By Marshall A. Latimore

As he emerges from his Jeep Cherokee just outside the valet stand at Boogalou Restaurant & Lounge in Midtown, adorned in a tailored suit and patterned dress shirt, Warren Luckett is also wearing a confident smile. After all, he’s been here before.

It’s a feeling he looks forward to every year around this time. He’s home — well, his home away from home. His old stomping grounds. And, plus, it’s almost showtime.

Black Restaurant Week, the nation’s largest celebration of the black culinary experience, will entice thousands of Atlanta foodies with a showcase of the region’s top black culinary talent and black-owned restaurants Sept. 1-15.

Warren Luckett, a co-founder of Black Restaurant Week, said there’s a lot to expect during this year’s stop in Atlanta. (Photo by: Trarell Torrence | The Atlanta Voice)

Luckett, a Houston native and Morehouse College alumnus, co-founded Black Restaurant Week with his partners Falayn Ferrell and Derek Robinson in 2016. In 2017, the trio expanded the festival with a stop in Atlanta as the first market to host Black Restaurant Week outside of the Houston market.

Since then, Black Restaurant Week has emerged as a fixture in eight U.S. markets. Luckett said he is hopeful that the week will go international to South Africa in 2020. “Cross your fingers!” he said.

The two-week food festival, which has already traveled to Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Indianapolis this year, will highlight a variety of black-owned culinary businesses and professionals throughout metro Atlanta while calling attention to minority inequality in the food and beverage industry.

To complete its 2019 tour, Black Restaurant Week will also make stops to the Bay Area and Dallas.

Tonight, though, Luckett has partnered with Jackie Robbins, the general manager of Boogalou Restaurant and Lounge, to host this year’s Black Restaurant Week Media Preview, an invitation-only reception for bloggers, influencers and members of the press.

Over cocktails of Woodford Reserve and a number of bites from Boogalou’s kitchen — including shrimp and grits, chicken sliders, and Caesar salads — guests mingled and networked while Luckett worked the room with his signature charm and excitement over the weeks to come.

“It’s the communal table effect,” said Luckett, co-founder of Black Restaurant Week in a recent ​Forbes Magazine feature. “We want to bring everyone together through the love of food.

“African-Americans make up only eight percent of restaurant owners and managers in the U.S.,” he continued. “Our mission is to provide a platform that calls for inclusion in the industry and exposes and elevates black-owned businesses.”

With its third takeover of Atlanta, Black Restaurant Week has already enlisted a number of local, black-owned restaurants across the city to offer exclusive prix fixe menus starting at just $10.

In addition to the restaurant offerings, Black Restaurant Week will host a stunning lineup of culinary events designed to expand awareness and increase support for the city’s community of black culinary talent.

The current 2019 lineup features some of the city’s most beloved black-owned spots, including Boogalou, Ms. Icey’s Kitchen & Bar in Decatur, Fin & Feathers in Edgewood, Cafe Songhai in Peachtree Corners, Nancy’s Pizzeria in Midtown and Escobar Restaurant in Castleberry Hill, with many more to come!

“Atlanta is really special to us,” Luckett said. “It’s our second-largest market in the campaign and the first city we expanded to after Houston. To say it feels like home is an understatement.

“The black culinary community here is like family and it’s been amazing to watch each business evolve over the years,” he added. “From new restaurant openings to small vendors who are opening their first brick and mortars, it fills us with pride knowing the community continues to grow.”

The vibrant celebration will end on a high note, with a hearty portion of Black Restaurant Week’s proceeds going back to the heartland of the black culinary community— the farmers that sustain the industry.

The organization will make a donation to its community partner, Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), in support of its efforts to provide legal and technical services to farmers of color.

F.A.R.M.S. is a regional 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by agriculture attorney Jillian Hishaw and based in South Carolina with operations throughout Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama & the Carolinas.

The organization has dedicated itself to providing legal and technical services to farmers of color in an effort to prevent the loss of land ownership to build generational wealth and eradicate hunger in the farmers’ community.

Black Restaurant Week Atlanta is proudly supported by Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Ackerman & Co., ChefWear, Branwar Wine Distributing Co. and Fade Media.

For more information including participating restaurants, tickets and much more, visit ​ATLBRW.com​.

This year’s event schedule includes the following :

Sept 10 | Art of Flavor: A Pop-Up Dinner with Chef Scotley Innis | Parlor Cocktail Den
An event for the refined foodie, this exclusive, intimate dinner presented by Woodford Reserve will feature four gourmet courses from Hell’s Kitchen alum, Chef Scotley Innis. With a special curation of award-winning wine pairings, exotic cocktails and live entertainment, Art of Flavor is a supreme culinary experience not to miss.

Sept. 12 | NOSH: Culinary Showcase | 595 North Event Center
In this spirited mashup sponsored by Makers Mark, featuring top-talent chefs, bakers and mixologists, guests are invited to rank a menu of inspired cocktails and endless delectable bites from a variety of local vendors.

Sept. 14 | Soundbites: Food Truck Festival | Atlanta Food Truck Park
Soundbites will feature a diverse fleet of food trucks and vendors, live music and entertainment for the whole family.

Participating restaurants include:

  • Boogalou Restaurant & Lounge
  • Cafe Songhai
  • Coaxum Low Country Restaurant
  • Dat Fire Jerk Chicken
  • Escobar Restaurant
  • Fin & Feathers
  • Members Only
  • Ms. Icey’s
  • Nana’s Chicken and Waffles
  • Nancy’s Pizzeria (Dunwoody Location)
  • Negril Village
  • Rosie’s Cafe
  • Slim & Husky’s
  • Spice House
  • Sweet Potato Cafe

This article originally appeared in The Atlanta Voice.