Follow us on social media @thehungryblackman for more amazing Black owned eateries across the United States and adding to your foodie-indulgence list! Or subscribe to our blog by placing your email below for up-to-date emails and newsletters
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.