This guild of foodies started in 2016, as a way to keep local restaurant lights on in the face of competition from proliferating restaurant chains. Chains are great, said Arlington Foodies founder Jennifer Savage Hurley, but they lack the soul that comes with small businesses. Savage Hurley wanted a way to help owners with limited advertising budgets or language barriers get people to their tables.
“They had no advocates for them when it came to publicity,” Savage Hurley said. “Because of that, we were losing them. We were losing part of the character… the integration of different cultures in Arlington.
Savage Hurley has taken her efforts to social media. Since then, the group has grown from a few hundred members in its first few months to more than 19,000 as of February 8, including several admins who moderate posts and members. North Texas residents have created their own urban and regional foodie groups. Throughout this time, the Arlington Foodies group has acquired non-profit status to fund a monthly farmer’s market and produce co-op. The group is also behind a myriad of events bringing people to local restaurants.
“People didn’t know about these restaurants,” Savage Hurley said. “Now they know them. Now they want to share these little gems they find in Arlington.
Restaurant owners have also joined the movement. Dozens of restaurants offer promotions or discounts to customers who mention the band or flash a paper “foodie card.” The Foodies also organize a picnic-sharing twice a year, during which the restaurants offer dishes to taste.
The group itself and the relationship between restaurateurs and customers have grown far beyond Savage Hurley’s expectations.
“It really turned into something quite beautiful in Arlington that no one ever expected to happen just from this little Facebook group that I started because I liked a few restaurants that I didn’t want to see. disappear,” Savage Hurley said.
A culinary COVID-19 lifeline
Jeremy Lowe credits the success of his hot dog and burger stand to the Arlington Foodies.
He and his father, Kevin Lowe, spent years discussing how to restart their business, Nearly Famous Franks and Burgers, which operated around Dallas-Fort Worth 21 years ago. At the time, the dual drive-thru chain was selling homemade fast food for 89 cents in Fort Worth, Euless, North Richland Hills and Hurst.
The Lowes saw an opportunity to revive their business near Sam Houston High School in Arlington when a building in the middle of a mall parking lot came on the market. Its former owner. The previous tenant left due to COVID-19, but attracted dozens of students at a time before the pandemic. Jeremy and Kevin Lowe opened Nearly Famous Burgers and Hot Dogs in November 2020, hoping the pandemic was over.
“We had no idea it would go up and go again,” Jeremy Lowe said.
Business was slow for the first two months, until a customer took photos of the restaurant to post on Arlington Foodies. Soon after, customers lined up.
“They just started coming out and touring, and they tried us out and they liked us,” Lowe said.
And they kept spinning. In the summer of 2021, the group chose Nearly Famous as a company to “spin off” or visit en masse for dinner. They hit the picnic tables at the burger stand along the parking lot again on January 29, after deeming Nearly Famous the most popular swarm of the year. Foodies gave Lowe a plate, and Lowe gave customers a free dessert. He also unveiled a permanent new menu item, the Savage Bacon Dog, dressed in bits of bacon, pickled jalapeños, pico de gallo and spicy mustard and named after the band’s founder.
Savage Hurley said Lowe is one of Foodie’s devotees. He even keeps a stack of cards to deal.
“It’s just a small drive-thru that has a couple of picnic benches on one street,” she said. “It’s a local ma-and-pa store, and that’s exactly what we want to support and share.”
Groups like Arlington Foodies have also been a boon for private chefs like Brandon Emmitt. Emmitt said he has gained up to 40 new customers for his restaurant business since joining and promoting it in social media groups. People are noticing the promotion in this space, he added, as the pandemic has pushed people even more online.
“It all took off from there once they saw my week-to-week, day-to-day posts,” he said.
The main Arlington Foodies Facebook group is private, but membership is open to anyone with an appetite. Those applying to join should talk about their favorite Arlington-area restaurant and how they heard about the group. Members must also agree to provide constructive criticism and feedback only.
“We are not a review board,” she said. “There’s Yelp for that. There are Google reviews for that.
People looking for dinner plans can search the group’s tag library, the most popular of which are burgers and barbecue. Those posting their findings are encouraged to include images. Business owners are allowed to post ads once a week, and everyone is required to keep their content local in Arlington and surrounding smaller towns, like Mansfield and Kennedale.
The Foodies produce co-op operates bi-weekly in downtown Arlington. A full bushel of produce costs $50. It’s $25 for half. Interested persons can Register by visiting the Arlington Foodies website.
Savage Hurley said the band challenged her to rethink her approach to food. She and her family have remodeled the yard around their historic downtown home to hopefully one day support an orchard and produce for the co-op. The property, once owned by former Tarrant County Commissioner Olin Gibbins, now houses two greenhouses and a brood of hens.
“A lot of people think being a foodie is just, ‘I took a picture and I either like it or I hate it.’ That’s not what a foodie is,” Savage Hurley said. “A foodie is really passionate about food. [and] love food in all its aspects. That includes development in my mind.”
KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find these reports helpful, consider making a tax-deductible donation today. Thank you.