Explore NYC’s Black Culinary Diaspora
Few places in the world can claim the full spectrum of Blackness that New York City can. From the African continent to Central and South America and the Caribbean, the depth and diversity of the Black diaspora is everywhere, especially in the City’s restaurants. It can be tasted in places that transform plantains into fufu, mofongo and tostones, places where spirited debates and hearty laughter—whether about politics “back home” or the latest football (ahem, soccer) game—can be heard in multiple languages and dialects. The myriad cuisines of the diaspora live here—and you can experience them all without a passport. Check out these restaurants that exemplify the depth of the Black diaspora in NYC through food.
763 St. Nicholas Ave., Harlem, Manhattan
Courtesy, Tsion Cafe
When Ethiopian-born and Israeli-raised Beejhy Barhany first encountered the space that is Tsion Cafe in Harlem, she had no idea it was the former home of Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, where greats like Billie Holiday performed and Malcolm X worked. Now the art-filled space honors this history and serves as Barhany’s homage to her multicultural upbringing, with standout dishes like the doro tibs (chicken simmered with berbere, a fragrant Ethiopian spice blend). To experience the menu’s Middle Eastern influence, venture over to the dessert options. The malawach—layers of flaky, buttery fried bread from Yemen—is drizzled with honey and topped with toasted coconut. And speaking of honey, no visit to Tsion Cafe is complete without Sheba Tej, Ethiopia’s famous honey wine.
163-07 Baisley Blvd., Jamaica, Queens
Born and raised in Jamaica, West Indies, Joan Lewis and Christopher Roberts wanted to create an authentic and elegant experience centering on Jamaican food. With Queens being home to one of the largest Jamaican enclaves in New York City, the team knew there was one chance to get it right—and they did. Shades of soft coral and peach adorn the walls of this popular restaurant, giving it a tropical feel. Try their oxtail, slowly simmered with carrots and butter beans until tender, or their escovitch snapper topped with lightly pickled vegetables made lively with Scotch bonnet peppers. Don’t miss their fresh, homemade juices either—the sorrel (made with hibiscus) can be spiked with Jamaican rum if you prefer.
2592 Frederick Douglass Blvd., Harlem, Manhattan
Chef Russell Jackson, a California native, wanted to open a restaurant in Harlem that spoke to his upbringing and defied expectations of what Black chefs should cook. What emerged was Reverence, an ode to California’s ethos of fresh food and Jackson’s decades of experience cooking in multicultural kitchens. The airy, industrial-style restaurant reveals a cozy 16-seat space with an open plan where you can see Jackson create dishes like quail egg empanadas or escargot with fermented uni-chili crema. The menu is hyper-seasonal and rotates often, so you’re bound to have a different experience with each visit.