[SF] Luke Tsai in SF Magazine: 'The Last Black Chefs of San Francisco'

A potluck of the chefs’ favorite dishes. Photo by Carl Posey


For those old enough to remember the old Harlem of the West days, or to have at least heard the stories, the cultural loss has been just as dire as the demographic one. They grieve over the demise of jazz clubs where legends like Billie Holiday performed, of bustling black bookstores and barbershops, and, perhaps most devastating, of the black-owned eateries that once lined the streets in neighborhoods like the Fillmore: Muslim bakeries, ice cream parlors, butcher shops, fried chicken specialists, and restaurants where a family might go if they felt like getting dressed up for a nice pork chop dinner. The attrition has continued right up to the current day, swallowing contemporary businesses like 1300 on Fillmore and Black Bark BBQ, two of the last blackowned restaurants on Fillmore Street proper, both of which shut their doors within the last six months.

The restaurants of the old black San Francisco might be fading relics of a gauzily remembered past, but a new generation of black chefs are diligently trying to open restaurants in the city. In their own way, each of these chefs is trying to provide a space that will feel like home for black San Franciscans. Case in point: McPherson, the chef whose grits cakes and blackened chicken were such a hit at the JCC, is working on opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in San Francisco—hopefully in the Fillmore. As bleak as the landscape of black-owned businesses in the city has become, she isn’t ready to let go of the dream. And, thankfully, she isn’t the only one.

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Bessarabsky Market, Kyiv. Ukraine
Credit: Juan Antonio Segal, Flickr