How Inglewood Became the Epicenter of Black Culture in LA

The history of this iconic neighborhood will surprise you.

Salt Eaters Bookshop
Salt Eaters Bookshop | Photo by Joleen Zubek for Thrillist
Salt Eaters Bookshop | Photo by Joleen Zubek for Thrillist

The roar of airplanes flying in and out of nearby LAX airport act as the daily soundtrack for residents of Inglewood, a city that spans just over nine square miles and is located in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County. The city has undergone numerous transformations since 1781, when a group of settlers were ordered by the San Gabriel Mission to begin grazing their animals on the coast of Los Angeles to avoid infringing on Mission lands. That led them to the lush lands near Centinela Springs, which Native Americans had long been using as a source for local spring water. In 1834, Ygnacio Machado built the Centinela Adobe, and was granted 2,220 acres of ranch land across what's now known as Westchester and Inglewood. Some of that land was acquired by Canadian developer Daniel Freeman in 1887, and it was in the decades that followed that the city began to embrace a new identity, with the founding of Inglewood Park Cemetery in 1905 and the Hollywood Park racetrack in 1938, plus a location of California’s first soft-serve ice cream chain, Fosters Freeze, in 1946.

Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that until 1960, the Black community in Inglewood was practically nonexistent, with just 29 estimated Black residents out of 63,390 total residents. In fact, the Ku Klux Klan maintained an active Inglewood chapter until 1931. That, combined with sundown laws, segregated schools, and discriminatory real estate practices, were effective hurdles in keeping Black and other POC residents out of the area—for a while. The Forum was built in 1967, attracting Black residents with the promise of jobs, and in 1970, Inglewood schools were ordered to integrate. As with integration efforts across America, many white residents chose to leave, especially in the ‘80s, settling in areas like Marina Del Rey and Playa Vista, and leading to a stark shift in demographics, with Black residents making up the majority alongside a significant Latino population. In 1983, Edward Vincent Jr. became Inglewood’s first Black mayor. Since his term ended in 1997, Inglewood has continued to elect Black mayors, including Roosevelt F. Dorn, Danny Tabor, and James T. Butts, Jr. The city also stands out as the first in California to observe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a holiday.

Inglewood has been the recipient of numerous investments in recent years, including a redesign of The Forum that turned it into the largest indoor concert venue in the country in 2014, the opening of SoFi Stadium in 2020, which acts as the new home for LA’s two NFL teams the Rams and the Chargers, and the (still under construction) expansion of the LA Metro K Line that connects the neighborhoods of Crenshaw and Leimert Park to Inglewood and LAX Airport. In addition to hosting the 2022 Super Bowl, SoFi Stadium will also host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Olympics. While exciting, these developments have also led to rises in rent and other living costs that push long-term residents and business owners out of the neighborhood. Between the 2010 and 2020 Census, Inglewood’s Black population shrunk by 2%, while Latino and Asian populations essentially remained the same, and the local white population increased by almost 2%.

Thankfully, a new wave of Black business owners are stepping up to make sure they retain a piece of this neighborhood that has played such a significant role in shaping LA’s Black history. Among them are local celebrities like Issa Rae, the writer, producer, and actor behind HBOMax’s Insecure, who's the partial owner of Hilltop Coffee, which is not just a coffee shop, but also hosts educational and community events.

Salt Eaters Bookshop
Salt Eaters Bookshop | Photo by Joleen Zubek for Thrillist

Asha Grant, who opened her Inglewood bookstore, The Salt Eaters, in January 2022, was similarly motivated to create a space that would support the local community. “I knew when I opened the space that I wanted it to be a safe place for the community. I think that having a space where it's not so hard to look for yourself or to find stories and images that reflect you and people that are important to you, is actually really one of the most important things we can do for our own mental health,” she said.

Always vibrant, the city of Inglewood will act as the beating heart of Los Angeles as hundreds of thousands of fans flock to SoFi Stadium for Super Bowl LVI with the LA Rams facing the Cincinnati Bengals. There are plenty of ways to celebrate this weekend, including a free block party with the Taste of Inglewood: Big Game Festival from Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11, with live performances from musicians like Poncho Sanchez, Jon B, Chante Moore, and Tony Toni Tone. On Saturday, a Key to the City will be presented to Issa Rae for her community contributions.

But if you’re looking to get to know Inglewood proper, bookmark this guide that features some of our favorite Black and Latino-owned businesses, an assortment of cuisines ranging from soul food to Nigerian and Belizean fare, art galleries, and more.

Sip & Sonder
Sip & Sonder | Photo by Joleen Zubek for Thrillist

Sonder is defined as “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own” and it’s one you’ll sit with as you savor rose lattes and other well-crafted coffee and tea drinks, plus a short menu of delectable pastries like a Spinach and Cheese Croissant and an Yuzu Poppy Bostock. The shop is owned by lawyers-turned-friends Amanda-Jane Thomas and Shanita Nicholas, who always dreamed of opening up a neighborhood coffee house where they could connect with others, celebrate culture, and create community. The expansive, light-filled coffee shop is an ideal spot for remote work and roasts their coffee in-house, with beans sourced from across the continents of Africa and South America, so you’ll also want to grab a bag to enjoy at home. Sip & Sonder frequently hosts community events, often in conjunction with other local, Black-owned businesses.

Get to know Inglewood history with a visit to the Centinela Adobe, a ranch house that sits above the I-405 and was built in 1834 by Ignacio Machado, the son of a soldier who fought to protect early LA settlers on their way from Mexico. The 2,200-acre Rancho Aguaje de la Centinela was eventually sold to Daniel Freeman, a Canadian developer who began developing the area, but you can still visit the complex that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes a museum with photos of the area’s first poultry colony, domesticated chinchilla farm, and early aerospace efforts. Not far from the ranch house at Centinela Ave and Florence Blvd is a historical monument that marks where Centinela Springs, a source of fresh spring water for early Inglewood settlers, once flowed.

This locally owned, nonprofit art gallery frequently hosts family-friendly workshops as well as 21+ “Sip and Sculpt” and other events. Founded by LA artist Rasta Asaru in 2016, the gallery counts Congresswoman Maxine Waters among its prestigious art collectors. To celebrate the Super Bowl, Creative House is hosting “Epic Art and Drinks: The Game Experience,” a partnership with Black-owned whiskey label Uncle Nearest that includes live music, cocktails, food, and an art exhibition.

Salt Eaters Bookshop
Salt Eaters Bookshop | Photo by Joleen Zubek for Thrillist

Named after activist and author Toni Cade Bambara’s novel by the same name is this recently opened Inglewood bookshop owned by Asha Grant that seeks to “create a Black feminist literary hub and resting ground for dreamers, seekers of knowledge, creatives, writers, community archivists, artists, change agents, and those invested in a liberation practice that holds Black women, girls, femmes, and non-binary people at the center.” The shop is also home to LA’s Free Black Women’s Library, an ongoing book swap, but their wide selection of Black literature that includes books, comics, and zines, will definitely make you want to break out your wallet as well.

Founded in 1987, this Nayarit-style Mexican restaurant is beloved for family recipes that have been passed down by original owner Vicente “Chente” Cossio to his daughter Connie, who now helms the original Inglewood location as well as a second spot in Del Rey. Shrimp, fish, and other products are shipped directly from Nayarit and Sinaloa to maintain traditional flavors and techniques, with a menu that includes a selection of ceviche dishes, shrimp prepared a dozen different ways with a variety of sauces, aguachiles, and a whole snook that’s fileted, grilled, and served whole alongside caramelized onions and fresh tortillas. Add on a Michelada or Sangria and you’ll practically forget that you’re off the Imperial Highway and not sitting under a palm tree on Playa Novillero.
How to order: Walk in.

This halal restaurant has a short menu, but does everything exceedingly well, especially their tender, fall-off-the-bone goat that you can order as a meal with rice, sauteed vegetables, and a green salad. If goat’s not your thing, they also sell the same plate with chicken, lamb, beef, or tilapia. Vegetarians will love the delicious vegetable soup that comes as a side with each entree, but could easily act as a standalone dish. Meals are prepared fresh to order and waits can occasionally get lengthy—pass the time with a cup of cardamom-spiced Somalian tea on their back patio.
How to order: Walk in or order takeout and delivery via Grubhub.

Much more than “just” a coffee shop, Hilltop is a community hub that’s partially owned by LA native and Insecure star Issa Rae. The shop frequently hosts events that range from creative coloring parties to financial literacy workshops, in addition to serving a full menu of coffee and tea drinks and breakfast and lunch items. The Black Rose Latte is an invigorating blend of house espresso with charcoal and rose and served with the milk of your choice, while the Matcha Colada is a refreshing drink with ceremonial matcha, aloe, pineapple, lemongrass, and coconut milk served over ice. Dip into pastries like churros, sweet potato bread pudding, and beignets, or opt for a savory Soul Bowl with a poached egg, creamy grits, braised collard greens, and charred corn; a Short Rib Grilled Cheese sandwich, buffalo cauliflower, and more. Hilltop has additional locations in Slauson and Eagle Rock.
How to order: Walk in or order takeout via Toast.

Crenshaw Dairy Mart
Crenshaw Dairy Mart | Photo by Joleen Zubek for Thrillist

This community-oriented art center centers abolition, ancestry, and healing, and was co-founded by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Housed in a converted dairy mart that’s a century-old, the art collective first caught our attention with its massive “Pray For LA” installation that was painted in their parking lot in the direct path of flights coming into LAX Airport, but has since been replaced with a “Care Not Cages” mural by co-founder Noé Olivas in the same spot. You’ll also want to take a look at the “Saint Nip” mural of rapper Nipsey Hussle that was painted on the side of the building by artists Oto-Abasi Attah and Paul Cullors.

This community-oriented brewhouse always has three core beers, as well as a rotating selection of seasonal brews on tap, with 12-18 beers typically on offer. Their most recent releases include Light Trails, a zesty West Coast IPA with notes of citrus, grapefruit, and sweet peaches; Kill the Lights, a surprisingly crisp black lager with notes of dark chocolate and espresso that’s back due to popular demand; and Furutsu Kolsch, a new, citrus-spiked Kolsch-style beer. Pickup your beer from the tasting room and enjoy it at home, or cozy up in the expansive, dog-friendly beer garden that’s perfect for sipping on a flight or taking down some grub from whatever food truck is parked outside (Fridays through Sundays only). Trivia nights are hosted every Wednesday at 7 pm and the brewery frequently screens Rams games. Check their Instagram for the food truck schedule and other events.

Dulan’s | Photo by Bethany Mollenkof for Thrillist

Known as the “King of Soul Food,” Adolf Dulan changed the game when he introduced his cafeteria-style dining room in 1999. More than 20 years later, the restaurant is still known for giving generous helpings of classic soul food dishes like fried chicken, oxtails, and smothered pork chops served with sides like black eyed peas, mac and cheese, collard greens, and candied yams. Dulan’s draws crowds every week for their famed Sunday Dinner Special that offers an entree, two sides, rice and gravy or cornbread dressing, dessert, and ice tea for $22.95 or $19.45 for a vegetarian plate. Inglewood is home to two locations, just in case your first choice proves too busy for your liking.
How to order: Walk in. Place a pickup order at the Manchester location by calling 310-671-3345 or at the Century Blvd location by calling 323-418-8527. You can also order pickup and delivery online.

This new-ish sports lounge off Market Street also happens to be one of the best barbecue options in the neighborhood, offering beef brisket, spare ribs, pulled pork, beef and chicken links, barbecue chicken and salmon, and all of the requisite sides like mac and cheese, street corn, and baked beans. Don’t believe us? Even Congresswoman Maxine Waters is a fan—and we have a feeling she doesn’t play about her barbecue. With a full bar available and frequent happy hour specials, it’s no wonder the place overflows with patrons on Wednesday karaoke nights and weekends during football and basketball watch parties. Food and drinks specials will be on offer for Super Bowl Sunday, with doors opening at noon.
How to order: Walk in or order pickup and delivery online.

Veronicas Kitchen
Veronicas Kitchen | Photo by Joleen Zubek for Thrillist

This small, unassuming spot is your best bet for Nigerian cuisine in Inglewood. Get messy with a bowl of egusi, a soup of leafy greens, ground melon seeds, and goat that’s served with fufu, pounded yams with a rich and doughy consistency that you can mold into a ladle and dip into your egusi before consuming the entire bite. A metal bowl is deposited in front of each diner so that you can clean your hands in between dunks. Complete the experience with flavorful jollof rice, addictive meat pies, plantains, and one of their palm juices to wash it all down. Veronica’s has experienced a recent boom in business thanks to TikTokers discovering fufu, so it’s wise to place your order well in-advance.
How to order: Walk in or call 310-673-4890 for pickup.

Inglewood doesn’t get due credit for its international dining options, and in addition to the Ethiopian, Mexican, and Somalian cuisines that we’ve already mentioned, the neighborhood is also home to one of the best Belizean restaurants you’ll find in all of LA County. The cuisine draws influence from neighboring Caribbean and Latin countries, including meat pies (Thursdays and Fridays only), Belizean-style sweet corn tamales, and panades, Belizean-style empanadas made with fresh masa and stuffed to the gills with hash fish or beans and cheese before getting deep fried. The restaurant is celebrating the Super Bowl with food and drink specials, live music, and the biggest projector in downtown Inglewood beginning at 2 pm.
How to order: Make reservations and order takeout online.

This popular Southern chain has you covered when it comes to Game Day food, boasting a menu of Philly cheesesteaks, burgers, gyros, subs, and more, but it’s their wings that keep us coming back again and again. The never-frozen wings are fried until crispy and then bathed in signature sauces like garlic parmesan, lemon pepper, sweet chili, and traditional hot, with the option to order all drums or all flats depending on your preference. An order of 100 wings will run you $112, making it an obvious choice when it’s your turn to host Monday Night football.
How to order: Select a location and order online.

Randys Donuts
Randys Donuts | Photo by Dee Williams for Thrillist

Yes, you’ll want to snap a selfie with the world-famous, donut-shaped sign that sits on the roof of this 24-hour drive-in that’s appeared in countless films and TV series like Get ShortyEarth Girls Are Easy, and HBO’s Entourage, but you’ll also want to make sure you put in an order for fluffy and dense, glazed buttermilk donuts, jelly-filled delights, and cream-filled long johns, as well as premium selections like a matcha tea raised donut and a red velvet ring that’s filled with ganache.
How to order:Drive up or order online for pickup and delivery.

Lest you get the wrong idea and make the (incorrect) assumption that Inglewood doesn’t have plant-based options, let us point you in the direction of Stuff I Eat. Owned by chef Babette Davis, who’s been vegan for over 25 years, the restaurant features an affordable menu of preservative-free, wholesome dishes like an enchilada pie bowl that’s layered with corn tortillas, tomato sauce and house-made special sauce, yellow polenta, salsa, guacamole, black beans, and a wild rice blend. Stop by on Thursdays for their Throwback Thursday Taco Special that includes two tacos for $8 or one for $4.50—take note that these aren’t miniature street tacos, but hearty wraps filled with wild rice, tofu, salsa, a house-made savory sauce, chopped kale, and topped with carrot mango dressing. The vegetable lentil soup is the perfect choice for warming up on one of those rare rainy days in LA.
How to order: Walk in or order pickup and delivery via Postmates and UberEats.

If you’re in the mood for a filling breakfast composed of your favorite comfort foods, look no further than The Serving Spoon, a family-owned Inglewood institution since 1982. In addition to pancake, waffle, and french toast combos that come with ham, bacon, sausage, chicken wings, and even catfish, red snapper, and salmon croquettes, the restaurant uplifts the local community with food drives and similar initiatives. Check their Instagram for daily specials like smothered beef short ribs and fried shrimp and grits.
How to order: Walk in or order takeout online between 8:15 am and 1:45 pm.

1010 Wine
1010 Wine | Photo by Dee Williams for Thrillist

Inglewood’s first and only wine bar is owned by Leslie and Leann Jones, two sisters and lifelong LA residents who wanted to offer an upscale option for enjoying delicious food and wine to those who live in the neighborhood. The menu is brief with standouts across the board, including Kobe Beef Sliders (with the option to substitute Impossible Beef) as a starter, Steamed Black Mussels as a soup option, Shrimp and Risotto as an entree, and Peach Cobbler Panna Cotta for dessert. Stop by for Wine Down Wednesday, which offers wine specials alongside live music, or for Sunday brunch with a specially curated menu that includes bottomless mimosas and a live DJ. For Super Bowl Sunday, the wine bar is hosting a watch party with wine and food specials from 2–8 pm.
How to book: Make reservations online.

This Black-owned and woman-owned sports bar and restaurant opened in Downtown Inglewood at the beginning of the year and is quickly becoming a local favorite for its affordable food and bar menus, as well as a huge, dual-screen TV that sits above the bar. Stop by on Monday or Wednesday for karaoke or during weekday happy hour from 3–7 pm. For the Super Bowl, they have a pre-party from 11 am–2 pm, a watch party from 3–6 pm, and an after-party from 7 pm–2 am, with live entertainment, food and drink specials, and raffles available. Reservations are highly recommended.

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Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at Thrillist.