Lakruwana Restaurant in Little Sri Lanka
About a fifteen minute walk from the Staten Island ferry terminal exists a quaint, unassuming area home to one of the largest Sri Lankan communities outside of Sri Lanka itself. Historically home to a large Irish and Italian population, “Little Sri Lanka,” situated in the areas of Tompkinsville and Stapleton along Victory Boulevard and Bay Street, houses over 5,000 people of Sri Lankan descent. The area has attracted celebrities and food connoisseurs like Anthony Bourdain.
Sri Lankans began to arrive in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, and by 2000 around 700 Sri Lankans called Staten Island home. Yet why they came to Staten Island is a bit of a mystery. After President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which lifted discriminatory policies against non-European immigrants, Sri Lankan families like the Gunaratne family arrived in the late 1960s. The first families were attracted to the island due to its quiet and calm nature as well as its affordability and access to downtown Manhattan. Once the first family arrived, they soon invited their relatives and friends to the island.
Once more Sri Lankan families settled on Staten Island, many Sri Lankan Buddhists decided to open the Staten Island Buddhist Vihara in nearby Port Richmond in 1999. The Buddhist temple offers weekly meditation classes, full moon observances, and a Dhamma School for children. Soon after the temple opened, a handful of Sri Lankan restaurants and groceries surfaced as well, with five restaurants, a grocery, and even an Art and Cultural Museum.
Here is our guide to what to see in Little Sri Lanka!