A new documentary focuses on Tampa Bay's Black-owned restaurants

Journalist Alex Jones decided she wanted to shine a light on restaurants that hadn’t quite hit it big on SEO.

click to enlarge Journalist Alex Jones decided she wanted to shine a light on restaurants that hadn’t quite hit it big on SEO. - C/O ALEXANDRIA JONES
Journalist Alex Jones decided she wanted to shine a light on restaurants that hadn’t quite hit it big on SEO.

Before every visit to a new city, Alexandria Jones’ boyfriend, Robert Ebron, likes to research Black-owned restaurants and add a stop to their itinerary. During every stop, the Tampa-based journalist and foodie documents her experiences then share with her followers on her blog, The Frugalista Life (full disclosure: Jones is past intern and current contributor to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.)

Inspired by Ebron’s interest and support of the country’s other Black-owned restaurants, the 31-year-old decided to make her own list of Tampa Bay’s Black-owned restaurants.

After a disappointing Google search, Jones decided she wanted to shine a light on the local Black-owned restaurant scene that hasn’t quite hit it big on SEO. Her background as a journalist specializing in the food scene came in handy.

“I already had a relationship with a majority of the places in the Tampa area because of previous interviews for publications I’ve worked for,” Jones told CL. “But the level of difficulty arose when it came to reaching out to restaurants across the bridge in Pinellas.”

Jones constructed a list of six concepts and individuals representing Tampa Bay’s Black-owned restaurant scene: 7th + Grove, Main Course, Cask Social Kitchen, Hall on Franklin owner Jamal Wilson, Ya Boy’s BBQ and Largo, family-owned restaurant Grant’s Crab and Seafood.

Interviews kicked off in November 2019 and wrapped in early January. Jones kept the questioning short and simple, allowing owners to open the conversation about their journey in the local Black-owned restaurant community: How would you describe the Black-owned food scene in Tampa Bay? What do you think the food scene will be like in 10 years? Have you seen any growth over the years and how do you see it continuing?

“The vibe was ‘It’s quiet, but we’re here,’” Jones said about her interviewees’ outlook on the Black-owned restaurant scene.

Jamaris Glenn doesn’t see the small pool of concepts to be a disadvantage but as an opportunity for growth.

“I would describe the Black-owned food scene in Tampa as quality more than [a large] quantity,” the co-owner of Ybor City’s 7th + Grove, said. “I think there are definitely some opportunities for us to do different things because Black restaurants aren’t a monolith.”

As if cranking out six filmed interviews and cooking footage in a little over two months wasn’t enough of a challenge, Jones gave herself a deadline of a month to edit and stitch this puppy together. She found herself clocking out of her full-time job and clocking in as an editor.

“I was editing after work, on my days off, and even after Robert went to bed,” Jones says with a laugh. “I would try to edit one minute of the documentary per day. Eventually, I moved up to two minutes. I needed to give myself a deadline.”

And, thanks to midnight grinding, “A Soulful Taste: Exploring Tampa Bay’s Black-Owned Food Scene” was born on the morning of February 21; you can stream it on YouTube.

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