36 Black-Owned Restaurants You Need to Know Around the U.S.
Dig into half smokes, injera platters, and hot chicken.
The events of the past two years have made it more important than ever to spend your dollars at Black-owned businesses, many of which have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many ways to support the Black community in a city near you, but we’ve also put together a bucket list of some essential Black-owned restaurants around the United States. While it’s impossible to list the hundreds of businesses worthy of your support, we’ve curated 36 of our top picks in the restaurant category—serving up everything from half smokes to injera to hot chicken.
With their former location in Green Valley Ranch closed, you’ll have to head to Lakewood now for the traditional African fare served at this spot from owners and Ghana natives Sylvester and Theodora Osei-Fordwuo. Though the Denver area has a healthy number of options for Ethiopian and Moroccan cuisine, African Grill & Bar has a menu loaded with dishes you can’t find anywhere else in the Denver metro area. Not sure where to start? They’ve got you covered with the akwaaba plate, aka the “welcome plate” which is a sampler platter-style introduction to the deep, earthy flavors and spices that you’ll find throughout the offerings on the full menu.
This spot has been a U Street staple since Virginia Ali first opened the doors with her late husband, Ben, in 1958. Now at 88 years old, Ali can still be seen behind the counter serving up food to tourists, locals, and celebrities alike. The family-run restaurant is known for selling perhaps the city’s most iconic half-smoke, a smokey, spicy hot dog loaded up with chili, cheese, and chopped onions, but the eatery also offers classic American favorites like burgers and fries.
Charleston, South Carolina
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.
Normally, approaching your favorite restaurant and spotting a line wrapped around the corner is a total nightmare—but for this star-studded haven, it’s well worth it. The Breakfast Klub boasts a breakfast drip so legendary that even Third Ward’s own Beyonce regularly stops by when visiting the city. If it’s Bey-approved, it’s definitely Houston-approved. Sprint, don’t walk, to this cozy establishment when hankering for a “cheezy” breakfast sandwich loaded with savory meats and scrambled eggs, buttery (and ridiculously creamy) grits paired with crispy chicken, or pillowy buttermilk biscuits doused in thick sausage-laden gravy. The lunch menu (served only after 11 am) is pretty delicious, too, decked out with familiar favorites like hearty salad and soup combos.
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.
There’s no better local Black-owned restaurant to start with than Busy Bee Cafe. Founded in 1947, the Southern landmark is one of the oldest and most legendary eateries in the city, and thanks to its famous fried chicken, Busy Bee Cafe has been able to transcend generations with ease. Lil Baby, Killer Mike, Oprah, Samuel L. Jackson, and Vice President Kamala Harris are just a handful of notable people that have paid the beloved Atlanta restaurant a visit over the past few years, so don’t sleep—Busy Bee Cafe still has plenty of soul.
A multicultural Parisian bistro brought to us by a husband-and-wife team born and raised in France? Cue the stampede of local Francophiles. Antoine and Anaïs Lambert cut their teeth at local spots like Petit Robert, Frenchie, and Colette Wine Bistro before opening their first restaurant last year in the former Hsin Hsin Cafe space. Classics like quiche and steak frites are absolutely represented, but get truly excited for dishes that feature Vietnamese and North African influences: banh mi, roast chicken with fried plantains, and lemon sole with harissa and Tunisian couscous. The space is open for breakfast, brunch, and dinner and is oh-so-close to obtaining its liquor license.
New York, New York
After closing his iconic Frederick Douglass Boulevard restaurant in Harlem last May, Gabriel Charles debuted his new Charles Pan Fried Chicken storefront on the Upper West Side this week. Cooking since he was 14 and lauded for his style of pan-frying chicken, go for Gabriel’s signature items like fried chicken, collard greens, ribs, pulled pork, and cornbread. Devotees can expect an upcoming second NYC location to open up in Harlem, as well.
This Ethiopian restaurant earned a Bib Gourmand nod in the Michelin guide, but was popular with those in the know way before that. Set in an unassuming row house in Shaw, CherCher’s short ribs and kitfo are terrific. The deluxe vegetarian combo is the way to go here. Nearly a dozen vegetarian items are served on an injera platter, which is more than enough food for four people, and the flavors and spices are totally spot on.
Ever since chef and owner Tigist Reda opened this Ethiopian staple in 2007, folks all across Chicago (and beyond) have flocked to Uptown for her superb cooking. Everything on the menu is bursting with color, flavor, and texture thanks to a special blend of spices and ingredients. For vegans and vegetarians, standouts include Sambussas (fried dumplings) filled with your choice of spinach, cheese, or lentils and the Vegetable Bayanetu sampler packed with perfectly seasoned veggies and lentils served alongside a stack of tangy injera. For meat-lovers, the juicy Kitfo (Ethiopian steak tartare with herbed butter sauce) or the Ye-Beg Wot, tender, spicy cubes of bone-in lamb, are the go-to moves.
New Orleans, Louisiana
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 menus, which are regularly updated on Facebook. Don’t worry: The fried chicken is always available.
Although it's not the pizza capital of the country, Philly does boast some great pie shops—including one that pairs excellent pizza with an inspiring mission. Down North Pizzeria is the brainchild of childhood friends Muhammed Abdul-Hadi and chef Kurt Evans. The duo wanted to create a spot with Detroit-style square pies along with sides like mango habanero wings, spicy crab fries, and apple pie milkshakes. But activism was at the real heart of their concept. Evans and Abdul-Hadi teamed up with executive chef Michael Carter, who got his start cooking while serving time in a juvenile detention facility, and now the team exclusively employs formerly incarcerated individuals and offers culinary training and educational resources. So with every milkshake and square of saucy pizza, you know you’re supporting the team’s goal of reducing recidivism rates in the community.
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 restaurant has been a constant in the Soulsville Neighborhood since 1946.
New York, New York
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 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.
Los Angeles, California
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.
Hoover’s Cooking comes to us courtesy of native East Austinite and fifth-generation Texan, Hoover Alexander. The renowned, award-winning eatery has offered to-die-for menu options for the last 20 years. Southern Fried Pork Chops, Catfish Po-boy, there’s not much else to say—It’s just good, old-fashioned cooking done right.
Los Angeles, California
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, then topped with crunchy dill pickles and served alongside 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.
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.
Charleston, South Carolina
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.
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—and we are so glad they’re reopened today.
Brooklyn, New York
Unlike other popular Brooklyn spots with similar offerings, Peaches HotHouse’s menu showcases that southern food isn't as simple as baked mac and cheese and fried chicken—but it also requires an abundance of soul. At thisBed-Stuy eatery founded by Craig Samuel and Ben Grossman, the menu boasts classics like the signature fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, fried catfish, and the hard-to-dispute Best Chicken Sandwich Anywhere. And sure to hit up its sister spots at nearbyPeaches Kitchen & Bar andPeaches Grand in Clinton Hill.
The Pearl is the brainchild of co-owners Luther Pinckney, Teda DeRosa-Pinckney, Malik and Mika Winder, and Reggie Cummings—a group intent on presenting celebratory family seafood recipes to a convivial neighborhood crowd in a space free from any expected oyster bar pretension. Mission accomplished and exceeded. The setting is beautiful yet inviting, the service is as kind as any you’ll encounter, and the potent cocktails immediately get the conversational juices flowing. All of this is precursor to a lovely dining experience featuring chargrilled oysters, lump crab cakes, shrimp scampi, and a lobster roll served both hot and warm.
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, South Carolina. 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 barbecue that’s smoked low and slow in the Lowcountry tradition and dishes like pork sandwich, ribs, and smoked wings.
When you hear the name Tiffany Derry, you know—no matter what the cuisine—you’re in for a treat. So when Roots Southern Table opened in Dallas in 2021, a project nearly a decade in the making, she left no stone unturned. The Top Chef alum channels her Southern upbringing and years of culinary-fueled travel into dishes like Black Eyed Pea Hummus, My Mother's Gumbo, Duck Fat-Fried Plantains, and sultry Oxtail Ragu. Sweet finishes include German Chocolate Cake and Sweet Potato Crème Brulée. All that set in a breezy, industrial-chic atmosphere with soft touches like calcitic white marble and glossy stoneware plates—what’s not to love?
Los Angeles, California
Alongside Zankou’s Chicken and Original Tommy’s, Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles might just be the most iconic Los Angeles chain. The classic combo of chicken and waffles is so ingrained within the fabric of LA that people rarely 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 warm, cinnamon syrup.
What started as an amped-up breakfast amenity at the Copper Door B&B skyrocketed into a Miami brunch blockbuster, proving so popular it quickly outgrew its small patio digs. After a brief closure, Akino and Jamila West’s masterpiece made a welcome comeback just north of its former location, and is now plating up unmatched fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and other gourmet classics near Jackson Memorial Hospital. That is, of course, if you can snag a seat.
This spot is perfect for those looking for a welcoming bar environment—just minus the alcohol. Founded by former substance abuse counselor Chris Marshall, Sans Bar is Austin’s only fully non-alcoholic bar. Known for their wide range of booze-free beers and artisan mocktails, folks across the sobriety spectrum here are welcomed with open arms. It’s also frequented by people supporting their non-drinking friends as well as those who simply feel like drinking less and socializing more.
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 mouth-watering desserts like banana pudding and sweet potato pie. The open kitchen provides diners a chance to see the menu items made to order. Know before you go that Shirley Mae’s is cash only, which fits with the down home, nostalgic spirit of the Louisville staple.
Long-time friends Clinton Gray, Derrick Moore, and Emanuel Reed met in high school and attended college together at Tennessee State University. After graduation, they decided to focus on bringing people and opportunities to the neighborhood around their alma mater. The result is the restaurant they cleverly call a “pizza beeria” because of its focus on custom-made pies and craft beers. In addition to excellent food, the bold decor with hip-hop lyrics stenciled on the wall really feels in and of the neighborhood. The trio has already expanded the concept to other Nashville neighborhoods, including the only Black-owned restaurant in the Lower Broad tourist district. They’ve also opened new locations across the state and in Georgia and California.
While the two previous restaurants have some serious history on their sides, Pinky Cole is currently etching her name in Atlanta’s history books with her growing Slutty Vegan empire. The plant-based burger joint has four locations spread throughout the A, so whether you’re ITP or OTP, you can see how great its menu options—like the signature One Night Stand, the plant-based chicken sandwich known as the Chik’N Head, or the plantain PLT sandwich—really are. And thanks to the spirited crew members working at each location, pulling up to Slutty Vegan is an experience that you’ll never forget.
This multi-generational Nashville icon has been serving soulful fare to the community since 1954, and the Swett family has welcomed a broad cross-section of Nashvillians to their tables long before that was common in the community. The historic meat-and-three also appeared in the first edition of the famous “Green Book” that alerted Black travelers to safe places to eat and sleep in the tense decades before integration. Today, lovers of great food from all parts of town know that Swett’s is a desired destination for down-home Southern cooking.
New York, New York
Known for its soul food, in addition to being a hub of Black culture that regularly draws politicians, celebrities, and plenty of locals, Sylvia’s is arguably one of the best-known eateries both in Harlem and NYC. Opened in 1962, the restaurant’s unwavering popularity is thanks to the excellent dishes first served by founder Sylvia Woods, aka “The Queen of Soul Food,” and the four generations of her descendants who continue the legacy of this family-owned business today. Popular items include fried chicken, barbecue ribs, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, sweet potato pie, and more.
Nestled along the outskirts of Downtown Houston, this glitzy mainstay knows how to pack a crowd. Seriously—it’s not easy to snag a reservation, so we’re all too often left to drool over their Instagram feed of fine eats courtesy of executive chef Tobias Dorzon. Spearheaded and owned by former Houston Rockets player James Harden, Thirteen flourishes in its sleek architecture and succulent brunch and dinner menus, which dabble in traditional Texas chophouse fare with a bit of a modern twist. Dinner guests can nosh on comforts like country-fried chicken, pork chops slathered in sauteed corn relish, and lasagna, or go big with their buttery grass-fed ribeyes, blackened lobster tails, and savory egg rolls remixed with seafood mac and cheese.
After moving to Denver from the Virgin Islands in the 1970s, Flynn & Mona Dickerson began sharing their island-inspired Southern dishes to the community. Their eatery has been a staple in Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood in its current location since 1999, and remains a family business now run by three of their nine children, Fathima, Fathim, and Cenya. A community centerpiece, the cafe’s menu includes staples like wings, pates (island-style stuffed pastries), burgers, and plates loaded with favorites like fried catfish and smothered pork chops, and more. The cafe is also in serious need of support, especially now—in a combination of losing essential funding and needing its new cafe space built out, Welton Street could use business (and any donation you can make) as much as possible.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House is the best in the United States. No joke. Willie Mae’s won the James Beard Award for “America’s Classic Restaurant for the Southern Region.” Tucked away in the Tremé neighborhood, the cozy spot features all the accouterments 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.
Los Angeles, California
This cozy eatery earned a spot on California’s 2021 Michelin Bib Gourmand Guide for Brazilian fare that draws influence from the state of Minas Gerais, where chef/owner Natalia Pereira hails. Popular dishes include a Brazilian pot pie that’s stuffed with chicken, hearts of palm, olives, and corn, and sealed with a flaky crust; 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, and finish your meal with house-made passionfruit mousse.
Writers: Kristen Adaway, Meaghan Agnew, Elanor Bock, Erica Buehler, Chris Chamberlain, Jade Fabello, Matt Meltzer, Kat Thompson, Adrianne Reece, Joshua Robinson, and Dalila Thomas