23 Essential Black-Owned Restaurants You Should Know in LA
From vegan soul food to modern Nigerian, Nashville hot chicken, and more.
Part of what makes LA’s food scene stand out is a plethora of diverse cuisines at diners’ finger tips. And while Black-owned restaurants are often assumed to serve Southern or soul food, a deeper investigation into the cuisine will reveal that it’s just as wide-ranging as the people who belong to this global diaspora.
LA’s Black-owned food scene in particular reflects the impact of the Great Migration—when millions of Black people left the rural south for city centers in the midwest and east and west coasts—with plenty of Creole and Southern restaurants founded by migrants who wanted to bring a taste of home to an unfamiliar coast. Also making their mark in Black-owned restaurants across the city are immigrant communities hailing everywhere from the Caribbean to Latin America and across the continent of Africa.
And possibly the best part—Black cuisine is constantly evolving, drawing influence from and uniting with Cal-fresh styles of cooking, Mexican and Asian dishes, and making its mark in the rising plant-based food movement.
After over a year of pandemic-related lockdowns, we’re thrilled that we can finally support our favorite Black-owned restaurants with in-person dining again, and are happy to report that not only have they weathered the COVID storm and successfully come out the other side, but are joined by exciting newcomers, including not one but two vegan soul food spots, a modern take on Nigerian cuisine, and more.
Without further ado, we present this list of essential Black-owned restaurants in LA, boasting the originators of Nashville hot chicken, a Rwandan coffee shop, authentic Texas BBQ, one-of-a-kind gourmet pizzas, and much, much more.
Souley Vegan chef/owner Tamearra Dyson has been vegan since she was 18 and is on a mission to prove that you can have plant-based soul food without sacrificing the soul, with an extensive menu of authentic Louisiana Creole dishes that are prepared in-house, from scratch. Following the success of her original outpost in Downtown Oakland, Dyson expanded Souley Vegan to San Francisco’s Lower Mission and then to virtual kitchens in LA and Las Vegas during the pandemic. The Ain’t Gator Po’ Boy that subs alligator (yes, gator-filled po’ boys are a thing down south) with house-made seitan and battered mushrooms, plus all of the fixins then tops it off with their savory “swamp sauce” is a favorite, but make sure you add a couple of sides to your order, like the Creole Mac with glazed semolina noodles and house-made cheeze that’s garnished with a zesty gremolata mixture.
After a successful pop-up series at Yamashiro, VTree moved into a brick-and-mortar location along the busy Sunset Blvd thoroughfare earlier this year. Helmed by celebrity chef Velvet, VTree is a plant-based soul food restaurant with a rotating menu that features plenty of gluten-free and soy-free options, plus unexpected entrees like a fettuccine with house-made alfredo sauce and garlic bread and an eggplant and collard green parmesan. If you’re sick of manufactured plant-based meats, try building a burger with their house-made black bean patty or try their fried chic’n sandwich with house-made chic’n. The Krab cakes (either as an appetizer with cornbread or on a sandwich) that are hand-formed with zucchini and chickpeas are also a solid choice.
Another transplant from the Bay, Eko Kitchen popped up in the Arts District’s Crafted Kitchen earlier this spring, offering a modern take on Nigerian cuisine that is informed by chef/owner Simileoluwa “Simi” Adebajo’s multicultural Nigerian-American background. For those who appreciate classic Nigerian dishes, try Grandma’s Asun, or smoked goat meat that’s stir-fried in a sweet and spicy red pepper and onion sauce and served alongside fried plantains and sweet potatoes. While Nigerian cuisine isn’t necessarily known for being vegan-friendly, plant-based patrons will love Maami’s Egusi soup that replaces chicken with oyster mushrooms (the correct side choice is pounded yam).
In The Kitchen
Chef/owner Nora Tatum pivoted from dental consultant to restaurateur in the middle of the pandemic, opening a Texas-style soul food restaurant with recipes passed down from her Dallas-born mother and aunt. Worthwhile entrees include fried and smothered pork chops, stewed oxtails, and a perfectly battered fried catfish, plus sides like black eyed peas, collard greens, candied yams, and mac and cheese, and rotating desserts often include peach cobbler and banana pudding. The cafe has casual indoor and outdoor seating and recently began hosting live musical acts on Sunday afternoons, making it an ideal brunch stop.
Poppy + Rose
Not only is Poppy & Rose conveniently located across the street from LA’s famous Flower Market to help fuel your floral browsing (which makes it a quintessential LA dining experience, in our eyes), but happens to be one of the best breakfast and brunch spots in town, with a from-scratch menu that favors comforting dishes prepared with seasonal ingredients. During the pandemic husband-and-wife owners Michael and Kwini Reed launched a shaded and astroturfed rooftop patio where you can enjoy house cocktails like their lavender limeade with two-day cold-infused lavender limeade and wine-based vodka. The couple has been busy throughout the pandemic, not just supporting unhoused neighbors in need and contributing to the Black Lives Matter movement—last spring they opened Poppy & Seed, a hyper-seasonal restaurant with an in-house garden located at the Anaheim Packing District.
Led by chefs Keith Corbin and Daniel Patterson, the menu at this West Adams neighborhood spot blends soul food flavors with West African and California cuisine, resulting in dishes like a California gumbo with fresh market veggies, and black-eyed pea fritters complemented by a spicy herb sauce. Their bar program takes a similar approach to fresh, local ingredients, with craft cocktails like Through the Grapevine, with vodka, concord grapes, tarragon, and Burma Tonic, while the attached Adams Wine Shop led by sommelier Ruben Morancy puts a focus on women and BIPOC wine producers. Alta belongs to the High Roads Kitchen Program and offers sliding scale family meals that change daily and can be ordered at their wine shop. Customers who are able to are welcome to pay it forward by adding $20 to the cost of their meal.
Nashville hot chicken has swept LA’s food scene in recent years, but if you want to try the bird that started it all, head to Hotville Chicken—owner Kim Prince’s family invented this spicy take on fried chicken almost a century ago and no one does it quite like the originators, thanks to a super secret spice blend. The Shaw, which sandwiches a juicy boneless chicken breast coated with your preferred level of spice between a toasted brioche bun slathered with spicy spread, then topped with crunchy dill pickles and served with a side of kale slaw and seasoned french fries is a great option for first timers, though you’d be wise to tack on a side of mac and smokin’ cheese, lemon sour cream pound cake, and a Southern fruit tea to get the full Nashville experience.
A true fusion kitchen if ever there was one, Woodspoon serves Brazilian fare inspired by the African, European, and Indian influences specific to the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, that chef/owner Natalia Pereira hails from. Popular dishes include a Brazilian pot pie that’s stuffed with chicken, hearts of palm, olives, and corn, and sealed with a flaky crust; and Brazilian pastries like potato croquettes filled with basil and cheese, Portuguese dumplings bursting with shrimp and coconut, and Coxinhas, chicken croquettes that are a popular street food in Brazil. You’ll also want to add an order of yucca fries, a denser cousin of traditional potato fries.
How to order: For dine-in reservations call 213-629-1765, or order pickup and delivery via Caviar and Chownow.
Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen
Helmed by “King of Soul Food,” Adolf Dulan, a social worker-turned-chef whose LA restaurant history dates back 40 years and includes the famous Aunt Kizzy’s Back Porch that was known for serving the best Southern food on the West Coast during its 15-year run. In 1999, Dulan debuted his cafeteria-style Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, which quickly became a favorite for its filling family-style Sunday dinners, eventually opening a second location with Dulan’s on Crenshaw. Soul food is best enjoyed with company, so order Dulan’s steal of a Family Meal with one whole chicken, three large sides, and four cornbread muffins for just $28.95, but you’ll want to smother your chicken for an additional $3, and while you’re at it, add a large peach cobbler pie to your order for under eight bucks.
How to order: Walk-ins only for dine-in. Select a location and call for pickup or delivery via Chownow.
Nestled between Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Caribbean, Belizean food takes inspiration from these regions and more, resulting in a savory cuisine that leans heavily on rice, beans, seafood, and tropical fruits. The result is dishes like panades, Belize’s take on an empanada that’s filled with smoked fish, cheese, or beans before it’s thrown in a deep fryer and crisped to perfection, and ducunus, a Belizean-style sweet corn tamale. You can order both as starters at Little Belize, but you’ll want to save room for the restaurant’s most popular dish as your main: a succulent oxtail stew that’s slow-cooked in a secret brown sauce gravy and served with a starchy side of rice and beans, ducunu, or stew beans; your choice of potato salad, cole slaw, or green salad; and a plantain.
Silverback Coffee Of Rwanda
Owned by Rwandan genocide survivor Jack Karuletwa, Silverback Coffee of Rwanda aims to help coffee farmers in the East African country gain resources for empowerment and partners with the Rwandan government to improve the quality of care and growth of the native endangered Silverback gorilla by serving high-quality coffee. Their beans are grown exclusively on small farms, but privy to some of the best coffee-growing conditions in the world, with volcanic soils, abundant rainfall, and high altitude mountains that create a more concentrated flavor. Not only that, but Karuletwa guides coffee drinkers in making the most of their cup with advice that ranges from proper storage to the right type of grind to suggested water to coffee proportions.
Bludso's Bar & Que
Though Bludso’s owner Kevin Bludso hails from Compton, you’re unlikely to find authentic Texas BBQ of this caliber west of the Lone Star State. That’s because as a child, Bludso spent his summers in Corsicana, Texas, where his aunt Willie May Fields introduced him to Texas-style BBQ. By the time he reached double digits, Bludso was cooking alongside his aunt, and in 2008 he opened Bludso’s first location—a small takeout BBQ stand in his hometown of Compton. The empire has since grown to include locations in the LAFC Soccer Stadium, the Proud Bird Food Bazaar by LAX, and a sprawling restaurant and bar called San Antone by Bludso’s in Melbourne, Australia. Cousin to soul food, BBQ is also best shared with friends who won’t judge you for slurping sauce off your fingertips: order The Bludso’s Tray, which serves six to seven people, and includes a half-pound of brisket, half-pound of pulled pork, half-chicken, full rack of pork ribs, half-pound of rib tips, two Texas red hot beef links, half-pint of all sides, pickles, cornbread, and BBQ sauce for just $130—or less than $20 per person.
Harold & Belles Restaurant
In 1969, newly arrived in LA from New Orleans, Harold Legaux Sr. and his wife Mary Belle opened Harold & Belle’s with the intention of creating a place where family and friends could gather and enjoy the food that reminded them of home. Since opening as a small kitchen, their menu has expanded to encompass all of your Southern favorites like filé gumbo (and a vegetarian version with sauteed okra), Louisiana-style catfish dinners, jambalaya, and even a country cajun meatloaf, in addition to the po’boys that put them on the map. After Harold Legaux Sr. passed away in 2011, third-generation husband and wife team Ryan and Jessica LeGaux took the baton, growing the brand to include a Harold & Belle’s To Geaux food trailer and packaging the restaurant’s famous Creole seasoning. After a year of filling to-go orders, Harold & Belle’s reopened for indoor dining on the weekends this June.
How to order: Call 323-735-9918 for reservations or to place a pickup order. Pickup also via Chownow.
You’re pretty much always guaranteed to encounter a line of customers at Undergrind Cafe, eagerly waiting on coffee and tea drinks like the Tiger Island Latte with chocolate, coconut, and chai, and all-day breakfast items like the Break of Day Burrito, with your choice of bacon, sausage, or soyrizo, scrambled eggs, hash browns, fresh jalapenos, sharp cheddar, and green onions (salsa on the side). And for those who prefer a pressed juice to begin their days, Undergrind Cafe has 12 varieties, ranging from the sweet smoothie-like #1 with almond milk, sea salt, vanilla, dates, and cinnamon, to the energy-boosting #4 with spinach, kale, kiwi, broccoli, green apple, cucumber, and celery. Plus, their sidewalk patio is perfect for when you need to switch up your work-from-home routine.
Sky’s Gourmet Tacos
For those Taco Tuesdays that overlap with Treat Yo’self Tuesday, look no further than Sky’s Gourmet Tacos, which bills their cuisine as “Mexican with a splash of soul.” Founded by chef Barbara Burrell in 1992, Sky’s has since grown to three locations in LA County, including a grocery store marketplace in Marina Del Rey with grab-and-go options. Their tacos come on large, six-inch corn tortillas, and can be topped with meat options like filet mignon and lobster, and veggie options like shiitake mushrooms and potato and cheese. Most dishes are dashed with their famous Sky’s Sassy Sauce, a savory, tangy, spicy concoction that they now sell on their website in a variety of flavors. And don’t let the name fool you—Sky’s gourmet burritos, tostadas, tortas, nachos, and quesadillas are also worthy of your attention.
Bloom and Plume
It’s hard to resist the Bloom & Plume ethos of “building a beloved community where everyone belongs and becomes a better version of themselves.” Owned by floral artist Maurice Harris, who runs a high-end floral boutique by the same name, Bloom & Plume is the perfect way to describe how this cafe effortlessly adds luxury to every menu item while simultaneously keeping everything simple and affordable. Under their coyly-named “Toast Ministry,” you’ll find IG-worthy options like their Ricotta & Jam Toast, which is heaped with creamy cheese, zested subtly with lemon, garnished with edible flowers, and topped with seasonal jam sourced from Rick’s Produce for a price tag under $10. Their “Drank Ministry'' will also make a convert out of you, with delectable options like their Chaggacino, with Chaga mushroom, cacao, vanilla, cinnamon, espresso, steamed milk, and sweetened with monk fruit.
Stevie's Creole Cafe
Not only is gumbo a time-consuming endeavor, but many of those who enjoy this dish grew up eating versions prepared by their own family members and thus have a high bar when it comes to restaurant gumbo expectations. Hence why we’ve decided to avoid the contention by sharing several authentic Creole restaurants in this list, leaving it up to you to sample and grade them according to your personal preferences. And Stevie’s famous seafood gumbo (voted best gumbo on this side of New Orleans by the late Jonathan Gold) is not to be missed, with a thick seafood stock, plus a generous helping of crab, shrimp, chicken, and sausage over steamed rice with French bread. No wonder celebs like Magic Johnson, Stevie Wonder, Shaq, and Eddie Murphy make it a point to stop by Stevie’s whenever they’re in town.
How to order: Call 323-413-2494 for pickup or pickup and delivery via Chownow.
The Gourmet Cobbler Factory
This family-owned pie and cobbler factory has been a staple in Northeast LA for over 20 years, with cousins Gene and Cliff churning out peach, apple, blackberry, and mixed cobblers in addition to sweet potato and pecan pie, and monkey bread on holidays. Homemade and baked in small batches, their cobblers start at just $6.50 and their pies at $3, prices that are easy to justify when an unexpected sweet tooth craving strikes.
How to order: Call 626-795-1005 to place your order.
Post & Beam
In 2019, celebrated chef Govind Armstrong passed the reins of his Cal-fresh comfort food spot to mentee John Cleveland and his wife Roni Cleveland, who have remained committed to providing high-quality, farm-fresh ingredients in dishes like wood-oven trout, jerked catfish, and hand-stretched pizzas, as well as in their bar program, which features fresh takes on classic cocktails like the ginger mojito with ginger jam, rum, garden mint, and lime, plus an old fashioned menu with five different options. Post & Beam reopened for indoor and outdoor dining on Easter weekend, revealing new Chef de Cuisine Martin Draluck (Hatchet Hall), as well as a few new menu items, like Pacific oysters in a watermelon mignonette and house hot sauce and a cast-iron chicken entree with garlic confit and grilled lemon.
Chef Brandon Gray had been working in LA’s favorite kitchens (Providence, Trois Mec, Cape Seafood & Provisions, and Best Girl at the Ace Hotel) for years and was considering a career change when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Like so many in his industry, Brandon pulled off a BMX-style pivot with the launch of Brandoni Pepperoni, a one-man pizza joint that he operates out of his Mid-City apartment, even earning the approval of KCRW’s Good Food radio host, Evan Kleiman. Gray’s pies change with the season and his current special is Let’s Ride, with spicy Calabrese salumi, mozzarella, confit Milliken Farm garlic, and orange blossom honey. The dessert menu includes a “Next Episode” tiramisu with Italian meringue, Valrhona chocolate, and Italian liqueurs, that’s also a must-order.
Rosalind's Ethiopian Restaurant
One of the restaurants that helped establish the Little Ethiopia subsection on Fairfax Ave, Rosalind’s has been serving up some of the city’s best Ethiopian food since 1985. Known for being veggie-friendly with spicy meats, and traditionally eaten with spongy Injera bread as opposed to utensils, Rosalind’s Vegan Goodness combines all six of their vegetarian dishes into a nourishing platter that’s meant to be shared. And if you’re curious to try one of the meat dishes, you can’t go wrong with Yebeg Siga Alicha, a mild lamb stew that’s subtly spiced with garlic, ginger, turmeric, and simmered in a mild herb butter. We’re happy to announce that the restaurant is once again open for dine-in, so you can enjoy Ethiopian food as it’s intended to be eaten: as a platter shared with loved ones.
Wi Jammin Caribbean Restaurant
Pro-tip: When combing through reviews of a well-rated Jamaican restaurant, ignore any that complain about long waits, menu items selling out, and even laissez-faire attitudes from the people taking your orders, as real Jamaican food lovers know that such comments serve as a badge of authenticity. That said, we recommend ordering from WiJammin before hunger hits and outside of peak dining hours to avoid super long wait times. The ackee and saltfish (Jamaica’s national dish), oxtails, and jerk chicken are the stars of the show here, but you’ll also want to add side orders of beef patties and ground food (boiled plantains, sweet potatoes, yams, and a dumpling) to gain the full culinary experience.
Soul food often gets an unfair rap as being unhealthy or prepared with less-than-quality ingredients, a stereotype that Comfort LA is happy to dispel by offering a clean approach to the cuisine that utilizes healthier cooking techniques and fresh, locally-sourced organic ingredients. But more than that, Comfort LA brings a warm Southern hospitality, treating everyone who walks through their doors like family. And with party packs that include 75-piece wings, a half-tray of cornbread, and a half-tray of mac and cheese or collard greens for just $125, they’re providing some of the most affordable family meals you’ll find.
How to order: Walk-ins only for dine-in. Pickup and delivery via Chownow.