Where to Stay, Eat, and Shop in the South Bronx
The southernmost part of the borough is home to some of the city’s best Latinx culture, ranging from culinary excellence to creative resilience.
Conveniently located along the 4, 5, and 6 lines, the South Bronx is currently at a cultural crossroads, where old hip-hop culture blends with a new creative and entrepreneurial spirit. Four neighborhoods make up the southernmost part of the borough—Concourse, Melrose, Mott Haven, and Port Morris—and each offers an abundance of largely undiscovered restaurants, cultural institutions, hotels, and shops.
The history of the neighborhood is eclectic. In the early 1900s, the South Bronx was mostly comprised of German and Irish immigrants and became known as the “Jewish borough.” This soon changed after World War II with rising rents, and by the end of the 1950s, the South Bronx was two-thirds Black or Latinx. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the foundations of both hip-hop and graffiti art were built by DJs, and the neighborhood began to blossom as a cultural hub.
Today, along with the rest of the borough’s thriving Latinx population (currently 54.8 percent), the South Bronx is home to large Puerto Rican and Dominican enclaves, in addition to a growing Mexican community. From blocks lined with murals like a tribute to hometown hero and rapper, Big Pun, to countless Latinx-owned businesses or open mics and talent showcases fostering future creatives, the area is the epicenter to some of the city’s best Latinx culture, and the signature greeting is a loud and welcoming “YERRRR!”
It’s time to head uptown so make sure you’ve got your masks and vaccination cards ready. Here’s everything you need to know about exploring the South Bronx.
Embark on a culinary journey while paying homage to the neighborhood’s rich history
Any real food tour of the South Bronx should begin on Alexander Avenue and Bruckner Blvd—a small enclave of culinary excellence. Fresh off its recent U.S. grand opening, Chocobar Cortes is a beloved restaurant from San Juan with a unique chocolate-infused menu with items like Chocolate Grilled Cheese, Chalupitas de Mofongo (roasted pork, pineapple pico de gallo, guacamole with chocolate, mole sauce, pique de chocolate), and a Chocolate Old Fashioned.
Once you’re done filling your sweet tooth, explore Alexander Avenue’s many other food options. Mornings are done right with brunch at Beatstro, a hip-hop inspired restaurant flaunting a cross-cultural blend of cooking styles. For a late lunch, the pandemic-born Hudson Smokehouse is the first smokehouse of its kind in the borough; Ceetay offers Asian-inspired dishes; and stop by Monte’s Brick Oven for pizza, pasta, and more.
For dinner, if you’re looking for the true definition of vibes, head to Rosa’s at Park, a Latin-fusion restaurant helmed by local entrepreneur Rosa Garcia. For a unique blend of rustic sophistication and style, Charlie’s Bar and Kitchen’s menu is filled with classic American favorites with Latin and Southern twists. And Made in Puerto Rico Bar and Lounge is perfect for those who like a little celebration while they eat.
For local watering holes, take a quick walk-up Bruckner Boulevard to visit Bar 47, an upscale dive bar featuring live entertainment, a pool table, and some local faves like The Bronx Brewery. If you’re looking for the full experience, take a trip to the brewery in Port Morris, check out the art-inspired programming, and make sure to grab some bites from food lab and partner Empanology. Beer not your thing? Then be sure to stop by Port Morris Distillery, home to Pitorro, a Puerto Rican moonshine native to the island.
Stroll the neighborhood while learning about its culture
Unlike other boroughs that begin with ‘B,’ the South Bronx has retained a great deal of its culture—despite rapid rates of gentrification and new residential developments—and we’ve compiled the best cultural institutions to immerse yourself in its history.
Start your stroll with the Bronx Documentary Center, a non-profit gallery and space that uses community-based documentary practice and education to explore vital issues, stimulate critical thought, and drive social change. Interested in all things music? The Bronx Music Heritage Center celebrates the borough’s ties to the arts while providing free cultural programs for the community. Another must is the beautiful La Finca Del Sur, a community-led farm on East 138th Street that celebrates the Latinidad of its farmers and community. Their goal is to address issues of food access, environmental justice, and community empowerment for women of color and their allies in the South Bronx.
For contemporary art lovers, WALLWORKS NY is an art gallery and “a place for exploration” dedicated to fostering creative talent in the neighborhood by mixing downtown sensibility with uptown style. And in February, Bronx Art Space, a non-profit gallery that promotes innovative ideas of underrepresented and emerging artists and curators, will debut their much anticipated brand new space.
Fuel your day with coffee and retail therapy
In NYC, coffee shops are a dime a dozen. But once in a while, a space comes along that leaves a real impact and becomes a cornerstone for the community. Mottley Kitchen is the neighborhood’s holistic community cafe—complete with an impeccable organic and vegan-friendly menu, a beautiful rooftop garden, and the neighborhood’s best cold brew. The space is a hub for neighbors to not only relax and connect, but to shop as well. The cafe partners with various local brands and provides them with retail space to sell their product. Currently, the lineup includes Boogie Down Books, Iridessence Candles, Sol Cacao Chocolate, and Bronx Native.
To get the full BX experience, we also recommend heading down to the Bronx Native’s brick and mortar on Lincoln Avenue. The shop is filled with merch highlighting the beauty and creativity of the borough. During warmer weather, the shop is home to regular open mics and creative showcases, further demonstrating the hidden potential that creatives in the South Bronx have to offer.
Afterwards, take a quick walk over one-block to The Lit. Bar, a wine bar, cafe, and the only bookstore in the borough under the leadership of proprietress Noëlle Santos. The venue encourages curious readers and welcomes (virtual) literary and community gatherings. It also puts Black and Brown authors at the forefront for books of all age groups and has even been co-signed by Barack Obama and J. Lo.
While the pandemic has impacted a number of small businesses, South Bronx creatives continue to showcase their entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to weathering the storm. If you’re a big online shopper, these small businesses and brands are definitely worth checking out: clothing and accessories by Perico Limited; handmade furniture and objects by Gomez Design Studio; and chokers, jewelry, and more made by hand from Rocio Art.
Stay the night at a former opera house
The Opera House Hotel is a South Bronx institution that was once the home of the Bronx Opera House and graced by transcendent theater performances of Harry Houdini, the Marx Brothers, and John and Lionel Barrymore. Now newly renovated to preserve its classic beauty, the hotel offers a stunning space. But if gorgeous rooftops and mimosas filled to the brim are more your style, book your stay at the Haven Park Hotel.