20 Essential Black-Owned Restaurants in NYC You Need to Try
Timeless stalwarts and new classics across all five boroughs.
Black cuisine is as diverse and multi-faceted as Black culture itself. With influences from the Caribbean, the American South, and, of course various African countries, many of the beautiful and nuanced differences between the various cultures within the diaspora are recognizable across aspects such as music, speech, style, design, and of course, food. And in NYC—with celebrated enclaves such as Harlem, Bed-Stuy, the South Bronx, and Crown Heights—along with a citywide Black population of 22% (1.9 millions residents), as the home to many folks of African and Carribean descent, in addition to those who settled here from the Great Migration, it’s often looked at as the perfect canvas for all these different hues and flavors to shine.
Korsha Wilson, food writer and podcast host of A Hungry Society, is an industry expert who tells stories about Black foodways in America. When it comes to NYC, she highlights that on top of their outstanding food, many restaurants like Lolo’s Seafood Shack in Harlem and Negril in Park Slope are great representations of the city’s Black culinary landscape. “Black cuisine is multifaceted,” says Wilson. “Lolo's is presenting Bahamian foods and Negril is Jamaican, with both showing how even within Caribbean cuisine, there's differences and regional specialties. The same is true of African-American foodways.”
As one of the country’s most important epicenters of Black culture, NYC offers no shortage of Black-owned restaurants to choose from. The offerings are as diverse as the city’s Black diaspora itself, and we’ve rounded up 20 essential Black-owned restaurants to try across the five boroughs. Support them every month of the year, along with all Black-owned small businesses near you.
Amy Ruth’s is a Harlem classic founded by Amy Ruth Moore Bass that’s been serving the community since 1998. Known as the ‘authentic soul of New York’ to patrons, the restaurant offers a range of creative waffle dishes and comfort food classics like waffles with southern honey-dipped fried chicken or a fisherman’s platter with fried shrimp, catfish, and crab cakes. And many of the eatery’s signature items are named after famous patrons and other historical Black figures. Go for the smothered pork chops (aka The Gabrielle Union); the baked catfish (aka The Ruby Dee); or the fried, smothered, baked, or barbecue chicken (aka The President Barack Obama).
Ashford & Simpson's Sugar Bar
Founded by one half of the singing duo Asford and Simpson, Sugar Bar has been bringing decadent dishes and desserts to the Upper West Side since 1996. Located inside a converted brownstone, this venue has tons of outdoor seating and great music, making it ideal for a summer night out. Popular dinner items include the tender and savory New Zealand lamb chops and the crispy fried chicken. Entrees come with classic sides like collard greens, mac and cheese, and rice and beans—and for any vegan or plant-forward eaters, there are meat alternatives to burgers or tacos or additional menu items like tofu scramble or vegetarian chili. For dessert, choose from key lime pie, bread pudding, or chocolate cake.
Experience the Cajun-Creole taste of New Orleans in Staten Island at Bayou Restaurant. The menu has everything from a French Quarter chicken ‘po boy to river boat crab cakes. One of their signature items is seafood jambalaya with shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, calamari, crawfish tails, and Andouille sausage simmered in Creole tomato sauce, served with arborio rice. When it comes to having a Bayou-style drink, the eatery offers a large range of cocktails from Cajun bloody marys and hurricanes to margaritas.
This soul food and seafood restaurant dancing on the border between Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy offers unique and bold flavors. Operated by a husband-and-wife duo, Black Nile only serves halal meat and poultry prepared with signature herb seasonings and sauces (which are also available for purchase). Start off with their crab cornbread before choosing from a large selection of seafood served over a creamy black pepper sauce or cheese grits. In addition, there’s also the option to create your own grilled, fried, or baked meal featuring any main dish from lobster tail to chicken to tofu. Finish it off with blueberry cornbread.
Founded in 2011, Bunna—which literally translates to coffee in Ethiopian—takes inspiration from its ancestral roots and transports it to Bushwick. Not only does coffee play an integral role in the Ethiopian economy, but it also fuels its citizens and is a valuable part of their culture. But at Bunna Cafe, vegans and vegetarians also get excited for the spot’s plant-based food offerings with staples like their signature feast in communal-style dining that includes seven entrees (choose from gomen, keysir selata sauteed, misir wot, yater kik alicha, and more) with injera served on the side; in addition to menu items like sambusa baklava. Drink offerings beyond coffee include golden honey wine, Ethopian beers, and their popular layered pureed juice.
Fish & Ting
Transport yourself from the Bronx to the Islands with Fish N’ Ting restaurant. Choose from Carribean classics like curry shrimp, selections of fish made to order served with veggies, or pastas. Many rave about the jerk chicken and oxtails that are served over peas and rice, and both meals are known to be flavorful and tender. In addition, Fish N’ Ting offers specialty cocktails to-go—but if you’re looking for something with less of a punch, there’s also their signature carrot juice made daily in house.
Henrica's Restaurant And Lounge
Open since 2006, Henrica’s offers a distinct culinary style inspired by a combination of two cuisines: Jamaican and Chinese. The menu is broken down into separate sections with Jamaican and Chinese classics, and then specialty items that combine flavors from both cultures. Dedicated Jamaican offerings include pigeon peas soup, stamp & go, and curried goat; and dedicated Chinese offerings include peppered steak, shrimp and lobster lo mein, and steamed snapper with ginger and scallion. House specialties include Henrica’s fried rice with beef, shrimp, and chicken; jerk chicken lo mein, baby back ribs with sweet potato fries, and jerk chicken pasta alfredo.
Located between the border of Crown Heights and Prospect Heights, The Islands offers Jamaican classics in Brooklyn. Open since 2001, the restaurant’s menu includes jerk chicken, oxtail, escovitch snapper, curried goat, okra and codfish. The eatery is also known for its signature long-simmered stews where the meat falls off the bone. Their side dishes include a dense baked macaroni and cheese, and for more traditional offerings, go for the plantains, rice and peas or stewed cabbage (all of which have an essence of coconut oil).
Kokomo offers an experience inspired by the rich and textured culture of the Caribbean not only through its cuisine, but through its atmosphere, too. Since opening last summer by husband-and-wife duo Ria and Kevol Graham, the eatery has become known as a destination for many stylish New Yorkers, and within a gorgeous tropical design and setup, the menu’s diverse offerings include wood-fired flatbreads, braised oxtail, jerk chicken, and more. The eatery also offers a selection of vegan options like jackfruit tacos or a spicy portobello burger. And for drinks, signature cocktails include the house special mango rum punch or options like the Rude Gyal (rum, milk punch, blackberries) or coconut negroni.
LoLo's Seafood Shack
Inspired by the locally owned and operated seaside eateries referred to as lolos in the British West Indies, Lolo’s Seafood Shack offers island-style barbecue and Caribbean comfort foods. Since 2014, Chefs Raymond Mohan and Leticia Skai Young have been cooking up their delicious flavors in Harlem with standouts such as the jerk chicken with Durty Rice and Johnny Cakes (a dense, slightly sweet bread that Lolo’s packs with flavor); the signature Pom Pom Shrimp and fries basket; and sweet plantains with cojita cheese and herbs. But a visit to this seafood joint wouldn’t be complete without trying the seafood boil, where diners can fill up on crawfish, shrimp, and crab legs while sipping on the popular Lolo’s Punch made from coconut rum, sorrel, and ginger.
Located blocks from Prospect Park, Mangoseed is a neighborhood spot for Caribbean classics and tropical drinks. Founded in 2009 by chef Paul Burrowes, the spot is a culmination of Caribbean and Brooklyn finesse. Some of the menu highlights include the jerk salmon and pasta alfredo (FYI, you can't go wrong with any jerk-themed dish here since many are crowd favorites). For anyone looking for pizza with a neo-Caribbean twist, go for the oxtail pie and pair it with selections from an extensive drink list that includes Brooklyn-movie-themed cocktails like Do The Right Thing or dozens of whiskey and rum offerings.
Nneji in Astoria is one of NYC’s newest destinations for authentic West African and Nigerian fare. This addition to Queens from founder Beatrice Ajaero not only operates as a small takeout restaurant, but also as a shop featuring African goods. Popular menu items include the garri (a combination of yucca and fufu/mashed potatoes); egusi (melon seed, spinach, red bell pepper, and a blend of savory spices); red stew (goat meat in a ginger-scotch bonnet blend and aromatic herbs); and jollof rice. For anyone looking to learn more about this global cuisine, Ajaero is known for her warm hospitality and shareable knowledge on the topic.
Paint 'N Pour
It's time to tap into your inner Van Gogh and get artsy, and what better way to do that than at Paint ‘N Pour. This "adults only" experience from co-founder and CEO, Tinesha Sharpe, has locations in Harlem and the Lower East Side, and each ticket includes themed professional painting instructions, all necessary art supplies, and an open bar of top-shelf signature cocktails. And speaking of cocktails, their extensive menu offers selections of rum punch, sangria, spiked tea, and boozy shakes. And because Paint N’ Pour is strictly against having starving artists, their menu boasts tasty bites from jerk chicken empanadas to shrimp po' boy sliders. If you prefer breakfast and day drinking with your art, fear not, they have a brunch menu stacked with classics like shrimp and grits and french toast.
Unlike other popular Brooklyn spots with similar offerings, Peaches Hot House’s menu showcases that southern food isn't as simple as baked macaroni and cheese and fried chicken—but it also requires an abundance of soul. At this Bed-Stuy eatery founded by Craig Samuel and Ben Grossman, their menu boasts classics like the signature fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, crispy chicken sandwich with a notable spicy mayo sauce, shrimp sandwich, bourbon butter cake, and more. Once you’ve tried out their Bed-Stuy location, be sure to hit up its sister spots in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, along with another Bed-Stuy locale.
Pig & Butter
After starting her culinary career at Superfine in DUMBO (and putting her MA in psychology to good use as a practicing psychotherapist for years), the concept of owner-chef Sherry Grimes’ first NYC brick-and-mortar restaurant is all about breakfast-inspired dishes. Whether it’s throughout the workweek or for Sunday brunch, Pig & Butter’s menu includes classics like fried chicken and waffles, in addition to specialties like The Conductor, which is Chinese fried chicken on cornbread with candied bacon, a fried egg, and buttery maple syrup. And the Thai basil jalapeño pepper lemonade is a refreshing, yet spicy, drink pairing especially perfect for summer.
Queens Bully takes the zeal of American barbecue and blends it with global flavors. Chef Melvin “Boots” Johnson, (also the 2018 champion of the Food Network's Chopped), opened the gastropub in 2017 and has been showcasing the cultural diversity of its home borough since. The menu offers popular game-day starters like loaded fries and a large variety of wings that also come in the vegan-friendly option of cauliflower. A large brunch menu, taco Tuesdays, and an entire section dedicated to smoked meat sandwiches is also available. You also may want to peep the Insta-worthy creamy cheddar mac that comes with the option to add on shrimp, brisket, or smoked jackfruit.
Ras Plant Based
Ras Plant Based is a Crown Heights eatery serving up plant-based Ethiopian dishes with NYC flair. This Kosher certified culinary experience fuses the modern vibes of Brooklyn with the ancient cuisines that owners Romeo and Milka Regalli watched their grandparents make. Popular starters include the flakey sambusa or the mashed avocado with crispy injera chips. And for mains, go for the piassa or mercado platters—all of which include a range of Ethiopian veggie classics that can be mixed and matched depending on preference. Choose from signature cocktails like a ginger guava lemonade or the Milka Minajj (fig vodka, mezcal, black cherry Juice).
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 in 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.
Urban Vegan Kitchen
Urban Vegan Kitchen takes any of your reservations about vegan cooking and tosses them out the window. Opened in 2016 by Pamela Elizabeth (also of Blossom) with a focus on southern-inspired recipes, UVK has everything from buffalo seitan wings to their popular ‘Chick-un’ waffles, made with southern fried seitan and paired with sauteed garlic kale, crispy Belgian waffle, and maple mustard aioli. The restaurant also offers their own take on classic cocktails to have your best summer ever, like the UVK Cosmo (vodka, orange liqueur, lemon, hibiscus) and the UVK Strong Island (tequila, rum, vodka, gin, triple sec, ginger beer). In addition, customers can make a donation through the website for a special partnership with Support & Feed, an organization providing nourish plant-based meals for those in need and living within marginalized communities.
Vibes Bar and Cafe
At Vibes Bar and Cafe, a Jamacian-American restaurant on Liberty Avenue, their motto is "good food, good music, good people, and good times.” From an all-day breakfast menu and seafood dinners, to their signature turkey wing dinner, Vibes is a popular destination for comfort food in Queens. Items include macaroni and cheese, garlicky mashed potatoes, grilled prime rib, lobster pasta, and more. For the adventurous, the top-selling Jack Daniel and Hennessy-flavored chicken wings are also a must try.