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Richmond was a pleasant surprise for The Hungry Black Man team. Our 2021 Black Foodie Tour didn’t reveal the gems we discovered this year.
One of our discoveries included Lillie Pearl’s Restaurant located at 416 E Grace St, Richmond, VA 23219, which ended up being a bittersweet dining experience. The restaurant was incredibly busy and since we did not have reservations, we placed our order to go. We were instructed to order at the bar, which is where our trouble began. Lillie Pearl’s is promoted as a Black owned restaurant but has a non-Black management team that is in desperate need of cultural intelligence courses.
Our media director went to check on our order placed. The first red flag started waving when the manager asked him to wait outside rather than at the bar, like other patrons. We reluctantly obliged. Second, third and fourth red flags happened when he brought our order outside, screaming our names incorrectly before quizzing us on what we ordered. Even after we answered correctly, he held on to the order, demanding to know, “Did you pay for this?” – despite being present when we paid.
Not only was his question asinine and rude, but it was also embarrassing because he belched it out to three Black men in front of non-black guests. The guy’s managing skills were awful. When we informed the executive chef brother about the manager’s behavior, he essentially brushed it off by explaining that he is a nice guy who was having a bad day. Unacceptable. And we were hesitant about staying but decided to make it a teachable experience for Lillie Pearl’s given its large Black customer base.
If the customer service does not improve following this review, we are obligated to engage management and/or take a more deliberate approach to informing its customers of our experience. Further, if all of their Black customers receive the same horrendous treatment we received, it could become a very real obstacle to enjoying their delicious food.
We had the Smothered Pork Chop with a Shallot Cream Sauce on a bed of Hoppin John Rice. The bone-in pork chop was grilled to perfection, tender and juicy with the beautifully silky shallot cream sauce providing a depth of flavor that paired well with the Hoppin John rice. The chop was on the thinner side but was still satisfying.
Next, we kept it hearty with the Braised Short Rib over collard green risotto and root vegetables with pan gravy. The short rib flavor was robust, and the meat was tender, hearty, and satisfying, creating an impressive meal with the delicious root vegetables. The pan gravy was rich and tasty, complementing the collard green risotto wonderfully. This plate came together nicely, and our team enjoyed each bite. The cut of the short rib had way too much fat, however, the enjoyable flavor made it somewhat palatable.
Great food notwithstanding, the extremely negative experience from management was a huge turn off. The management team needs to be retrained so that what Black diners expect when they hear “black-owned,” they actually experience. “Black-owned,” means a safe space where we dine without the fear of racist stereotypes and the negative treatment we sometimes encounter in other spaces.
If Lillie Pearl’s claims to be “Black-owned,” it must become a safe space where Black people receive service that helps them feel restored, respected, and happy. That was not the case here. You can call them at (804) 412-8724.
If you visit, please share your experience in the comment section.
Yes, we have to let these restaurants know about their bad behavior so that they can make changes.
Wow I mean you said everything I have been saying about this I place love love love the food but it’s feels weird going there. It feels very much white owned , u go in and see nothing but white lol seated and the black ppl at the bar, white bartenders, but black chefs in the back. They never disrespected me but after reading this I can’t support until they get there sh!* together.
So sad to hear you had a poor experience. As a Black woman, I have dined here several times with my friends/family/coworkers and have never experienced or witnessed such awful treatment. I’ve met the owner and his wife personally and have worked with them at an event, and I whole-heartedly believe they would find this treatment completely unacceptable. I hope they reach out to you to apologize.
Well technically they aren’t fully black owned that’s a marketing ploy to get our business. It’s owned by a black man married to a white women, minority owned (black man, white woman) but not black owned. My first experience there was fine until one of the white employees made an extremely disparaging comment to my dinner partner. My dinner partner expressed her satisfaction with the bread pudding, she told the waitress it was soooo good, and the white female employee said “well do you want to lick the plate?” My dinner partner was extremely offended she asked her “what are you trying to insinuate, am I a dog, why would I want to lick that plate?” We asked for management the black manager whom I believe was the owner was told what happened and his response “well maybe you are taking it the wrong way, I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that.” He completely dismissed his employee’s derogatory and disrespectful response. He did not care if the comment was rooted in racism basically saying black people are animals who lick plates after eating. And to top it off he didn’t offer any type of accommodation/discount for rude treatment. Gave a half ass apology after I had to explain to him why it was offensive!
I agree with the reviewers assessment of feeling “unwelcome” at this restaurant. A friend and I dined there and there was a clear distinction between how we were treated versus our lighter-complexioned counterparts. I will not be returning.
I previously worked there and the management is run by unqualified people who absolutely do not know how to properly run a restaurant. The only good thing is the food which is prepped and cooked by black workers who are also over worked. There is no respect or common decency towards the FOH black staff which there hardly is now. This restaurant does not embody the epitome of black owned, the owners are barely present as they have more “important” matters to attend to. It’s a shame having to rotate a new set of staffing every season due to the incompetence.