Black Owned Restaurants and Eateries in NYC

Here’s an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is – literally!

Go to this continually updated spreadsheet of Black owned restaurants, bars, bakeries, wine stores, coffee shops and pop-ups in the five boroughs of NYC.

And then support them – not just on this day, but from this day on.

🖤
 


Props to Hannah Goldfield, food critic for The New Yorker, and Rachel Karten, social media manager at Bon Appetit, for creating this incredible document.

Hawa Restaurant

Instagram Post 3/13/2020

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We headed out to Hawa Restaurant, 410 Lenox Avenue in Harlem, for their West African cuisine. This is Senegal’s national dish, Thiebu Djen – spellings vary widely but pronunciation is close to Cheh-boo Jen – and to call it “rice and fish” is an understatement even though that’s the literal translation. It’s made from “broken rice” (easily found at African markets) and if you look closely you’ll see its short grains, but it begins its life as the standard long grain variety that breaks in the field or during processing or milling; the shards are sorted by size and are highly desirable since they cook faster and absorb flavors more readily than whole grains. The rice, combined with chopped onion and garlic, is cooked with tomato paste that imbues it with its deep red color and rich flavor; this version had a pleasant little kick to it, possibly from propping up that Scotch Bonnet pepper. Vegetables accompanying the tilapia were cabbage, carrot, cassava, and eggplant, spent from having given their all to flavor the dish.


The tomato sauce in which the fish had been stewed was served on the side.


Sticking with West African specialties (they also have Caribbean cuisine), we ordered Maffe (you might see mafé), lamb stew (the menu also offers a smoked turkey alternative) in a tomato/peanut butter sauce. Their recipe isn’t overwhelmingly peanutty but it was tasty. No surprise that the lamb was so tender it was falling off the bone.
 
 

Gorkhali

Instagram Post 3/11/2020

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It only seems like we’d been waiting forever for Gorkhali, the Nepali restaurant at 77-04 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, to open its doors. Any time I was in the neighborhood with extra time on my hands, I’d head over to see if the promise had been fulfilled, only to hear the sound of my crest falling. But not long ago as I was rushing past between pre-lunch (which had run late) and lunch-lunch (which was about to commence), wouldn’t you know it, the kitchen was truly in full swing. “How long would it take to get an order of Jhol Mo:mo to go?” I panted. “Ten minutes,” came the reply.

So totally worth the wait. Even after a microwave reheat later at home, they were excellent. Herby and spicy with a unique flavor profile, they were unlike some of the standard regulation versions I’ve had in the neighborhood. Obviously, I’m keen to return with more time and a tableful of pals to run the menu – which currently is more like a long, undifferentiated list of the usual suspects: choila, sekuwa, sandheko, thukpa, thenthuk and lots more begging to be tasted.

Stay tuned.


The inner workings.
 
 

Rustic Table Shuk

Instagram Post 3/8/2020

Your choices for food vendors in the new Essex Market, 88 Essex St on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, are certainly plentiful, and since the opening of The Market Line downstairs, they’re positively daunting. But since I believe that the best method for conquering the overwhelming is to partialize the task, here’s the first, with more anon.

My understanding is that Israeli inflected Rustic Table has a location on Very West 42nd Street, but this is about their Market Line venue, Rustic Table Shuk, aptly named since shuk (שׁוּק) is the Hebrew word for market, a cognate to souk in Arabic.

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This is their take on trendy Arayes, pita bread stuffed with deftly seasoned ground grass-fed beef (it’s often lamb or a blend in the Levant from which it hails), grilled (Lebanon’s answer to panini, perhaps), anointed with pumpkinseed oil, and served in a puddle of tahini. The distinguishing characteristic of good arayes is that the outside of the pita is crisp…

…while the meat juices saturate its underside. As you can see, this one succeeded.
 
 

Heros & Villains

Instagram Post 3/5/2020

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Sometimes you just want a big ol’ sammich and nothing else will do, and I found a number of likely candidates while prowling around Essex Market (88 Essex St) on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. I spied this over-the-top example at Heros & Villains, stall 41, called The Big Kahuna: dry-aged beef from neighboring Essex Street Shambles (shambles being an archaic term for an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market) onions, peppers, pickles, aioli, cheese sauce, spicy ketchup, lettuce and tomato. Happily, you could still taste that the meat was of good quality even through the agreeable jumble of sauces (all made from scratch). Craving satisfied.
 
 

Al Raouche Restaurant

Instagram Post 2/29/2020

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Brain and brain! What is brain?

This is brain, lamb brain to be precise, one of the mezza (you might see meze) available on weekends at Al Raouche, the Lebanese restaurant at 169 Crooks Ave, Paterson, NJ. Boiled and marinated, possessing a texture that was yielding but with the tiniest bit of resistance, naturally mild in flavor and not at all gamey, it was so fantastically garlicky that you wouldn’t know you were eating lamb. That, plus a generous drenching of olive oil and lemon juice provided the dominant character of the dish. And that’s a good thing, Miri.
 
 

Chicago’s Pizza With-A-Twist

Instagram Post 2/28/2020

If pizza is a romance between Italian and American cuisines, then I guess that would make Indian Pizza a ménage a trois. And, yes, it’s a thing in India too. (Indian pizza, that is.) Chicago’s Pizza With-A-Twist is a franchise with at least 45 locations in the US, one of which is 259-07 Hillside Ave in Floral Park, the focus of this post.

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You’re looking at a half Butter Chicken, half Tandoori Paneer model; other toppings include Paneer Tikka Masala, Curry Paneer, Aloo Chaat, and Palak Paneer (with pesto sauce, of course) among many more.


Isolating a slice of each (chicken left, paneer right) reveals a disappointing similarity that I had tried to avoid though considerable deliberation when we were ordering; I don’t know if alternative choices would have mattered. The dominance of red onion, garlic, ginger, cilantro, and tomato overwhelmed any subtleties that the two mild sauces and toppings might have brought to these slices. Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t bad at all, I was just after a little more variety at the time.

(I do know about Korean pizza and other international suitors, but that’s a story for another day. 😉)
 
 

Toros Restaurant

Instagram Post 2/18-20/2020

Home to a multiplicity of international restaurants, bakeries and markets, Paterson, NJ is a magnet for ethnic food lovers. Peruvian, Mexican and Dominican restaurants flourish if you know where to look, but on Saturday we revisited the Middle East strip and focused on Turkish cuisine for lunch. Here are a couple of starters from Toros Restaurant at 1083 Main St (just past Nablus if you saw my last post).

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Manti, considerably larger in most cuisines, are diminutive in Turkey – mini dumplings filled with ground lamb and topped with garlic sauce.


We ordered the Large Meze appetizer consisting of (menu’s spellings) lebni (yogurt, dill, walnuts); hummus; patlican soslu (eggplant and red peppers in tomato sauce); patlican salatasi (charcoal grilled eggplant salad); babaganus; and acili ezme (spicy vegetable salad). EVERYTHING was deeply redolent of garlic, of course.


Bread, obvs.


Arnavut Cigeri, tender, juicy (yes!) chunks of beef liver, floured and fried with delectable seasonings.

These next two are a bit of a mystery to me – not on the menu. One of our group approached the steam table area and chose them, so I didn’t catch the names. The check read “az yemek” for each of them; az means small, yemek means meal or dish, so I’ll go with a loose translation of “small plates”.

This is some kind of chicken and pasta thing…


…and this is some kind of greens and cheese thing. Your guess is as good as mine. (Probably better if you’re Turkish. 😉)


Izmir Kofte – minced beef and lamb blended with onions, garlic, herbs and spices, grilled, sauced, and potatoed.


These were (past tense by design) Sigara Boregi: sigara (cigar or cigarette shaped) boregi (think burek, etc.) referring to baked pastries made from phyllo dough, filled, in this case, with tangy feta cheese. (Yes, we started with more 😉.)
 
 

Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodle

Instagram Post 2/16/2020

Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodle, 83 Bayard St in Manhattan’s Chinatown, serves up a wide variety of agreeable Chinese rice rolls (cheung fan, amid alternate spellings) in a casual, no-frills atmosphere; you’ll find the usual beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, and veggie options among numerous tempting multicomponent combinations. Condiments are available tableside, but we had to request peanut sauce, so be forewarned.

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Our choices for the day included this crab & egg version, fully dressed,


roast duck (prior to condimentation, just for comparison),


and Tonii’s Special: pork, chicken, and dried shrimp, the best of the three.

Incidentally, way back in March 2016, I did a comparison of Chinatown sponge cakes here called “Sponge Information” and the winner was Kam Hing. Perhaps you’ve been enjoying these puffy paragons of perfection a few storefronts away but if you’ve noticed that their doors have been shuttered recently, not to worry: both business are owned by the same folks and Kam Hing’s peerless sponge cakes are available at Tonii’s.
 
 

BB.Q Chicken

Instagram Post 2/14/2020

KTown, Part Three.

BB.Q (aka Best of the Best Quality) Chicken is a bewildering South Korean franchise. It established a “Chicken University” (look out, McDonald’s) complete with auditoriums, seminar rooms, and training areas plus an R&D center staffed by Ph.D. level researchers, all dedicated to creating unexcelled fried chicken for their thousands of locations. They take particular pride in their use of costly 100% EVOO for frying because they believe it’s healthier and tastes better.

So why do I find it bewildering? Because for all their culinary and marketing bona fides, I found their chicken disappointing.

Upstairs at the 25 West 32nd St location in Manhattan’s Koreatown, the “Grab & Go” area is a model of efficiency. Mini buckets of a number of chicken varieties – many unusual – perch patiently in a warming cabinet; take a tray, load it up, bring it to the cashier, find a table, and chow down.

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This is boneless Galbi Chicken, “smoky, sweet and savory; marinated Korean Barbeque flavor” (unlike any galbi I’ve ever tasted BTW).


Boneless Surpfried Chicken, “a new kind of fried Chicken that never existed before! Crispy fried chicken with a hidden layer of caramelized onion sauce.”

Both were extremely dry, partially the result, I suspect, of sitting uncovered in the warming cabinet for an unspecified amount of time. Had they been covered, of course, they would have steamed and lost any crispness they may have started with. Further, it seemed like every unhappy bite was white meat, dry by definition.

All this is in stark contrast to my last post from Pelicana Chicken where there’s a sign informing customers to anticipate 10 minutes cooking time for boneless and 14 for drumsticks and wings.

Now, maybe I “did it wrong” and someone out there has had a better experience than I. Should I have ventured downstairs to the chimaek (fried chicken and beer) seating area, perhaps to consume equal quantities of chicken and draft beer or soju? Is the chicken prepared to order down there? Should I have chosen a variety that was less “creative”? Let me know. Seriously. I’ll go back for Round Two if you make a good case for it.