Deadline Detroit | ‘An alternate universe:’ Detroit restaurant critic worries about ‘a sea of white diners’
The latest article from food writer Lyndsay C. Green, who became the Detroit Free Press’ food critic last November, isn’t about meals, chefs or culinary trends.
Instead, she candidly looks at something that has surprised the former New Yorker since moving here in mid-2017: “So few of the restaurant diners in greater downtown Detroit are black. “
Noting a contrast to Dearborn and Hamtramck, where “new restaurants are packed with diners reflecting the surrounding neighborhoods,” Green wrote in a Sunday Page One centerpiece:
Outside of the stretch of black-owned restaurants along Livernois in northwest Detroit, however, there are few new establishments whose dining rooms reflect the majority-black city as a whole.
His subscriber-only crawl is nearly 2,500 words and is titled “Detroit’s new restaurants lack diversity among customers — and that’s a problem.” It reflects a goal that the Freep newcomer set in an introduction to readers six months ago:
My mission is to…embrace my own diversity as an Afro-Latina and Freep’s first black restaurant reviewer, and to humbly and honestly report on Detroit’s food system.
The essay reported from this weekend serves up a plate full of honesty with first-person seasoning:
Stepping into a new restaurant in the big city center often feels like stepping into an alternate universe so different from the city around it, it’s like stepping back in time. With my black husband as our usual dinner companion, our table for two often stands like a life raft in a sea of white diners.
Lightbulb moments flicker across the room as a person of color realizes they are the minority in space. … We all have a history of isolation.
I’ve had those moments for as long as I can remember. … Detroit, however, … is the last place I expected to feel different.
Green’s perspective is complemented by comments from three industry insiders and a brief excerpt from former Detroit cook Tunde Wey’s 2017 musings on “The Bleaching of Detroit’s Culinary Scene.”
She speaks to Saffron De Twah’s chef-owner, Omar Anani, and hails him for having “one of the few spaces that attracts a diverse crowd in the great downtown, collection of central neighborhoods, including the Downtown, Midtown, Woodbridge, New Center, Eastern Market, Lafayette Park, Rivertown and Corktown.”
The culture reporter also shares insights from Thor Jones, general manager of six-month-old Freya on East Grand Boulevard in the North End, and Kiki Louya, a Detroit-born chef and former executive director of the Restaurant Workers’ Community. Foundation.
There’s plenty more to savor if you’re a subscriber or decide to become one now, including why some people refer to the Capitol Park area of downtown as “Birmingham South.”