According to the spreadsheet, Brooklyn has the highest number of Black-owned businesses of all five boroughs, especially in areas like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. Brooklyn was home to one of the first free African American settlements in the country at Weeksville, now part of Crown Heights, named after longshoreman James Weeks. By the 1850s, the area had at least 500 residents, many from the south, and it had one of the first African-American newspapers, the Freedman’s Torchlight. Weeksville served as headquarters of the African Civilization Society, and the area served as a refuge for many African Americans during the 1863 Draft Riots. Brooklyn was a fervent supporter of the Union during the Civil War, erecting the Henry Ward Beecher monument after the war.
Areas like Bedford-Stuyvesant saw immigrants from the American South and the Caribbean around the 1930s, many working at the Brooklyn Naval Yard during World War II. Referred to as “Brooklyn’s Little Harlem,” Bedford-Stuyvesant became a cultural center if Black life in New York City. However, the area also experienced numerous race riots as a result of police brutality and racist sentiments. Gentrification hit many areas of Brooklyn, and neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Cobble Hill saw much of its Black population move away. The area of Crown Heights was also the site of the Crown Heights Riots, in which the car of prominent Hasidic rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson hit two Guyanese children. Today, Brownsville, East New York, and Coney Island have prominent African American communities, and Brooklyn houses at least 100 Black-owned restaurants.
Brownstone Jazz at the Sankofa Aban Bed & Breakfast
Bedford-Stuyvesant has at least 30 Black-owned eateries representing cuisines from Southern to Senegalese to pan-Latin. To start, A&A Bake Doubles and Roti is a small Trinidadian cafe offering its namesake roti with curry and doubles, curry chickpeas with flat bread. Restaurants like Le Paris Dakar and Joloff Restaurant offer Senegalese classics like Yassa Yapp, or grilled meat with onions. For Southern comfort food, Peaches serves up classics like fried catfish and shrimp and grits, while Bed-Stuy Fish Fry offers a mix of soul food and Louisiana fare. Black-owned bars range from the hip Basquiat’s Bottle to the more formal Rustik Tavern, while cafes include The Council Cafe, Cafe on Ralph, and Doctor’s Cave Cafe. Worth mentioning is also Brownstone Jazz, which also offers a great fish fry with live jazz jamming (and a Bed & Breakfast) and Zaca Cafe, a French-American cafe.
Cafe Con Libros
With at least 20 Black-owned restaurants, Crown Heights (where the Untapped New York office is located!) is another of Brooklyn’s epicenters of talented Black chefs. Brooklyn Suya, a Nigerian spot, has build-your-own suya bowls, made using spicy meat skewers. Gloria’s, in two locations, famous for its Caribbean fare that appeared on an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. Cafe Rue Dix offers a selection of French-Senegalese dishes, while Ras Plant Based prepares classic Ethiopian dishes using local ingredients. Caribbean eateries include Ital Kitchen, a vegan place named for the diet of the Rastafari movement, Peppa’s Jerk Chicken, and Island Pops. For more contemporary approaches to Caribbean and Southern cooking, Lakou Cafe offers Haitian-American fusion, while Black Nile offers soul and Cajun innovations like seafood loaded fries and shrimp scampi over grits. Cafe Con Libros is a feminist bookstore and coffee shop.
Prospect Lefferts Garden is home to a number of creative Black-owned eateries like Mangoseed, serving jerk chicken and tropical cocktails. Zanmi, a modern Haitian eatery, offers dishes like chicken with sweet peas and Lobey Fritey, fried plantains with sausage, while & Sons offers over 10 varieties of ham and 15 varieties of cheese.
In Prospect Heights, Cheryl’s Global Soul offers everything from jerk chicken bowls to Tonkatsu to Moroccan vegetable tagine. Nurish and Natural Blend both offer vegan and vegetarian cafe fare, while Mitchell’s Soul Food is a no-frills Southern joint known for fried chicken and peach cobbler.
Clinton Hill also has a number of African and African-American eateries, like Buka, a hip Nigerian restaurant with popular dishes ranging from Igbin, or land snails, with fufu, bitter leaf soup, yam porridge, and Edikaikong, or goat and tripe with spinach and crayfish. Ghenet on the Park Slope/Gowanus border is an Ethiopian eatery known for dishes like doro wat over injera bread. Also popular in the neighborhood is Soco, a Southern fusion restaurant, and Mac Shack.