For 2024, consider starting the year on a foodie trail by eating at new restaurants that offer tasty craft cocktails, tempting appetizers, impressive entrees, and desserts you’ll savor long after you’ve put your fork down. The cherry on top? A number of these recently developed palate-pleasing establishments are Black owned. From vegan dishes to diverse cultural offerings (Southern, Caribbean, French, and Ethiopian), there’s plenty to choose from and enjoy.
‘Seasoned Vegan Real Quick’
New York, N.Y.
If you’re partying late in New York City, know that the mother-son team of chef Brenda and Aaron Beener are still up serving tasty, nutritious plant-based cuisine at Seasoned Vegan Real Quick. Open until 12 am on weeknights and 3 am during the weekend, the fare is described as “vegan comfort food with Louisiana influences.” The two started their business renting a corner space at Lee Lee’s Bakery in Harlem and went on to open Seasoned Vegan in the same neighborhood, where it stood for nine years. They recently reopened with an East Village eatery that has become a hot spot for day trippers and night owls.
Must-have libation: main root organic sodas
Appetizer: lemon-crusted nuggets
Entrée: BBQ craw sandwich
Dessert: Red velvet cupcake
Vegans and carnivores alike converge in Houston’s South Park for the food at chef Keisha Griggs’ Caribbean-inspired concept, KG’s Kitchen. “Try doubles, a Trinidadian street food that’s turmeric-infused fried bread (called barra). It’s served with curry-scented chickpeas, tamarind sauce, cucumber chow, and culantro (sister to cilantro) chutney. Or go for the African Soul Rice that has roasted corn, okra and black-eyed peas and pairs well with callaloo and curry goat,” said Griggs.
Must-have libation: ginger sorrel tea
Appetizer: 24-hour marinated jerk wings
Entrées: Trinidadian Chinese chicken lo-mein
Dessert: rum cake with seasonal fruit
Smith & Webster
Opening a restaurant in North Miami is a dream come true for culinary business developer Starex Smith and former Denver Broncos pro footballer Kayvon Webster. The latter had a food truck, and Smith assisted him in fine-tuning the cuisine for it at the time. With chef Gerald Harvey aboard, they‘ve collaborated again, establishing a popular eatery with a 90% scratch kitchen focusing on quality ingredients and superior hospitality. “We want our guests to feel as if their party is the only party in the restaurant,” Smith said. As patrons indulge in delectable international and African American dishes (oxtail lasagna anyone?), they’ll feel that gracious, welcoming ambiance.
Must-have libation: Blacker the Berry (made with Remy VSPO cognac)
Appetizer: 12-hour brined wings
Entrées: 16 oz. Hawaiian ribeye
Dessert: Red velvet cake
‘The Empanada Lady’
Restauranteur Elisa Milan pulls from her African American/Puerto Rican bi-cultural heritage for inspiration when it comes to the fare at The Empanada Lady. “My business is based on my grandmother’s recipes,” she said. “It’s a successful business that started with a bet. I made vegan, seafood, pork and beef empanadas for work potluck dishes, and everyone loved them. A co-worker bet I wouldn’t make any money if I were to vend at an art gallery event. It was just a joke, he loves them, but it motivated me. Sold out in no time!” The rest is her story. Expect Afro Latin fusion cuisine, flavored by Puerto Rican seasonings (sazon to sofrito) and interpreted by executive chef Ericka Loyal. Buen apetito!
Must-have libation: Ramona’s coquito
Appetizer: Afro street corn
Entrées: Nada bowl (shrimp and chicken with jalapenos and corn salsa)
Dessert: Bread pudding
Found in Cascade Heights, the historic neighborhood of late baseball legend Hank Aaron, legendary chef Deborah Van Trece‘s Orthea’s is the place to be. “Oreatha’s is named after my mom and presents recipes influenced by my global gastronomic experiences,” said Van Trece. The owner and creative director’s international zest is manifested in the meals chef Christian ‘Lucke’ Bell serves. Dishes like Tod Mun Pla Thai seasoned catfish come with tamarind hot sauce, coconut grits, and curry coleslaw. Bell’s love for creating one-of-a-kind meals comes from his family. “My mother hosted card parties and did all the cooking. I remember the joy people felt,” he said.
Must-have libation: When Harry Met Helen (smoked maple syrup old fashioned)
Appetizer: Sapporo tempura shrimp
Entrées: Thai seasoned catfish or duck ravioli
Dessert: Blood orange key lime pie
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Providence helped chef Helen Abraha and co-owner Martha Abraha as the sisters opened Ebony with no restaurant industry experience. What’s set them apart is being a restaurant that only serves takeout. That said, offerings are plentiful. “Our traditions and food culture focus on sharing meals from a big plate.”
Though takeout is their thing, an outdoor seating area allows guests to feast on their food under the California sun. The entirely organic, vegan, and gluten-free Ethiopian cuisine is their passion. Spicy misir wot (spicy lentil sauce) is served with house-made injera (sour flatbread made from teff flour) and is a popular dish Helen learned from her mother (which she learned well).
Must-have libation: classic Ethiopian hot tea
Appetizer: Azifa and dirkosh (cooked brown lentil salad)
Entrées: Spicy misir wot with your choice of two sauces
Owner of Home, Genesis the Greykid, found his own path into the restaurant world. “I’m a fine artist, a poet. My art is acute to the human experience. I feel it’s the same with food and restaurants,” he said. “If the food is full of love, you should be able to taste the poetry, the art, the travels, and experiences.” His approach to running Home is as amiable as his art. The tastes he has created offer an elevated Southern experience with a twist inspired by food crafted by the hands of loved ones. “We’re taking a page from all our mothers, grannies, fathers, and grandaddies’ playbooks,” he said. Chef Malik Tobias brings that idea to life.
Libation: Tokyo Sling espresso martini
Appetizer: Akumal corn ribs and riceless Philly roll
Entrées: Tanis shrimp and grits
Dessert: chocolate ganache
Chef Gregory Collier and co-owner Subrina Collier went on quite the journey to bring their restaurant to life. It started as the Yolk in 2012 in Rock Hill, South Carolina before relocating and becoming a quick service counter concept in 2019. Once the pandemic began, they stayed open the whole year of 2020 before beginning plans to open a full-service restaurant in 2021. The result of that work is Uptown Yolk in Charlotte. It initially was a brunch-focused restaurant that has since evolved into one that offers dinner, too. Their Memphis, Tenn. background is found everywhere, from the BBQ to the Memphis/Milano décor.
Libation: soul fashion, featuring Uncle Nearest Rye
Appetizer: Tennessee fries
Dessert: Sweet potato waffle
Zemi East Coast Cafe
“I always loved food and beverage and wanted to open a restaurant. I did it at 53 years old,” said the owner of Zemi East Coast Cafe, Gayle Talma. Now she and co-owner Kenny Hewitt are community leaders who purchase from small farmers to create the fare found at the spot.
Guests adore the fresh seafood (seacat, barracuda, mahi mahi, tuna), local fruits, rum sours, and the scenery. Hewitt owns a fish company, Talma worked in the hotel industry, and the restaurant is the result of their backgrounds. Aside from the food and the ambiance, Zemi is found on a hillside with ocean vistas so captivating you’ll never want to leave Barbados.
Libation: Tamarind rum sour
Appetizer: local char-grilled octopus
Entrées: Bajan flying fish cutter
Dessert: bread and butter pudding