RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Black Restaurant Experience kicked off its seventh year this week with Mobile Soul on Sunday, March 5 at Monroe Park, and there is a full week of celebrating local restaurants in store.

Forty-four restaurants are participating this year, showcasing American, southern, Caribbean, and African cuisine.  

Lillie Pearl is one of the many black-owned businesses participating in this year’s event. The restaurant has been participating since they first opened and say the experience is about more than just the food.   

“If we are trying to represent what the Black restaurant experience is,” Daphnee Duret, the general manager of Lillie Pearl, said. “This whole thing just showcases the unique culinary talents that live in all of us. I mean, there is like more than a handful of restaurants on this list, and they all provide something different. So, for us, we’re amongst that and why not? We are the Black experience.”

Duret says the week is all about showing the uniqueness of each black-owned restaurant and providing the experience to others. 

“It really expresses the Black experience. It’s all about family here,” Duret said. “I come to work for the people, so I hope that energy transfers to our guest as well. I expect to be treated like somebody’s auntie or sister and that what we should always expect when we walk into a place that’s owned by someone who looks like us.”  

According to their website, the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience aims to counter economic disparity within minority-owned businesses. Organizers want to provide solutions that engage a deeper understanding of Richmond and its food culture. They also say that the annual event, which will run until next Sunday, “is a movement dedicated to empowering and supporting blacks in food service” and celebrates the black culinary community in the city. 

The organization says they have raised $20,000 over the past four years. 

The weeklong experience will end with the “Stick a Fork In It” event on Sunday, March 12, happening at Main Street Station. Tickets start at $10.  

Click here for a full list of participating restaurants and here for a full list of events.