As Women’s History Month wraps up, it’s a great time to dine at eateries owned and run by women. The good news is that we have a whole bunch of them to choose from. Not just restaurants but bakeries, breweries, caterers, coffee-makers, and more.
The bad news is that there doesn’t seem to be any sort of list or resource to help people find them. But rather than getting all bitter about it, let’s instead take a few moments to mention just a few of the food and drink phenoms working right here in the Queen City.
Esther Ikuru, owner of the Cooking Pot, likes to say, “Food represents who you are and where you come from.” For those not familiar with African cooking, Ikuru will give first-time diners what she calls “a tutorial.”
Siggy Sollitto is hoisting a giant bag of greens into the kitchen at Siggy’s Good Food when she stops to answer our question about what it means to be a woman who owns a restaurant. She wants people to dine at her place “because we do things right.”
She doesn’t want any special consideration for being female. “I shouldn’t get ‘a discount’” on my performance because I'm a woman,” she says.
A former boss snarkily called Carol Waggener a “Bold Missy.” So instead of taking offense, she opened a brewery and christened it with the moniker. Its femme-forward décor and clever menu honor iconic women such as sharpshooter Annie Oakley and astronaut Sally Ride.
Both Lupie’s and Letty’s are super stops for comfort food.
Music mavens Penny Craver, Gina Stewart, and Brenda Gambill recently opened EastSide Local Eatery to fill a coffee-house gap in the neighborhood. And speaking of coffee, Raina Purvis serves handcrafted beverages and baked goods at her Queen’s Coffee Bar.
During the last government shutdown, Courtney Buckley offered freebies from her company, Your Mom’s Donuts.
“Just because you’re out of work, doesn’t mean you should miss breakfast!” she posted on social media. Juli Ghazi of Pure Pizza fed the furloughed, too.
While eating and drinking my way around town, at each stop I was reminded of the incredible dedication and artistry these women bring to their work.
Baker Laney Jahkel-Parrish uses her training in ceramics to construct beautifully designed desserts.
“It’s such a joy…to know that I’ve made their meal, and hopefully their day, a little sweeter,” she says.
Maura Trejo grew up in Mexico and moved with her family to Charlotte. When she expressed a desire to start a business, her kids said, “Why Not Pizza?” And that became the name of her restaurant.
Happily, the myth that women don’t support each other is just that. When I asked my networking group to recommend their favorite woman-owned food businesses, a love-fest ensued. Pals reminded me to include food trucks: Roaming Fork, the Dumpling Lady, and the impossibly cute Wentworth & Fenn bakery that operates out of a vintage camper.
The list of local bakers spreads from Concord to Rock Hill. Meal delivery services. Caterers and chefs. Farmer’s markets. Small-batch, artisanal food producers. For each of these I researched, I discovered several more. There are literally hundreds in our area. I filled up my notepad.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, food-related businesses make up a significant portion of businesses owned by women. Altogether, women own 36 percent of all U.S. businesses. They employ 8.4 million workers and generate $264 billion in payroll.
That means each cupcake you buy actually helps contribute to a robust economy, and that affects us all.
Which brings us back to history: Like food, we create it over and over it in our ordinary lives, without realizing that there’s anything special about it. The women who nourish us today are those we’ll look back upon and remember, someday in the future.
But in the meantime, it sure would be nice to have that list of restaurants.
Amy Rogers writes WFAEats, a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and tackle the meatier side of the food scene in and around Charlotte.