24 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 Caribbean 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 24 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.
Charles Pan-Fried Chicken
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.
Aunts et Uncles
With no shortage of vegan/vegetarian restaurants popping up all over NYC, Aunts et Uncles continues to make its mark since opening early on in the pandemic. The plant-forward spot from husband-and-wife duo Michael and Nicole Nicholas also operates as a shop selling goods like books and clothing, and popular food items include the Lobster Roll made with hearts of palm and fresh dill on a pretzel bun; the Au Burger with caramelized onions and spicy mayo; and the Mofongo with mashed green plantains. Additional offerings include pasta, links, soups, and alcoholic and non-booze beverages.
Opened by Carl S. Redding and named after his grandmother, Amy Ruth’s is a Harlem classic that’s been serving the community since 1999. Known to its regulars as the ‘authentic soul of New York,’ the restaurant offers a range of comfort food classics like seafood, barbecued meat, and more with each item named after famous patrons and other historical Black figures. Signature dishes include smothered pork chops (The Gabrielle Union); baked catfish (The Ruby Dee); fried, smothered, baked, or barbecue chicken (The President Barack Obama); and a dedicated section of creative waffle combinations like The Jennifer Holliday with waffles and fried shrimp.
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 night out in the summer. 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 Garlic Mashed Potatoes—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 Crawfish & Seafood Etouffee to River Boat Crab Cakes. One of their signature items is Seafood Jambalaya packed with shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, calamari, crawfish tails, and Andouille sausage simmered in Creole tomato sauce and served with arborio rice. When it comes to having a Bayou-style drink, the eatery offers a large range of cocktails like the Bayou Lemonade with sweet tea vodka, Bourbon Peach Smash with peach nectar, and the Hurricane, a NoLa original with rum and fruit juices.
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 Aged Cheddar Cheese Grits. In addition, there’s also the option to create your own grilled, fried, or baked meal from mains like Lobster Tail, Baked Turkey Wings, Catfish, and Jumbo Shrimp. 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 meals in communal-style dining that includes seven entrees (choose from Gomen, Keysir Selata, Misir Wot, Yater Kik Alicha, and more) with injera served on the side; in addition to menu items like Lentil Sambusa. Along with cocktails like the Cucumba! with gin, celery & grapefruit shrub, and cucumber seltzer, coffee offerings include the Bunna brewed with cardamom and cloves.
Cheryl's Global Soul
This Prospect Heights institution from owner and chef Cheryl Smith opened in 2016 and isn’t named after the cuisine of what’s traditionally considered American soul food, but more general food that feeds the soul. Enjoy dishes like Cuban Black Bean Soup, Korean Barbecue Wings, a Roasted Jerk Pork Bowl, Fish & Chips, and a Tonkatsu Bowl.
Fish & Ting
Transport yourself from the Bronx to Jamaica at Fish N’ Ting, a restaurant owned by Lurline Franklin and prefers to be called “mom” by her regulars. Choose from Caribbean classics like Curry Goat, pasta like Lobster Rasta Pasta, and selections of fish served fried, steamed, and blackened or with sauces like sweet & sour, barbecue, and escovitch. Popular items include Jerk Chicken and Oxtails that are served over peas and rice, and both meals are known to be flavorful and tender. Desserts are Rum Cake (self described as super “rummy”) and Traditional Jamaican Fruit Cake.
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 Goat Head Soup, Oxtail & Beans, and Fish Sticks with Scotch Bonnet Tartar Sauce. Dedicated Chinese offerings include Sweet & Sour Chicken, Shrimp & Lobster Lo Mein, and Steamed Snapper with Ginger & 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 Lobster in Curry.
Located between the border of Crown Heights and Prospect Heights, The Islands serves Jamaican classics in Brooklyn. Open since 2001, the restaurant’s menu includes Jerk Leg of Lamb, Curry Goat, Calypso Shrimp, and Okra Cod Fish. The eatery is also known for its signature long-simmered stews like Stewed Chicken in Brown Gravy where the meat falls off the bone. Homemade refreshments include Sorrel and Lemonade.
Since opening during the initial summer of the pandemic, wife-and-husband duo Ria and Kevol Graham have created a tropical paradise of sorts near the Williamsburg waterfront with Kokomo, a restaurant focused on Pan-Caribbean flavors. With Ria’s industry background in Caribbean restaurants and Kevol’s hospitality experience in events of over 13 years, from decor to menu, the culinary destination they’ve created continues to be a much needed (and appreciated) place of celebration for New Yorkers. Dine on Crispy Fish Tacos, Coconut Curry Mussels, signature wood-fired flatbreads in five varieties like Wild Roasted Mushroom; Slow-Braised Oxtail, and dedicated vegan selections like Lentil Meatballs and Pasta in a Cashew Raiso sauce. Pair it with cocktails like the Rude Gyal (rum, coconut cream, nutmeg).
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 Belizean Conch Fritters; Jerk Chicken with Durty Rice and Johnny Cakes (a dense, slightly sweet bread that Lolo’s packs with flavor); and the signature Pom Pom Shrimp and Fries Basket. But a visit to this seafood joint wouldn’t be complete without trying the Seafood Boils, where diners can fill up on Crawfish, Shrimp, and Snow Crab Legs while sipping on the popular Lolo’s Punch made from coconut rum, sorrel, and ginger.
MangoSeed + Zurilee
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 along with wood-fired pizza and brunch. 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.
The origins of Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven dates back to 1829, and in its more than 190-year run, the establishment’s storied history includes operating as a saloon for unruly customers of a nearby racetrack, the location of Queen’s first bowling alley, and the infamous neighborhood bar in the movie Goodfellas. Current owner, Loycent Gordon, also a FDNY veteran of over 15 years, purchased Neir’s Tavern in 2009 to save it from closing. Enjoy small plates, entrees, and family style meals along with your cocktails and growlers from this neighborhood watering hole.
Nneji in Astoria is one of NYC’s most talked about destinations for authentic West African and Nigerian fare. The woman-owned 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 Savory Meat Pies; Okra & Spinach; Egusi (melon seed, spinach, red bell pepper); West African Red Stew (beef, cow foot, cow skin in a Nigerian spice blend with spicy scotch bonnet pepper); and Mixed Meat 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
If you’re a starving artist, head to Paint ‘N Pour, an "adults only" experience of boozing and painting from co-founder and CEO, Tinesha Sharpe, with locations in Harlem and the Lower East Side. Each ticket includes themed professional painting instructions, all necessary art supplies, and an open bar of signature cocktails like the Picasso Punch (rum, pineapple juice, grenadine), Mona Lisa Margarita (tequila, orange liqueur), and Sistine Apple (vodka, sour apple liqueur, apple juice). The food menu boasts tasty bites Orange Henny Wings with an orange Hennessy barbecue glaze, Cauliflower Bites with three dipping sauces, and Dynamite Shrimp with sweet Sriracha chili sauce.
Unlike other popular Brooklyn spots with similar offerings, Peaches HotHouse’s menu showcases that southern food isn't as simple as Baked Mac & 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, The Best Chicken Sandwich Anywhere, Fried Catfish, and more. And sure to hit up its sister spots at nearby Peaches Kitchen & Bar and Peaches Grand in Clinton Hill.
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 work week or for Sunday brunch, go for dishes like the Pastrami Smoked Salmon Omelette, Creme Anglaise French Toast, Mexican Chorizo Scramble, PB & J Waffles, and the signature P&B BEC. And now that restaurant recently just got their liquor license, check out their unlimited mimosa, Bloody Mary and sangria brunch Friday to Sunday.
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 N’ Cheese that comes with the option to add ons like Buffalo Shrimp, Bacon Lardons, and 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 Mercato 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 with fresh ginger 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
Opened in 2016 by Pamela Elizabeth (also of Blossom) with a focus on Southern-inspired vegan and vegetarian recipes, Urban Vegan Kitchen has everything from Chick-Un Waffles and Chorizo Empanadas to a Classic BLT with tempeh bacon, and zesty aioli. The restaurant also offers their own take on classic cocktails 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 Jamaican-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, the eatery 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 Wings are also a must try.