6. Little Sri Lanka in Tompkinsville, Staten Island
Home to about 5,000 Sri Lankans and restaurants serving traditional roti, dosas, and Sri Lankan crepes and stews, Little Sri Lanka is a little-known cultural gem that is also perhaps the most popular home for Sri Lankans other than Sri Lanka itself. About a fifteen-minute walk from the Staten Island ferry, Little Sri Lanka lies in the areas of Tompkinsville and Stapleton along Victory Boulevard and Bay Street. Sri Lankans arrived in the United States starting in the 1950s and 1960s. However, why they came to Staten Island is a bit of a mystery. After Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, Sri Lankan families 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.
The Sri Lankan population in the neighborhood has increased rapidly in recent years while keeping connections to their home country. The community has celebrated New Year in Ocean Breeze with traditional Sri Lankan festivities, and in 2014 they collaborated to send aid to Sri Lanka in wake of a tsunami. The Sri Lankan Art and Cultural Museum opened in 2017, featuring Sri Lankan art, Buddha statues, gemstones, and even ceremonial weapons. The four-table eatery New Asha, which opened in 2000 in Tompkinsville, was one of the first Sri Lanka eateries in the United States. The menu features a selection of appetizers like fish roti, curried fish wrapped in a soft flatbread, dhal vadal, a type of deep-fried lentil, and hoppers, bowl-shaped pancakes made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk. Lakruwana, which offers a weekend lunch buffet, includes a menu of devilled chicken, black pork curry, dal, pineapple curry, and crispy pappadam, as well as various desserts like gooseberry mousse and sago pudding. Other notable restaurants include Ceylon Curry, Sagara Restaurant, and Dosa Garden, as well as New York Lanka Grocery.