3. Little Yemen/Little Palestine in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
In Bay Ridge, the scent of cinnamon and cardamom wafts out into the streets, which are lined with Yemeni and Palestinian restaurants and shops selling traditional clothing and manufactured goods. The neighborhood is home to a rapidly growing community of Arab residents who have nicknamed the neighborhood “Little Palestine” and “Little Yemen.” Some residents are descendants of Syrian migrants who fled the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s, though most immigrants from the Middle East started coming in the 1960s and ’70s, followed by thousands over the past few years escaping conflict and unrest. Prior to the 1970s, the community was heavily populated by Italians, Greeks, and Norwegians. Along 5th Avenue, the main stretch of the Arab community, one block contains plenty of signs in Arabic, though the next is filled with bars and Italian restaurants.
Al-Aqsa Bakery & Restaurant is a popular Palestinian spot, located beneath the second-floor Beit Jeddo Cafe, a hookah lounge. Locals also frequent the nearby El-Zahra Halal Meat & Restaurant for fresh poultry and lamb. Perhaps the most famous spot in the neighborhood is Yemen Cafe, with has a second location in Cobble Hill, serving up dishes like salta and kabsa with plenty of chicken and lamb options. Nablus Sweets, named after the city in the West Bank, offers desserts like balloria, a sweet similar to baklava with pistachios or cashews, rose water, and syrup, as well as date-filled cookies. Other options include Alsalam Restaurant, Al-Sada Yemeni Restaurant, and Halal takeout spot China Pagoda. Interspersed between these restaurants are clothing stores, kitchen appliance shops, and cultural centers, including the Yemeni American Merchants Association and the Arab American Association of New York.