By the end of May, there will be nearly 60 black-owned restaurants in Oklahoma City, rivaling major metropolitan areas like Dallas and St. Louis, according to Apollo Woods, founder of OKC Black Eats.
OKC Black Eats is a marketing and consulting agency that started a few years ago after Woods returned to Oklahoma from spending almost two decades in Texas.
“I got excited about seeing the restaurant scene. Downtown was developing. Things just looked different,” he said about his move to Oklahoma’s capital and largest city.
Still, he would take clients out to eat and notice there were few black-owned restaurants and restaurants with black chefs. There was also no directory or publication geared toward highlighting such establishments. That’s where OKC Black Eats comes in. Featuring chef and restaurants in the African American community, the website and accompanying social media highlight establishments in the city. OKC Black Eats provides marketing expertise to restaurateurs and culinary professionals. (Apollo Woods Pictured at Right)
“I bring exposure to black-owned restaurants,” he said. “But now it’s not just about restaurants, but about bringing attention to resources, to minority-owned businesses.” That discussion can include food insecurity. On Oklahoma City’s east side, he noted, there is no grocery store. His focus is trying to improve the community in whatever way he can, which may mean connecting food to tourism, one thing that he hopes to examine and produce a report on in the near future.
“We’re building bridges with other ethnic groups and other chefs,” said Woods.
He also started OKC Black Restaurant Weeks, a chance for local residents in the city to try a taste of a variety of establishments, including black-owned food trucks. He was surprised to see that many of the participants in the event weren’t black, which made him realize that people do want options and to try new things.
“Food is healing,” he said. Woods also noted that many health disparities can be improved by access to fresh food.
Photo Credits: OKC Black Eats, So Focus Photos by R. Tolar