlight of the Black Restaurant Week campaign this week.

“It’s allowing Tampa to see that the culture can actually be diverse in all types of food,” said Tatiana Brown, the general manager of 7th and Grove in Ybor City. “Having a Black-owned restaurant in the city of Tampa is very important. It’s a way that we can pour our love for our community and our people in the city of Tampa.”

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Some restaurants are growing their footprint in the city, such as 7th and Grove.

“We’ve opened in Rose Deli and Madame Fortune, and we also opened up our catering company as well,” said Brown. “These are meals that you probably prepare once a month or once a week on Sundays. We actually want to give it to our culture every single day.”

As new and established restaurants thrive in Tampa’s food scene, Black Restaurant Week helps to show just what Black-owned restaurants are dishing out, so Tampa foodies have more options to add to their lists. 

“We bring soul. We bring love. We bring togetherness,” said Cooper. “The community comes out and comes and enjoys themselves not just the food itself but the entertainment, the atmosphere.”

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