Please 'earmark' your donation for a specific business by leaving a comment: after entering payment information and clicking "Donate Now," share our fundraiser (if you'd like), then click "Continue" and then enter the restaurant name(s) in the "I donated because" comment field. Unearmarked funds will be used to help cover processing fees and then go towards a general fund that will be distributed between all the listed restaurants on a weekly basis.
We all know that restaurants and their workers are in trouble right now. We love how many diners have rallied to support their favorite restaurants during this crisis by buying gift cards and contributing to relief funds. But immigrant-owned and other small restaurants are largely absent from social media campaigns and online fundraising. Arguably, these are the businesses in most dire need of support for themselves and their staff.
They're our beloved and reliable neighborhood joints, our tastes of home, and our local mom & pop shops. They don't have huge Instagram followings, fancy PR firms, or big investors, but they do have us, the diners who love them. We can't leave them behind. By using an accountable, transparent relief fund system, we're asking diners not to forget about these unsung restaurants.
To give directly to the businesses, please make a donation - for any amount, every dollar counts! - and attach a comment to your donation with the name of the restaurant(s) you want to support. Need suggestions? Below, we've featured some business owners who have agreed to participate.
If there is another restaurant you'd like to support in the Greater Boston area, just include the name and we will send your donation along. We'll also continue adding consenting restaurants as this fundraiser (hopefully) grows! Visit us at @unsungrestaurants on Instagram for more.
Thanks so much for your generosity - we can't wait to see you on the other side.
-- Irene Li, chef/owner Mei Mei Restaurant & Jessica Achbar Coughlin
Café Juice Up - Mattapan
Denise O’Marde saw a need in her Mattapan community for healthy alternatives and felt a juice bar would make an impact. She owned a commercial building and worked to transform it to a food service facility. Denise has been renovating an outdoor terrace for a patio space for guests to enjoy smoothies in the sunshine.
Carolicious - Somerville
Founders Carolina Garcia and Carolina Salinas arrived in Boston from Venezuela in 2015. With the help of a Somerville Art Council program for entrepreneurs, they opened Carolicious in 2016. They sell a wide variety of savory and sweet arepas from the Aeronaut Brewery, vend at local festivals, and offer catering.
El Oriental De Cuba - Jamaica Plain
Bringing the flavor of cuban cuisine to Boston and Jamaica Plain's Latino community since 1994! El Oriental de Cuba restaurant celebrates the culture of Cuba with every dish, bringing back old memories through flavor.
Little India Express - Lexington
Little India Express in Lexington is a small restaurant and caterer led by Nepali immigrants who are proud to serve their community by offering Indian and Nepali Himalayan cuisine using freshly ground spices and Halal meats. It’s a taste of home for their fellow immigrants and a magical culinary journey for anyone who’s never had a tandoori momo!
Mei Mei Bakery - Quincy
Nestled in on a small street near Quincy's Wollaston T stop, Mei Mei bakery (no relation to Mei Mei restaurant!) is a tiny shop with a wide variety of homemade Chinese pastries. You can usually get them coming right out of the oven: generously filled red bean, pork, curried beef, taro, coconut cream... all for $1 each! Cakes, sesame balls, assorted red bean pastries - and if you get there early they have congee too!
Niña Reina & Doña Estela - Boston
Niña & Doña are caterers serving the Mexican community of Greater Boston.
Oasis Vegan Veggie Parlor - Dorchester
Ethiopian-Roxburian Nahdra Ra Kiros and Bronx Jamaican Jahriffe MacKenzie co-own Oasis Vegan Veggie Parlor, where they serve vegan stews, lentil dishes, healthy sandwiches, and smoothies and juices. Their philosophy is centered around both physical & spiritual wellness, and cultural & community healing through empowering food choices made as acts of self determination. Their Four Corners space is warm, bright, and vibrant with color - a true oasis.
Sol Azteca - Boston MA
Germán Aguilar and Rafael Osornio were friends growing up in Mexico City and after coming to Boston from California together, wanted to open a traditional restaurant in their adopted city. Sol Azteca opened on Beacon Street in 1974 and sixteen years later opened a second location in Newton called Café Sol Azteca. They are proud to run a family owned business that showcases the true meaning of Mexican cuisine.
Tasty Momo - Somerville
Sophiya Thakali came to the States when she was 20 planning to be an accountant, but decided to pursue her lifelong dream of opening a restaurant. Momo are Nepalese dumplings with different fillings eaten as a snack food. Choose from meats or a vegan vegetable blend and your momos are wrapped in dough to order, then steamed. Following the earthquake in Nepal in 2015, she donated 500 frozen momos to friends who sold the dumplings to raise money for earthquake victims.
Tawakal Halal Cafe - East Boston
Yahya Noor was born on the southern coast of Somalia and was raised in a family that loved to cook. He came to Boston in 1998 after fleeing the start of the ongoing civil war and opened Tawakal, saying “our vision of incorporating traditional East African and Middle Eastern dishes as well as exploring Mediterranean and other Eastern cuisines has become a reality.” Tawakal which only recently reopened after a seven-year hiatus. Yahya is a proud and active member of his home, the East Boston community.
Villa Mexico Cafe - Financial District
Julie King moved to Woburn with her daughter, Bessie, her husband passed away from Alzheimer's. She has been a lawyer in Mexico, but without a license to practice in Massachusetts, decided to open a restaurant. She went into business with one mission: to bring authentic, homemade Mexican food to the people of New England.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can I donate to a restaurant that isn't listed?
Yup! Growing the network is a key part of this project. Put the name of the restaurant in your donation "comment" and we'll send the money to them.
Who's in charge here?
Unsung Restaurants is a group of industry workers and diners led by Irene Li, the chef and owner of Mei Mei Restaurant in Boston. When she's not running the restaurant, Irene supports food entrepreneurs in partnership with Commonwealth Kitchen and is especially passionate about breaking down barriers for women, immigrants, and people of color seeking to tell their stories through food.
How do I know that the money will end up where it's supposed to?
In connecting this project with Mei Mei, our intention is to put a face to the name so that this process doesn't feel anonymous or sketchy. We plan to keep everyone up to date through our Instagram page as money goes out. We'll also publish a spreadsheet tracking donations and payments. If you have other ideas about how we can provide transparency and accountability, let us know!
Will the funds be used in a specific way?
For now, we have chosen not to attach any strings to the donations we facilitate. We expect that restaurants will have to make difficult choices between paying bills, supporting staff, and investing in new business models during this difficult time. We trust them to make these decisions.
How often/quickly will funds be transferred to restaurants?
Once GoFundMe starts sending us the money, we plan to write checks on a weekly basis.
What criteria are you using when selecting featured restaurants?
For now, the only strict criteria is that the restaurants should be independently operated and should not have an existing online relief fund in place. That being said, this project was developed with underserved and underrepresented people in mind, including speakers of other languages, immigrants, and small/early-stage businesses with limited resources.
My favorite li'l restaurant isn't on here. What gives?
The fastest way to get another restaurant is to have them contact us with their consent to be featured. Or, you can donate to them by including their name in the "comment" of your donation, and we'll reach out. We have translators on deck, too!
Is this tax-deductible?
Unfortunately, no. Is it good for your heart, soul, and community? Fortunately, yes :)
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