30 Black-Owned Restaurants You Need to Know Around the U.S.
Some of our favorites, both classic and new.
The events of 2020 have made it more important than ever to spend your dollars at minority-owned businesses, many of which have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We told you about ways you could support the Black community in a city near you (in the wake of the murder of George Floyd), but today we’ve put together our own mini bucket list of our favorite Black-owned restaurants around the U.S. While it’s impossible to list the hundreds of businesses worthy of your support, we’ve curated 30 of our top picks in the restaurant category -- serving up everything from half smokes to soul food to hot chicken.
Put these spots on your list for your next trip (whenever that may be) and don’t forget to donate to their GoFundMe pages, purchase merch, gift cards and more via Thrillist Serves.
Chef/owner Anthony Caldwell opened his fruition of a long-held dream in late February, and despite everything, he has kept going, thanks to an irresistible soul-Asian fusion menu. Once you’ve tried the three must-haves -- shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and St. Louis ribs -- you can eat your way through a deep menu of sandwiches, wings, sliders, and fusion bowls. Do not skip over the bang-bang shrimp appetizer, which is beyond irresistible.
Ben's Chili Bowl has been an iconic part of the DC food landscape since first opening its doors in 1958. Its half-smokes, burgers, and subs are time-tested classics, approved by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former president, Barack Obama. The spot’s matriarch, Virginia Ali, kept the doors open to protestors during the 1968 riots and did the same during the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement. As one of the last remaining original U Street historical businesses, Ben’s is not only a bastion for history, but also well-known for the half-smoke: a pork and beef sausage topped with smoky chili, chopped onions, and tangy yellow mustard.
New York City
This Crown Heights spot, opened in early 2020 by owner Ty Brown, offers a crowd-pleasing menu of lobster rolls, seafood baskets, jerk chicken, burgers, and more. To celebrate the summer season, order the Bergen Maine, a seafood platter available in both a half-pan or full-pan that comes with snow crab legs, roasted and steamed vegetables, and seafood rice with lobster, crab, and shrimp.
This is on the shortlist for the best fried chicken in the state, and one of the best “not-so-secrets” in the city. A lot of people might go to another soul food restaurant named for another woman, and that’s fine, but the line at Bertha’s is always long, completely based on word of mouth. Expect daily meat-and-three specials including the aforementioned fried chicken, juicy pork chops, and savory collard greens.
Chef/owner Tanya Holland studied French cuisine in Burgundy, but at this long-running Oakland restaurant, her culinary focus is expertly-made soul food. Using organic and non-GMO ingredients, Holland puts her gourmet take on classic dishes like buttermilk fried chicken, gumbo and rice with plenty of sides like collards, black-eyed peas, and fluffy biscuits. Right now the restaurant is closed for dine-in but you can order takeout and eat the food at one of their outdoor tables.
Busy Bee Cafe, originally opened in 1947, serves traditional Southern eats, specializing in a 12-hour marinated fried chicken that draws fans from Macon to Marietta, and the only way to eat it is “smothered” in pan gravy. Recently, both Bernie Sanders and Killer Mike broke bread and fried chicken bones in political fellowship. Some would say BBC is “hot” again, but it’s had hot sauce ready for hungry guests and neighbors since icons of the Civil Rights Movement dined there for strategy sessions.
New York City
Chef/owner Charles Gabriel serves what some would dub the Platonic ideal of fried chicken at his storied Harlem restaurant. There’s BBQ ribs, too, and turkey, and pork chops, all served with cornbread. Even if you didn’t grow up with Southern cooking, a meal from Charles’ tastes like somebody you love cooked it for you.
Comfort LA’s mission is to provide a “clean approach to soul food.” That means using locally-sourced and organic ingredients and opting for healthier cooking techniques -- while still maintaining the vibrant and homey flavors that come with Southern cooking. Comfort LA has all the fixings: cornbread, beans and rice, mac and cheese, and candied yams. The real stars, however, are the chicken wings. Don’t forget to tack on banana pudding too for dessert.
Chef Leah Chase was a New Orleans icon: civil rights legend, businesswoman extraordinaire, mentor to many, inspiration to many more, and world-class chef. For over 65 years, she cooked up classic Creole comfort food at the Tremé restaurant she operated with her husband since the 1940s. The Crescent City unfortunately lost Chase in 2019, but her legacy lives on at her incredible restaurant. Get a taste of history for yourself with a family meal from the takeout menus, which are regularly updated on Facebook. Don’t worry: The fried chicken is always available.
New York City
Award-winning chef JJ Johnson is a James Beard winner and chef who gained acclaim for his mastery of global flavors at his Harlem restaurants, The Cecil and Minton’s. He’s since departed these eateries to pivot to his own fast-casual concept which focuses on the historic significance of grains, with the tagline “rice is culture.” The spot serves up rice bowls, salads, and snacks like crab pockets and yucca chips. He’s been continuing to operate his Harlem-based restaurant even during the pandemic, sometimes making local deliveries himself.
The Four Way soul food restaurant is famous for at least two things. First, it was a popular meeting spot for civil rights activists from the 1940s to the 1960s, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Second, the Four Way is famous for its straightforward Southern home cooking menu. Though best-known for the daily turkey and best-dressing-ever meal, the fried chicken is another staple. There’s a reason this soul food restaurant has been a constant in the Soulsville Neighborhood since 1946.
New York City
Grandchamps is run by the husband-and-wife team of Sabrina and Shawn Brockman, and offers a taste of Haiti at their Bed-Stuy and Brooklyn Navy Yard locations. The restaurant not only serves up classics like legim (vegetable stew) griyo (pork), kabrit (goat), and large family plates, but also focuses on hiring neighborhood locals and are committed to uplifting the Bed-Stuy community where the flagship restaurant is located. From offering group sessions among employees to collectively discuss the issues of police harassment and brutality, to supporting their staff to combat challenges related to COVID-19 together, you’ll find more than just great food at Grandchamps.
Opened in 2018, this NOLA-inspired spot in Wicker Park from chef Brian Jupiter (a New Orleans native), focuses on Creole classics with an emphasis on seafood (think catfish ‘po boys, shrimp and grits and a seafood tower). The corner spot also features a retail component with grocery items available for purchase.
New York City
Owned by trio Kevin Bradford, Kim Harris and Stacey Lee, Harlem Hops is the only black-owned craft beer bar in Manhattan, offering a selection of beers from local breweries and beyond, To eat, you’ll snack on pair-perfect bites like Bavarian pretzels, craft beer bratwurst, and habanero beef spicy pie.
You may have spotted Vincent and Arlene Williams and their children, the owners of Honey’s Kettle, in Pharrell and Jay Z’s collaborative new music video for the song “Entrepreneur.” Aside from being the muses for a song supporting Black-owned businesses, Honey’s Kettle has been making some of the best fried chicken, biscuits, and pancakes in Los Angeles for the past 20 years. Expect fried chicken with a well-seasoned batter that shatters upon the initial bite, revealing juicy and tender meat inside. The whole meal is tied together with a drizzle of locally sourced honey.
Inspired by the Nashville original, this West Coast offshoot is serving up the legendary hot chicken so closely associated with its hometown. “If you’ve got plans, don’t go hot.” Kim Prince greeted customers on opening day at the family’s first outpost beyond Music City. As the story goes, a scorned woman formed an edible fireball to exact revenge on James Thornton Prince for cheating. As the menu says, “Her intentions to burn him from both ends only ignited a craving.” He turned around and created a poultry revolution with Prince’s Hot Chicken. LA is flooded with hot chicken, including megahit Howlin' Ray's, and now Angelenos can see how the OG version compares. This location of the restaurant at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall is the result of a partnership with local soul food legend Gregory Dulan. Spice levels range from "West Coast Plain" to incendiary "Nashville Hot." Options served on white bread with speared pickles include wings, white meat quarters, and best of all, juicy leg quarters with bonus backbone attached. Hotville also serves spicy fish fillets featuring flaky swai, a hot chicken sandwich, and creative sides like spicy corn on the cob and crunchy kaleslaw.
New York City
Melba’s is a comfort food destination from a neighborhood local who was “born, bred, and buttered,” in Harlem. Popular menu items to try include mac and cheese with a blend of pepper jack, mozzarella, and cheddar; fried catfish with chipotle mayo; Southern chicken available fried, smothered, or grilled; and sides like candied yams, peas and rice, or collard greens seasoned with smoked turkey, along with a special brunch menu on weekends.
There’s a reason chef-owner Douglass Williams was named one of Food & Wine’s 10 Best New Chefs in America this year. And now is the perfect time to dine at his restaurant MIDA -- either on its umbrellaed sidewalk patio or order its famed takeout special dubbed “mangia Monday.” Stuff your face with all-you-can-eat homemade bucatini with salad and bread or come any night for seasonal salads, Williams’ inimitable homemade pastas, and sparkling wines.
Nigel’s Good Food has been a Lowcountry staple in North Charleston and Ladson for years, and you have owner Nigel Drayton to thank for that. Soul food and Southern classics abound, including crispy fried wings tossed in Geechie sauce, fried-green tomatoes on creamy grits, chicken and waffles, oyster stew accented with bacon and spinach, and plenty of meat-and-three options. Be sure to schedule a nap after a visit to Nigel’s.
This nearly 50-year old South Side staple run by octogenarian Buritt Bulloch has been frying up some of the Windy City’s best donuts for decades. During the looting and vandalism incidents which occurred in the wake of protests of the murder of George Floyd, the windows of the iconic storefront were smashed, but the community rallied together to support the spot’s GoFundMe page, raising over $15,000 in a single day in order to make the needed repairs.
In addition to serving some of Georgia’s most legendary fried chicken, Paschal’s was a key meeting place for Civil Rights activists throughout the ’60s and ’70s. Not only was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a noted regular, but other iconic leaders dined there as well, including John Lewis, Andrew Young, Ralph David Abernathy, and Joseph Lowery. The joint's famous chicken, still battered up and fried with the Paschal brothers’ famous 1947 recipe, should certainly be your go-to order, and the remainder of the hearty Southern eats on the menu -- po’boys, shrimp and grits, andouille sausage-heavy gumbo -- are equally worthy of praise.
Despite its unassuming exterior, Payne’s has some of the best BBQ in Memphis with its famous pork that’s chopped (not pulled!) and combined with mustard slaw and spicy sauce barely contained in a hamburger bun. Driving down Lamar Avenue during the COVID crisis, there was a hand-drawn sign on the front door of Payne’s that read “Please open.” Three generations of Paynes have kept this modest cinder block building with a recessed pit set into the wall full of hickory coals going for four decades -- most recently reopening on June 9.
Charleston, Birmingham, Atlanta
Barbecue is a tradition for Rodney Scott who co-owns and operates this ‘cue spot in North Central Charleston - inspired by his family’s original business located in Hemingway, SC. In 2019, Scott was able to expand his namesake concept to both Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia in partnership with the Pihakis Group. Scott is known for his whole-hog style cue that’s smoked low and slow in the Lowcountry tradition and dishes like whole-hog pork sandwich, ribs, and his smoked wings.
Alongside Zankou’s Chicken and Original Tommy’s, Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles might just be the most iconic Los Angeles chain there is. The classic combination of chicken and waffles is so ingrained within the fabric of LA that rarely do people order otherwise. If you do happen to venture past the celebrated staple, you’ll find that the mac and cheese is creamy and comforting, the biscuits are buttery and fluffy, and the omelets are generous. That being said, it’s hard to beat the namesake of the restaurant; the fried chicken is crispy and pairs perfectly with a splash of Louisiana hot sauce, while the waffles come out airy and light, served with warmed, cinnamony syrup.
Since 1983, The Serving Spoon has been a go-to Inglewood diner for community members to come together and literally break bread over hot plates of oxtails, massive breakfast platters, catfish, and more. It’s quality Southern comfort food open seven days a week in the heart of Los Angeles. Don’t skip the grits.
A Smoketown classic for over 30 years, this soul food restaurant named after its owner, is known for its fried chicken, ham hocks, and smothered pork chop, as well as other down-home classics. In the wake of COVID-19, Shirley Mae’s is open for takeout and delivery only.
Inspired by the cooking of family matriarch Grandma Bea, the Creole-infused soul food served at this West Town favorite has been a staple in the community since the spot opened in 2017. You’ll want to try everything from fried catfish to New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp.
Opened in 1954, this soul food and BBQ institution has been run by three generations of the Swett family, serves up classics in a cafeteria-style format. As a result, the spot pulls in everyone from nearby college students to political figures and local celebrities. Walls adorned with historic photos and documents will keep your eyes entertained you while you eat.
New York City
Known as the “Queen of Soul Food,” the legendary fare at Sylvia’s has always packed the house with locals and tourists alike since 1962. Chicken and waffles, baked macaroni and cheese, and BBQ ribs with collard greens, and banana pudding are just some of the items that have made this Harlem restaurant a NYC institution.
The fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House is the best in the United States. No joke: it won the James Beard Award for “America’s Classic Restaurant for the Southern Region.” Tucked away the Tremé neighborhood, the cozy spot features all the accoutrements of a beloved local haunt -- memorabilia mounted throughout, news clippings chronicling the success of the family-owned business (which has been open since 1957), and homey environs. While its locations on St. Ann Street and inside the Pythian Market are open, for now, you’ll have to settle for contactless, curbside pickup of the famous fried chicken.