Out in Richmond Hill and Ozone Park is the bustling neighborhood of Little Guyana, not far from John F. Kennedy International Airport. Located by the easternmost terminus of the A train, Little Guyana is centered along Liberty Avenue, extending for about 30 blocks. There are approximately 140,000 Guyanese residents in New York City, most of which live in either Richmond Hill or Canarsie and Flatbush in Brooklyn. This makes the Guyanese-American community the second-largest foreign-born group of immigrants in Queens.
Many residents of Little Guyana are of East Indian and African descent. Shirley Chisholm‘s father was one of the first Guyanese immigrants to the U.S. During the 1970s and 1980s, there was a large wave of Guyanese immigrants, many of whom were Hindu. Over time, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park also attracted Trinidadians, Chinese, and Indians, leading to a fusion of the Caribbean with Asia.
Little Guyana is filled with roti shops, Chinese-Guyanese restaurants, Trinidadian bakeries, cultural shops, and clothing stores, some of which specialize in saris. There are over two dozen restaurants serving up classic West Indian fare, many at very affordable prices. The area becomes quieter when leaving Liberty Avenue toward residential streets, feeling less and less like New York City. But Liberty Avenue at times feels as busy as Times Square, with restaurant after shop after street vendor trying to get passersby’s attention.
Starting on the western boundary of Little Guyana is S&A, located about 10 blocks west from the next closest Guyanese spot, known for dishes like aloo pie and pumpkin talkari. A little further east, Trini Delite Roti Shop is a popular destination for doubles, a Trinidad and Tobago street food consisting of fluffy bread called bara filled with curry channa (chickpeas). Rising Tide Restaurant has been open for over 20 years, while GT Rice Bowl opened in September 2020, serving coconut choka.
A few blocks down, after passing by a handful of Guyanese clothing stores and offices, is Little Guyana Bake Shop, which doubles as a small grocery with specialty West Indian products. On Liberty and 118th Street are three West Indian markets with plenty of fruits and vegetables displayed outside. Moving east on that block are a few restaurants: Tropical Jade 3 Roti Express, Tropical Isle, and Sonny’s Roti Shop, the last of which offers some Guyanese-Chinese fusion dishes.
The hustle and bustle of the neighborhood picks up significantly east of Lefferts Boulevard by the terminus of the A train. Lefferts has its fair share of West Indian destinations, including highly-rated TrinCiti Roti Shop about a 10-minute walk from the center of the community. Moving further east on Liberty, locals shop at a handful of discount stores and cultural shops including Sonia Fashion Wear or Ara’s Boutique, some stopping by D’Savannah Roti Shop, New Thriving, or Guyanese spot Kaieteur Express. The next block east includes at least five clothing and jewelry stores selling salwar cloth, saris, and lehenga. Tropical Jade 2 sits across the street from Good Hope Restaurant, with a large selection of Guyanese-Chinese dishes.
Further east, many shops boast vibrant colors, including Anjees Bridal, West Indian Farm Market, and Namaste Retail & Wholesale. Shops like Spice World and Singh Farm offer hard-to-find West Indian foods, while the other location of Little Guyana Bake Shop offers tennis rolls (sweet bread rolls typically eaten for breakfast) and black eye cakes (sweet pastries made with black eyed peas). At 125th St. is Anil’s Roti Shop, a rather modern small West Indian restaurant, located by a number of medical offices and furniture stores.
The West Indian community blends with a small Arab population in Richmond Hill, which frequents spots like Darbar’s Chicken and Ribs and Mohamad Ally Halal Meat & Grocery. Some Caribbean businesses, such as Carifesta nearby, are strictly Halal.
On the next block east is Bakewell Bakery & Restaurant, a popular takeout spot with a selection of West Indian products like Paula’s channa, which is sold in a bottle-shaped container. The spot serves up dishes like dhal puri, pepper pot, chowmein, and pine tarts. The next few blocks are predominantly medical facilities, auto shops, religious centers, and fashion stores, as well as Shivram’s Bakery serving up Guyanese-style breads. Liberty Restaurant and Beni’s are both popular for Guyanese-Chinese fusion, while Liberty Palace Banquet Hall hosts many large events within the community.
At 131st St. is the long-time Guyanese-Chinese eatery Pearl Restaurant, located across the street from a medicine and physical therapy complex. One of the neighborhood’s most popular restaurants is Singh’s Roti Shop & Bar, a cheap spot serving everything from chicken curry or oxtail roti to Trinidadian desserts to black pudding and fried shrimp wontons. Guyana’s Brown Betty Restaurant down the street is a popular spot, and across the street is Veggie Castle, one of the only vegan Caribbean spots in the neighborhood with jerk “chick’n” and Rastafarian-inspired dishes.
Perhaps the most famous of all Richmond Hill eateries is Sybil’s down the street. The Guyanese spot, which has been open for over four decades, usually has a line out the door and features dishes like fish roti, butter flaps, currant rolls, chicken patties, and curry goat.
Though Liberty continues after this point, the demographics shift and the West Indian businesses abruptly stop at around 133 St. Still, the main stretch of the community extends about 20 blocks, featuring dozens of restaurants, specialty food stores, clothing stores, and everything in between.
Next, check out What To See at the End of the A Train!