Open air markets are a common sight in Little Guyana
Welcome back to our Untapped Cities series on NYC’s Micro Neighborhoods, where we delve into long standing ethnic enclaves.
Bordered by Kew Gardens to the north, Woodhaven to the west and Jamaica to its South, Richmond Hill in Queens has long been home to a hodgepodge of European immigrants. More recently, and occasionally making the news, Richmond Hill also houses the largest Sikh population in NYC. However, since the 1970s, many Caribbean Indians have been calling the southern part of the neighborhood home, one of the largest populations being from Guyana.
Fresh fruit with pepper sauce on sale
Along Liberty Avenue, named for being the only toll-free road in the area during a bygone era, you’d be hard-pressed to find a pizza or deli. Dotting the main drag are roti and dooble (a street sandwich consisting of fried bread, curried chick peas and topped with Caribbean spices, cucumber, coconut and a hot pepper sauce) shops interspersed with clothing stores selling fabric and traditional Indian clothing.
Guyana itself is a small South American country of mixed cultural and ethnic heritage, predominantly a mix of Indian and local peoples. This combination of Caribbean and South Asian culture is extremely unique and while many Guyanese immigrants have settled in Bushwick and Canarsie, one of the largest pockets has settled into Richmond Hill.
Local stores offer a variety of traditional Indian clothing
Most easily accessible by the A train, getting to the heart of Little Guyana can be a long but fairly straightforward trip, and well worth it for the culinary-minded. As diverse as its citizens, Little Guyana offers Caribbean twists on traditional Indian cooking. While predominantly Indian, you can find Caribbean, African and Chinese food—and every combination therein—to accommodate any price range. Guyanese restaurants and bakeries are abundant, notably Sybil’s Bakery and Restaurant Shop where you can taste the gambit of traditional Guyanese meals and the Little Guyanese Bake Shop which offers a variety of traditional cakes, breads and sweets.
Inside the Little Guyanese Bake Shop
The neighborhood has various sit-down restaurants and street-fare stalls as well, from Caribbean-Suriname crossover to Trinidadian “bake and shark” (exactly as it sounds; fried shark on a dough bun) to Chinese-infused curry dishes. Near the larger markets, it’s not unusual to find a picnic table selling fresh peppered mangoes and melons.
With active commerce throughout the day and bars offering a variety of spiced rum and live music at night, Little Guyana is strip of bright and flavorful sights and sensations running through Richmond Hill. While larger chains have begun moving onto the main drag, visitors to the neighborhood can still find themselves in the middle of an incredibly unique intersection of cultures.
Read more about Richmond Hill’s Sikh population and watch a session with Indian singer Laddi B. The author can be contacted via Twitter @jimipage26