5 of Brooklyn’s Best Black-Owned Restaurants

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New York City’s first-ever Black-Owned Restaurant Month kicks off in September. From the veggie burger geniuses at Sweet Science to the cocktail mavens at Therapy Wine Bar, some of our favorite local eateries are participating in this prix-fixe menu event. 

“Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, it was instilled in me to support black-owned businesses,” BORM curator Genese Jamilah, Ebony staffer and founder of events blog I Don’t Do Clubs, says. When she moved to New York City eight years ago, she sought out black doctors and dentists, but had more trouble finding black-owned businesses than she did in the South. This spring, Jamilah decided to create a network of support by making lists of black-owned businesses in New York City, Washington DC, and Atlanta, and posting them on I Don’t Do Clubs. After these lists went viral, she took it a step further and started Black-Owned Restaurant Month.

“Black Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population and will have a buying power of $1.4 trillion by 2019,” Jamilah points out, “but how much of that money flows back into our communities?” As rents in New York City rise (and rise, and rise), long-standing businesses struggle to stay afloat. Historically, gentrification has disproportionately displaced minority communities, and with them, minority-owned businesses. BORM is one of many relatively new resources designed to foster support for businesses owned by African Americans, including the online directory Support Black Owned and apps like Around the Way, which locates nearby black-owned businesses. BORM is designed to celebrate some excellent restaurants that New York City Restaurant Week might’ve missed, and also to foster support for businesses in communities facing gentrification.

BORM lasts from September 9th to 30th, with 13 restaurants in Brooklyn and Harlem offering custom $35 three-course prix-fixe menus from Monday to Wednesday each week. Here, participating Brooklyn restaurant owners tell their stories and offer sneak peeks of their prix-fixe menus.


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SWEET SCIENCE
Designed by James Beard Award-nominated Matthew Maddy, Bushwick’s Sweet Science was named for a picture of a boxer that founder James Alexander Freeman inherited while “fighting” to open the restaurant (boxing is nicknamed the “sweet science”). Since 2013, “We’ve been doing American comfort and soul food with a twist,” Freeman, who grew up in the Bronx and St. Croix, says. “Lately, everybody’s doing steak and eggs, but we switched the name–we call it a Biggie Breakfast. T-bone steak, hanger steak, cheese eggs, and a Welch’s grape juice champagne mimosa.” They also make one of the best veggie burgers in Brooklyn. Featherweight, a speakeasy, hides behind the main dining space, which doubles as a gallery for local artists.

Why is Black-Owned Restaurant Month important for Sweet Science, and why is it important for Brooklyn?
James Freeman: It’s hard to be a small business owner, so when you have something like this happen, it’s basically like getting a spiritual hug from all your peers. A slow day can be a really rough day in this business, but a slow day isn’t as hard when you have fellow brothers and sisters come in and put some money on the bar and say “I love this place, don’t go anywhere.” That makes slow days easier. I’m looking forward to a lot of new faces and a lot of new criticism. It’s going to help me make the place better.

BORM menu highlights: Sweet Science wings (with South Carolina tangy, buffalo, honey BBQ or spicy pineapple sauces), lobster mac and cheese, vanilla pana cotta with mixed berry sauce
135 Graham Avenue, Bushwick


Amarachi's Bridge Plaza Community Garden (via Amarachi)

AMARACHI
“Amarachi” means “God’s Grace” in Nigeria’s Igbo language, and it was also the name of Nigerian-American co-founder Joseph Adewumi’s mother. The lounge-y restaurant was opened in 2014 by Adewumi and his wife, Maxine, who have both been in and out of Brooklyn since childhood. Amarachi offers “an African diasporic experience” at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, in Vinegar Hill, with classic Nigerian, West Indian, Trinidadian, and American dishes all on one menu.

Why is Black-Owned Restaurant Month important to you, and why is it important for Brooklyn?
We are honored to participate in BORM, because it showcases some of the foods on the tables of so many underrepresented Brooklyn families. Gentrification is erasing the footprints of black-owned businesses in Brooklyn, and we feel we’ve fought back against the tidal wave.

BORM menu highlights: Prime suya chicken tenders, pan-seared wild Chilean salmon with garlic cream sauce
189 Bridge Street, Downtown Brooklyn



ELBERTA RESTAURANT AND BAR
Named for the Elberta peach, which was first shipped from Georgia to New York in the 1800s, Prospect Heights’ Elberta serves a mix of Southern and New American fare. It opened its doors in the summer of 2012 by Erwin Caesar, who was born in Guyana and immigrated to Brooklyn with his family at age nine, and Erica Phillips, born in Flatbush to two immigrant parents from the Carribean islands of St. Vincent and Barbados.

How has Prospect Heights changed since you opened Elberta?
Erwin Caesar and Erica Phillips: The neighborhood is different and the same all at the same time. It’s still a family-oriented neighborhood. There are lots of young transplants, but still many families who have been rooted here for generations. Barclays has revitalized the Downtown Brooklyn area, bringing new interest to the neighborhood, but when there isn’t an event going on there, you almost forget that it exists.

Why is Black-Owned Restaurant Month important to you, and why is it important for Brooklyn?
As two owners with no previous formal experience in the industry, it’s a wonderful opportunity to introduce prospective new clientele to our gem. One key aspect to the growth of a business is its ability to successfully harness its networks. In a highly competitive industry where, 10 years ago, franchises would have never thought about populating Flatbush Avenue, there are now places like Starbucks and Shake Shacks that threaten the survival of small business owners. This is especially true for minority-owned businesses that may be functioning on limited financial backing and resources to begin with. For every new storefront that takes on a new face in this neighborhood, there is an old face that closes. There is still much work to be done.

BORM menu highlights: Deviled eggs with pimento cheese, mascarpone, and crispy shallots; lamb chops with harissa, chickpea, and pickle red onion
335 Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Heights


Rustik Tavern

RUSTIK TAVERN

Run by Brooklyn native Frantz Metellus, Rustik is a Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy neighborhood tavern serving up classic American fare with hints of French cuisine. “Our customer base is very diverse: all ages and races, freelancers, blue collar workers, professionals, families and teachers,” Metellus says. “Just like many areas of Brooklyn, the neighborhood is becoming more gentrified everyday. It’s changed drastically since I came here a little over 10 years ago.  It’s becoming more diverse, which I think is a good thing.”

Why is Black-Owned Restaurant Month important to you, and why is it important for Brooklyn?
Frantz Metellus: Black-Owned Restaurant Month gives me as an entrepreneur the opportunity to reach out to more potential customers. It’s important for Brooklyn because it gives the community an opportunity to familiarize themselves with black-owned establishments that are doing wonderful things.

BORM menu highlights: Ratatouille, salmon with lentils and mustard-herbed butter, banana foster beignet
471 Dekalb Avenue, Clinton Hill


THERAPY WINE BAR 

Founded in 2009 by Angela Terry and Anthony Williams, Bed-Stuy’s first wine bar is best known for its spacious back deck, excellent sliders, coffee pinotage and red wine martini, plus charcuterie and cheese from Stinky Brooklyn.

BORM menu highlights: Spicy mango kale, whiskey BBQ pulled pork sliders, Brooklyn style cheesecake
364 Lewis Avenue, Bed-Stuy


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Read more on Black-Owned Restaurant Month over at I Don’t Do Clubs

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I love I Don’t Do Clubs! It’s such an amazing resource for me (a foodies who wants to give her foodie dollars to Black folk). Unfortunately, the Around the Way app isn’t functional anymore. Even their website is down. Hopefully they’ll come back & get app up & running again!

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