If you are thinking about opening a black restaurant and want a great template to use, please visit Ms. Icey’s Kitchen & Bar.
Just don’t do like a bad rapper and bite off of them.
For many people, the thought of going to a black restaurant in 2018 (shoot, almost anytime after say, 2005) can bring about serious concerns before you even step foot into the place. Ask yourself if any of these seem familiar to you when faced with this prospect:
- Is the food going to be good?
- Who else has been there?
- Is it clean?
- Do they take credit cards?
- Do the staff have bad attitudes?
- Is it a hole in the wall?
- Will I have to wash my clothes afterward?
- Are the patrons respectful types or is it too hood?
I do not know if the planets were aligned just right, or if I should have played the lottery that day, but when I visited Ms. Icey’s I can truthfully say that there was a positive response to every single concern listed above. So many times we have high hopes for a new black establishment that is opening, and so many times we have been disappointed with the execution of their business plan.
This clearly was not one of those times.
From the start, there was a certain energy that was reminiscent of the old days of just chillin’ on the block on a Friday or Saturday night, combined with modern design cues and tech. You get a sense that this is a B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S (not a B-I-H-N-E-S-S… here’s looking at you George Fraser), one that actually invested money, time and effort to make it successful.
The space is very open and airy, almost like a big loft with a large bar running down the middle. Seats are pushed to the edges to maximize space and ensure there is enough room to bust a move should the feeling hit you. The pictures that adorn the wall are of our entertainment icons, such as Missy Elliott, Snoop Dogg and the princess Aaliyah. This scheme is taken all the way to the restrooms, with classic pics of barbershop life for the men, and words of inspiration for the women. Even the soap used is an upgrade from your standard fare, and you don’t mind lingering after you finish your business to take it all in.
Parking is not a huge concern, but as there are other businesses in the same strip as Ms. Icey’s, spaces can be hard to come by at peak times, or if two or more businesses have a themed event on the same night.
Ms. Icey’s definitely has an old-school feel for youngish adults (read: from the not yet over over 40 set to the mid 50’s). The lighting was dim enough to create a sultry lounge feel, but still bright enough to actually see what you are eating and who your are talking to. Customers were seen coming into the restaurant already dancing to the music, and everyone in the space actually looked the part — from the patrons at the bar to those who were doing date night. Even the staff were fun and friendly, and were actually caught dancing to some of the music selections between food deliveries to customers. No birthday song needed.
On themed nights, the DJ is on point, although it was strange to feel as though the night was family-friendly due to the number of songs with censored lyrics, only to be hit with the unedited album version of a different song a few moments later. However, it was refreshing that the DJ actually let the music play and didn’t interrupt every three seconds to tell us stuff that we already know — or don’t care about.
The music — combined with the food, the service, and the patrons — all converged to establish a chill vibe that helps make the spot a destination, rather than purely an impulse.
Your eyes definitely play a trick on you when you see the food delivered. What at first seems like inadequate portions quickly fades as you taste the hearty, delectable dishes and marvel at how your palette is tantalized. Full disclosure: I only tasted the mac & cheese dish (which I surreptitiously scraped the pan and ate all of the remaining cheese bits), but just that taste left me wanting more, so a return trip WILL be in my not-so-distant future.
I did imbibe a beverage of the alcoholic variety, and while it was satisfying and somewhat refreshing, there clearly was not enough alcohol present to register any concerns on a breathalyzer. Maybe one drink shouldn’t impair you enough to give your keys to someone, but it also shouldn’t allow you to act like Ivan Drago when Apollo Creed delivered his first hit. Hopefully they can strive to hit the mark somewhere in the middle in the future.
Also, I don’t know if it was due to a “themed” night or what, but the last call for selections from the kitchen was one hour before closing, which seemed a bit early for a “kitchen and bar” that advertises a closing time of 12 am. Staff was seen cleaning tables and prepping for the next day, although they didn’t give the feeling that the lights would be flipped on full blast at any given moment. No one looked as though they were simply mercenaries; there seemed to be genuine care and concern for the success of the business evident in their demeanor.
One of the most unique features of Ms. Icey’s are the electric outlets at every booth!! Whaaaaaaaaat? In addition, continuing with the old-school vibe are the TV’s that are tuned to old school shows from the 80’s and 90’s (on the night of my visit, The Cosby Show and Cheers were showing). The website was the only major aspect of tech that was lacking, as their site is sluggish and more could be done to really sell the user on the service and decor. Wi-Fi was not evaluated at the time of my visit unfortunately, but along with a place to plug in your devices, it’d be great to have Wi-Fi that is faster than your phone and also let’s you save on data usage.
Go. Although the sweet spot seems to be customers between 30 and 60, others are sure to enjoy themselves and witness cool aspects of our history. The food will not disappoint, the service will delight, and the vibe will take you back while beckoning you to come back.