The Black-owned restaurants in the Philadelphia region reflect the sheer breadth of local chef and restauranteur talent in the area.
Within Philly’s Black-owned restaurant community, there are chefs who focus on creating memorable meals inspired by family recipes, chefs who use out-of-the-box thinking to create compelling multi-course feasts, restaurateurs who create space for Southern food with a side of live jazz, and a pizza shop that aims to address issues with the criminal justice system.
There are many Black-owned restaurants in the region, and they each specialize in their own cuisine, traditions, and culture, while also showcasing the many flavors of the diaspora.
While this list of Black-owned restaurants is not exhaustive — EatOkra.com has an extensive guide to Black-owned restaurants in Philadelphia — it’s complete with some of Craig LaBan’s favorite Black-owned restaurants from the last few years. Here are his favorites.
A member of my top 10 restaurants of 2021, Chad and Hanna Williams were forced to embrace a tasting menu when they reopened after the pandemic-induced shutdown, and Chad has benefited from the next-level focus of creating tastings that tell a story. As I took opening sips of deep purple chicha morada then nibbled through one spectacular bite after the other — truffled sweetbreads over caramelized plantains, ethereal beet cappelletti, marrow-glossed Wagyu steak, and bay leaf semifreddo over rhubarb and crunchy meringue — the story unfolding here is one of a complete restaurant whose close-knit creative team is humming in synchronicity. With one of the city’s best soundtracks lending the meal an old soul groove, this eight-course feast featured contributions from the entire kitchen. Chad’s love of tangy buttermilk was showcased in the whey-creamed dashi that swirled around halibut dusted with local bay. Tiny empanadas stuffed with crispy pig face were a fabulous collaboration between chef de cuisine Sashia Liriano and pastry chef Amanda Rafalski, with a sorrel dip from line cook (and hot sauce queen) India Rodriguez. Liriano’s BBQ veal cheek, meanwhile, whose smoked pepper-black plum sauce was inspired by FSS’s pandemic barbecue pop-up, was the most memorable of all. Its tender meat came wrapped inside a leaf of grilled chard beside a crispy mille-feuille of shaved yam that, when pressed, fanned out into a silky puree of more yam. I wanted more. I did with every plate. Ultimately, each dish was a perfect chapter in a most-compelling meal.
I love so many of the traditional Caribbean flavors that Abbygale Bloomfield is cooking over at her Instagram-famous Jamaican takeout spot in Southwest Philly, from the city’s most sublime stewed oxtails to superbly tender curried goat. But it’s her signature jerk fried chicken that I truly dream about. The bird is brined overnight with pimento berries and habaneros before it’s deep-fried to a greaseless crust that blushes orange with imported Jamaican spices.
In the height of the pandemic, chef Belaynesh “Bella” Wondimagegnehu and her husband, Demelash Demissie, opened Buna Cafe, a new Ethiopian destination on the 5100 block of Baltimore Avenue. Here, with a good (fully vaxxed) friend on the other side of my injera platter, I devoured a savory spread of bold flavors in the form of mounded stews and fragrant vegetables, one injera-wrapped mouthful at a time. A silky orange puree of misir red lentils shimmered with berbere spice, while tender cubes of beef in the dinich beh siga basked in a gravy enriched with the chef’s secret seasoned butter and tanged with the tea-like herb koseret. Ginger and turmeric radiated from the silky khik alicha puree of split yellow peas that Wondimagegnehu painstakingly sifts to assure it’s flawless, just as she learned at her auntie’s restaurant back home in the lake resort town of Bishoftu (once known as Debre Zeit.)
Camden’s Queen of Soul Food, Corinne Bradley-Powers, has been going strong on Haddon Avenue for three decades. It could be the Cajun-spiced turkey wings, picnic-perfect black-eyed peas, or sweet potato pie that her customers rave about, but for me, it’s the traditional fried chicken that’s the region’s best.
Saba Tedla’s lively restaurant and bar brings a fresh breath of Southern flavors, live jazz, and weekend brunch energy to Cedar Park. Reviewed with two bells in February 2020 and open for takeout (plus outdoor dining soon) during the pandemic, its diverse clientele comes for the blackened catfish, chicken and waffles, seafood mac-’n-cheese, stewed oxtails, and vegan options, proving Booker’s to be a valuable anchor for a West Philly neighborhood grappling with gentrification.
Rick Gray, owner of Rick’s Backyard BBQ in Mizpah, Atlantic County, arrives with a double-pedigree. He’s the nephew of the late Charles “Kingfish” Bryant, who anchored Route 40′s corridor of outdoor barbecue stands for decades beginning in the late 1970s. The sprawling, covered campground-like complex that Gray now occupies was purchased from another Route 40 rib legend, Dewey A. Johnson, a.k.a. Uncle Dewey. “I’m carrying on the legacy for Dewey, my uncle Charlie, and all the barbecue people who haven’t gotten recognized,” says Gray. “But I’m humble with it.” Gray’s seasonings are fairly simple, letting the meats and their slow ride through the long brick smoking pits he inherited from Johnson take center stage. I was particularly impressed with the spareribs, which were tender enough but still required a gentle tug off the bone before getting splashed with Gray’s sweet and zesty sauce, which has the effect of amplifying the meat’s deep smoke.
Philadelphia has a long tradition of fried seafood sandwiches, especially standbys like the Muslim fish hoagie at Sister Muhammad’s Kitchen in Germantown that rank among the city’s most popular sandwiches. But when Joshua Coston decided to leave his career as an Amtrak conductor to open Gilben’s Bakery in East Mount Airy, the chef’s menu of seafood po’ boys on fresh garlic bread became a phenomenon on its own, in particular the unlikely (but fantastic) fried salmon po’boy. Soul Food Sunday platters are also a draw.
Brothers Ben and Robert Bynum have been a prominent force on Philly’s dining and live music scenes since launching their first Zanzibar Blue in 1990. One of their current restaurants has become an important anchor for North Broad Street’s revival, the new Southern flavors and live jazz of upscale South. Another Bynum restaurant, Relish (7152 Ogontz Ave.), is also open for takeout and delivery.
They don’t call Sid Booker Sr. the “Colonel of Shrimp” for nothing. The pink takeout window at Belfield and Broad serves nothing else, and has been a late-night destination for paper boats brimming with deep-fried jumbo shrimp since 1962. These greaseless crustaceans are so sweet and delicately crunchy, they’re best devoured right there, on the dashboard of your car.
This shop in North Philly offers more than good pizza. It was created to provide career opportunities and fair wages for formerly incarcerated people. Check out the Detroit-style pies named in honor of Philly rappers. The shop also offers a vegan pie, as well as wings, fries, and milkshakes.
One of the pioneers of West Philly’s Ethiopian community remains a great bet for injera flatbread platters laden with spicy minced kitfo, doro wat chicken, and vegetarian stews like kir qey wot (yellow lentils) and ye gomen wat collards.
📍 229 S. 45th St., 📞 215-387-2424,
Fried fish and buttery grits are a North Philly morning tradition, and it’s a worthy favorite on the menu of Desiree and Robert Pollard’s fast-growing brunch empire. I visited their fourth Breakfast Boutique, opened in Mount Airy, and the cornmeal-crusted whiting fillets were fantastic. But don’t sleep on the crisp salmon cakes, either, with big chunks of fresh fish bound in a moist dressing that perked even more with vinaigrette on the side.
The flavors of Trinidad are the feature at this West Philly Caribbean standby, which is doing takeout during the pandemic with outstanding roti (try the stewed chicken or vegetarian potatoes and chickpeas) and weekend-only doubles with curried chickpeas.
» READ MORE: Our best Philly tips: Read our most useful stories