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Indigenous Eats Receives National Recognition While Educating People about Indigenous Culture


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Indigenous Eats Receives National Recognition While Educating People about Indigenous Culture

News Story by Matthew Kincanon | FāVS News

Since its grand opening in 2022, Indigenous Eats has seen a lot of success. Opening up a second location in downtown Spokane, winning local awards and being recognized nationally, all the while educating people about their food and culture.

One of their most recent achievements is placing fourth on USA Today’s 10 Best New Restaurant Awards.

Getting recognized by USA Today

Jenny Slagle, owner of Indigenous Eats

Jenny Slagle, owner of the restaurant and citizen of the Yakama Nation, said around a month before voting began for the awards, she got emails about it. However, she dismissed them at first because she thought they were spam. She then looked at one email that said voting started and encouraged them to update their profile.

Once she got confirmation that it was real and they were nominated by a journalist who had visited them, she scrambled to put their profile together on USA Today’s website and started spreading the word about their nomination a few days later. From there, the community and people who loved the restaurant shared it, too.

Brandon Withrow, the freelance travel journalist who nominated the restaurant, said he came upon the restaurant when he was doing a story about where to hike, eat and do other activities.

“In the last year, I’ve done more travel stories that engage Indigenous tourism, and because of that, Katie Hudson in the tourism offices suggested I might enjoy trying Indigenous Eats,” he said.

Nominations must stand out

For anything to be nominated, Withrow said the places have to stand out and the restaurant had an excellent menu that felt like comfort food and made for a good fuel-up after a morning hike.

Brandon Withrow

“When I travel, I discover a lot of great restaurants worth nominating, but I like to highlight places that stand-out and I think may not get the attention they should from a casual traveler, that is, unless someone takes the time to highlight them,” Withrow said. “That’s where I come in as a travel writer.”

He loves frybread and bannock and fell in love with the restaurant’s frybread and huckleberry sauce. Aside from the great menu and nice, casual atmosphere, he said people should skip the chain restaurants and visit local places like Indigenous Eats where they will get a lot more out of their city and a great meal.

As votes came in for the restaurant, Slagle said they had hoped to get into the top 10 and top five and were very happy to place fourth.

Inspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs and educating the community

Slagle hopes that their achievement will help inspire other Indigenous business owners because she wants them to feel encouraged to work for themselves and own their own business, and because representation matters. She felt inspired to start the restaurant after going to Tocabe, an Indigenous-owned restaurant in Colorado.

“What I would encourage other Native people to do is take a look around and take whatever it is, just know that you can do it and once you put that in your mind, then plan and just keep working at it and it’ll come together,” she said.

Not only do they want to give customers a good experience, they also want to educate people about their food and culture, including how complex frybread in of itself can be.

“It might not be the traditional dishes that people might think or assume of what is considered Indigenous like roots and berries,” Slagle said, adding that they get a lot of people making that comparison. “But it is to us because this is food that we’ve experienced across many tribes and … it’s what we used during celebrations or gatherings.”

She said she would love to offer more Native-grown or produced types of foods on their menu.

For those who want to learn more about their food, Slagle said they encourage people to come in and ask their staff. When the restaurant hires, she said they try to make sure they’re hiring people who are familiar with the food and grew up with it.

Success has brought racism and support

Despite their success, they have received racist and off-handed comments from people. Slagle said it stems from people being uneducated, buying into stereotypes and being untrusting. While these incidents have frustrated her, she said they have received a lot of support from people, reminding them how important the restaurant and food is to everybody else.

“Making it in the final top 10 isn’t bought either, and competition is fierce,” Withrow said. “So when you make it in that top 10 as a restaurant, it is because there are people in your city that love your food, believe in you, and vote to support you. It is a show of local love and I think that is where the real value shines.”

Slagle said the restaurant is thinking about what’s next, with growth being a priority.

Matthew Kincanon
Matthew Kincanon
Matthew Kincanon is a communications coordinator with a journalism and political science degree from Gonzaga University. His journalism experience includes the Gonzaga Bulletin, The Spokesman-Review, Art Chowder, Trending Northwest, Religion Unplugged and FāVS News. He loves being a freelancer for FāVS because, having been born and raised in Spokane, he wants to learn more about the various religious communities and cultures in his hometown, especially Indigenous communities.

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