On Wednesday, Peaches restaurant hosted a ‘Restaurant Roundtable’ discussion about the future of food access in Bed Stuy. Joined by representatives from City Harvest, Bed-Stuy Restoration, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID, and other local restaurateurs such as Ms. Dahlia’s Cafe, among others, the discussion tried to help understand how to attract a diverse mix of restaurants to the area. Focusing on themes like diversity, quality, and commerce, the representatives quickly linked the relationships between jobs, health, food, and community as being an inseparable web. Increasing the diversity of food offerings was a major topic of discussion as Restoration representative Michael Rafferty pointed out: “the owner of the W and the owner of the food-cart all want to be in NYC – how can we bring this same diversity to Bed-Stuy? We cannot rely on market-forces because if we do, our worst fears will come true. We need directed growth and service distribution.” Lifelong Bed-Stuy resident and Peaches co-owner Craig Samuels said the key for any new restaurant’s success is to be “a neighborhood restaurant first and a destination restaurant second.” Monique Greenwood, owner of the Akwaaba Mansion Bed and Breakfast, talked about the importance of highlighting the positive aspects of Bed-Stuy, that the old ‘Do or Die,’ represented in popular media 15-20 years ago, was no longer relevant.
With Bed-Stuy residents’ insatiable appetite for new dining establishments, amazing transit access to all of New York City’s boroughs, eclectic and vibrant retail experiences, and astounding turn-of-the-century architecture, the area is ripe for a foodie revolution. And as co-owners of Ms. Dahlia’s happily point out, “if [outside restaurant owners] knew what we know, that residents are crying for places like Peaches and Dahlias,” they would be setting up shop here right now. As the brainstorming rountable continued, representatives talked about how to attract new restaurants to the area and how to help existing restaurants make the transition. With help from city-wide tasting events, star chef recommendations, local food tours, positive media attention about the improvements happening in Bed-Stuy, and local resident/business owner success stories, the marketing blitz will have its hands full!
Hardly a flash in the pan, Bed-Stuy’s burgeoning food scene is creating quite a buzz among locals and non-residents alike. But with spotlight foodie attention ranging from New York Magazine to user-created discussions on websites like Yelp!, it’s time to direct this growth so that long-time residents can reap the benefits and get exactly the kind of food they want and need.