Inside Lit Bar, started by Noëlle Santos who identifies as an Afro-Latina
With 43.6% of its population identifying as Black or African American, the Bronx has one of the highest Black populations in the country, as well as at least a few dozen Black-owned restaurants. Mostly a rural area until the late 1800s, the Bronx experienced a boom in the early 20th century, hosting the 1918 World’s Fair and becoming one of the world’s manufacturing centers of pianos. However, during Prohibition, the area became known for its gangs and bootleggers, and throughout the Great Depression and World War II, the area experienced “white flight,” leaving the area mainly populated by rather poor African Americans and Puerto Ricans. After the construction of Co-op City, the area saw a rise in minority middle-income families, yet the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway and high-rise housing projects has led the Bronx towards a decline. However, the Bronx’s “Ten-Year Housing Plan” and growth in retail stores, hotels, and medical research has revitalized much of the Bronx.
The South Bronx is home to a number of Black-owned restaurants serving Southern, Caribbean, and West African cuisines. Paying homage to the birth of Hip-Hop, Beatstro offers a blend of Puerto Rican and Southern Comfort food with dishes like pernil with salsa verde and St. Louis pork ribs. Also serving soul food is Sam’s Soul Food Bar and Lounge and Flava’s International Grill, which also offers Jamaican dishes. Restaurants like Balimaya and Papaye serve West African food, Malian and Ghanaian respectively. Other Black-owned eateries in the South Bronx include Bricks & Hops Beer Garden and Margarita’s. In Mott Haven, Lit Bar, which was the Bronx’s only bookstore when it opened in 2019, is still fulfilling book orders.
Although not as many as South and East Bronx, West Bronx contains a handful of Black-owned eateries like Corner Style Jamaican in Concourse. In Fordham is Bate Nabaya Restaurant, named for a region in Guinea, which serves dishes like Garba fish and okra stew. Other eateries include Osei Krom African Restaurant and Accra Restaurant, both serving Ghanaian food, and Bognan, the city’s only Togolese restaurant.
There are at least a dozen Black-owned restaurants in East Bronx, specifically around the areas of Parkchester and Soundview. In Castle Hill are Juices for Life, which serves healthy drinks and Jamaican spot Fish N’ Ting is known for its rotating fish specials, and seafood also features on the menu of Taste So Good (Make You Wanna Smack Your Mama) with options like jerk salmon. Soul food is the star at Cea-Lo Cafe in Soundview, Paula’s Soul Food in Wakefield, and Soul Snacks Cafe in Westchester Square.