How To Eat Your Way Through Black Owned- Harlem
Photo Credit: Alex Haney

Photo Credit: Alex Haney

How To Eat Your Way Through Black Owned- Harlem

black owned business , Cuisine , nyc
Spencer Jones
Spencer Jones Dec 31, 2021

If you’re looking for some good, Black-owned restaurants the next time you’re in New York, you’ll find plenty of them in Harlem. Even with the challenging reality of gentrification and a pandemic, Black businesses of all kinds have managed to weather the storm, so try to support them however you can.

Be sure to check out their websites in advance for their hours, which sometimes change. Also, prepare to show proof of vaccination on arrival, which is required at many New York restaurants and bars for the safety of patrons and staff.

Whether you’re in town for an extended period or just a few days, here are seven Black-owned restaurants and bars for a great dining and drinking experience.

1. Home Sweet Harlem

Home Sweet Harlem, founded by Donna Lewis, has mostly Southern-inspired cuisine and offers bottomless brunch on weekends and holidays.

From fish and grits to salmon cakes, the food is delicious and affordable. There are also burgers, some named for famous Black figures, like the Jackie Robinson burger.

The restaurant can be booked for private events and catering is available.


2. Cafe Tsion


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If you’ve never tried Ethiopian food before, you’ll be in for a treat at Cafe Tsion, located on St. Nicholas Avenue.

The owner, Beejhy Barhany, was born in Ethiopia, raised in Israel, and combined her familiarity with both cultures to create her menu.


We’ve highlighted this restaurant before in our feature on vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants. There are dishes for meat and fish eaters as well.

Sit on the back terrace when the weather permits, enjoy a glass of wine at the bar, and check out the live music schedule.



3. Melba's Restaurant

Founded by Harlem native Melba Wilson, this restaurant is on Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

It offers an eclectic menu, from calamari to short ribs, not to be outdone by the Sexy Sangria, Lust in Paradise and other such cocktails.

Of course, you’ve heard of chicken and waffles, but have you tried Melba’s chicken and eggnog waffles? Whew. Divine.



4. Harlem Hops


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More of a craft beer joint than a restaurant, Harlem Hops on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard is happily Black from the ownership to the music.

In addition to the beers on rotation, enjoy spicy crab pies, jerk chicken sausage, large, soft pretzels and more. Just be aware that these are bar snacks— you might need to order a few to feel like you’ve had a meal.

There’s a patio here as well, with large barrels functioning as tables. The music is fire; expect plenty of hip hop, R n B and Caribbean rhythms.




5. Red Rooster


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Founded by Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster is on Lenox Avenue.

It got its name from the old speakeasy of the same name, which attracted Black luminaries like James Baldwin and Nat King Cole. If you want to experience that classic feel for yourself, head downstairs to Ginny’s Supper Club.

Dive into the Lenox Smash Burger, the Sweet Potato Coconut Soup, and the Steak Frites.

There are also options for non-meat eaters, like the Impossible “chicken” nuggets. Most of the time the taste is so on point you don’t realize the difference.

6. Sylvia's

Sylvia’s has been a New York leader in soul food for sixty years and counting, and is located on Malcolm X Boulevard.

The founder, Sylvia Woods, was an institution onto herself. She died in 2012, but the business has been kept going by her family.

The expected is all here: fried chicken, fried fish, crab cake, cornbread and ribs with all the trimmings.

Sylvia’s has drawn some prominent Black patrons over the years, including Barack Obama and Al Sharpton.

Whether dining indoors or ordering for pickup or delivery, have an appetite. You’ll need it.






7. Make My Cake


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Do you have a special occasion coming up or are you craving something sweet after dinner?

If you have space after eating at the above restaurants, head over to one of the two Make My Cake locations.

One is on St. Nicholas Avenue and the other is on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. You can also make orders online.

The cakes are gorgeous, from the Lemon Butter Cake to the Red Velvet, and the same can be said of the cupcakes. There are pies and cookies on offer, too.

Make My Cake is run by the family of Josephine “Ma” Smith, who infused her Southern baking skills into her creations.


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