Jessie Byron is flanked by her sons, Parnell "Pops" Gervais, left,...

Jessie Byron is flanked by her sons, Parnell "Pops" Gervais, left, and Wagner "Poosh" Gervais, and Parnell's son, Preston Gervais, at Pops & Poosh in Baldwin. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Long Island is full of minority-owned businesses, especially in the restaurant category. During Black History Month and beyond, we celebrate the many Black-owned restaurants across Long Island.

Five years ago, Colleen Vincent and Clay Williams launched Black Food Folks, a resource amplifying the messages of Black culinary creators, locally and across the nation. “Black food has often been translated as soul food or Caribbean food,” Williams explained. “But because of the way that conversations around representation have started to happen, we’re now able to have a more nuanced discussion about what Black cuisine is.”

To use a comparison to Italian food — these days, we know the difference between Sicilian food and Roman food, northern Italian and southern Italian styles. “Similarly, people want to share those same kinds of distinctions around Black food. It’s not a monolith and people are not doing one sort of thing,” he says.

Like the chefs behind the many Black-owned spots below, they express themselves in different ways: from casual to formal, to those deeply rooted in history versus those offering modern, playful interpretations of classic dishes. Some restaurants cater to specific cuisines, like Jamaican or Haitian, and while some excel at breakfast, still others turn into nightclubs after dark. Some are participating in the second annual Black Restaurant Week Feb. 19-25.

It’s impossible to highlight all of the Island’s Black-owned restaurants and food sources in one list, so here’s both a start and a sampling of some of our favorites.

Bobby Q’s … Jus Like Mama’s

365 West Sunrise Hwy., Freeport

The fried whiting, says Bobby Ford, is indeed just like mama’s. These crisp, golden shards of briny goodness are a highlight of the menu at his Freeport restaurant, Bobby Q’s … Jus Like Mama’s, and, like Elizabeth “Betty” Ford, his South Carolina-born mother before him, he coats the fillets in corn flour and fries them to a delicate golden brown. The whiting is one of many seafood entrees (along with swai, salmon, porgy, shrimp, lobster and more) but Bobby Q’s also crams a lot of soul food onto its menu. You’ll find the classics, all expertly rendered here: fried, and jerk chicken; smothered pork chops; shrimp po-boys, mac-and-cheese made with nine (!) cheeses: collard greens, candied yams, fried okra and sauteed cabbage. Ford’s first eatery was a barbecue spot on Freeport’s Main Street and his ribs, chicken and burnt ends have made the journey to the larger venue. Ford has taken a circuitous route to the hospitality industry. He's been a museum security guard and art handler at the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan, a beat cop and then a detective at the NYPD and then a position at the Freeport Police Department. Despite the challenges, he conceded that running a restaurant doesn’t require quite as much patience as being an officer of the law. Police officers “broker in the business of misery,” he explained. “You see people at their worst. But when you are serving them soul food … it’s an ‘ice cream’ moment.” More info: 516-460-8056, bbqeastofharlem.com

Stop 'n Nyamm

921 Montauk Hwy., Shirley

Chef Kwame McNeil blends his Jamaican culinary roots with decades of experience in corporate and fine-dining kitchens, stocking the steam tables at this casual Shirley eatery with dishes of distinction. Stop ’n Nyamm (Nyam = “eat with relish” in Jamaican patois) is owned by Carlton and Annet Williams, who supplements the Jamaican food and imported groceries with her own fresh-squeezed juices. McNeil excels with curry chicken and goat (which has a bit more of a kick), brown-stew chicken and oxtail, both of which have a dark-mahogany hue bestowed by imported molasses and, somehow, tasting even darker and richer than they look. The menu is rounded out by a hauntingly spiced jerk chicken (smoked daily out back), escabeche fish, Jamaican patties (beef, chicken and vegetable), soups (chicken, fish, beef, goat head and red pea) and a range of West Indian breakfast specialties such as salt fish with ackee (a native fruit) or callaloo (a leafy green), and porridges made with corn hominy, peanuts or oatmeal. More info: 631-772-1544.

Kwame McNeil is the chef at Stop 'n Nyamm, a...

Kwame McNeil is the chef at Stop 'n Nyamm, a Jamaican eatery in Shirley. Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus

Prime 39

39 Atlantic Ave., Lynbrook
Bryant Postell and his partners opened this intimate restaurant-meets-lounge, where diners can partake in steaks and seafood through the dinner hours before the space evolves into a nightclub vibe with a midnight happy hour. The six prime, 28-day-dry-aged steaks — filet, New York strip, flat iron Wagyu, rib-eye, T-bone, and long-bone cowboy — are by far the most expensive mains offered, with a lobster tail add-on available. Sundays offers prix-fixe menus starting at brunch, while a nightly dinner menu includes dishes ranging from lollipop lamb chops to sweet potato deviled eggs and lobster mac-and-cheese. More info: 516-837-3939, prime39.com

Village BBQ

2224 Jerusalem Ave., North Merrick
Village BBQ in North Merrick may be a sliver of an eatery but, for Randy Brown, it’s the Big Time. This is the third location he’s occupied in three years — but it’s the first one that isn’t inside a gas station. The tiny, one-man show is quite a departure from his former career as a health care executive. When he retired in 2020, he decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant. “I didn’t know what kind,” he recalled, “but I had begun to lean into barbecue, like a lot of guys.” Brown’s menu ranges all over the barbecue and soul-food repertoires: Jigglingly tender brisket, beef plate ribs, St. Louis pork ribs, rib tips, chopped BBQ (pork shoulder), chicken (barbecued and jerk) and turkey wings. Brown also roasts pernil (Latin American pork shoulder), bakes chicken, and fries chicken, shrimp and whiting. And he makes Philly-style cheese steaks. Give him a day’s notice if you’d like braised oxtails. More info: 516-727-2060

A serving of brisket at Village BBQ in North Merrick.

A serving of brisket at Village BBQ in North Merrick. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus


Lola’s Southern Cuisine

2717a Route 112, Medford

High school sweethearts Tiffany and Darrell Darwood cook fried chicken, pulled pork, mac-and-cheese and other Southern-style dishes at their Medford restaurant, a savory counterpart to the bakery the couple own in Brooklyn, Doc’s Cake Shop. The fried chicken is served by the piece or bucket, or over red-velvet waffles dusted with powdered sugar. Among the other meats and seafood are pork and beef ribs, pulled pork, barbecued chicken, fried whiting, fried catfish and salmon in a sweet-chili glaze. The hot bar is filled with traditional soul food sides: Candied yams, potato salad, string beans, mac-and-cheese, corn, mashed potatoes, cabbage, black-eyed peas and cornbread, as well as collard greens dotted with smoked turkey (there is also a vegetarian version). More info: 631-730-8526, lolasscuisine.com

NuVo Kitchen, East Meadow

2367 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow

The handsome, chill exterior of Marc Celestin’s fusion charmer calls to mind a nightclub with a serious rope line, although inside you’ll find a menu and hardworking staff that find ways to please almost everyone, especially during busy weekend brunches where standouts include jerk chicken and waffles, meaty lobster mac-and-cheese, and Dominican mangú — mashed plantains — with eggs and choice of proteins. There are also tempting-at-any-hour cocktails, each beautiful and potent, from the sunrise palette of rum punch, to a classy citrus, spiced rum and Cointreau concoction called Cable Car, to a pina colada-esque gin number served in a Leaning Tower of Pisa glass. More info: 516-493-4717, nkrestaurant.com

Mama Philo's African Cuisine

237-05 Linden Blvd., Elmont

For owners Philomena and Femi Alabi, having a restaurant was a natural extension of their ministry, the Farmingdale-based Bethel of Praise. “As a pastor,” Philomena said, “you are serving people, accommodating people, providing a place for the community — it’s the same here.” That openheartedness imbues every morsel at Mama Philo’s, Long Island’s only Nigerian restaurant. According to Femi, two dishes on the menu vie for “most popular.” Jollof rice, cooked in a flavorful, tomato-stained broth that gets its heat from Scotch bonnet peppers, is served with a choice of braised meat or fried fish. Egusi is a hearty soup-stew, thickened with the ground melon seeds that give it its name. It is traditionally served with a ball of pounded yam, the flesh of an African tuber that has been peeled, chopped, boiled and mashed until it becomes a smooth white paste. Instead of a spoon, you use knobs of pounded yam to scoop up the egusi and convey it to your mouth. More info: 516-400-9743, mamaphilo.com

Femi and Philomena Alabi at Mama Philo’s African Cuisine in...

Femi and Philomena Alabi at Mama Philo’s African Cuisine in Elmont. Credit: Raychel Brightman

Uncle Don's Kitchen

1B W. Village Green, Hicksville

Patrick Walters first dreamed of having his own place as a 19-year-old kid in Kingston, Jamaica. His Hicksville takeout cafe is a family affair, with his three children working alongside him to keep up with demand for his stupendous jerk chicken — fresh from the pit, fragrant of smoke and allspice — along with oxtails long-braised in great caldrons until the meat goes soft and broth becomes gravy becomes elixir. Don't overlook the several varieties of Jamaican beef patties, their fillings both mild and spicy, all enveloped in a buttery crust. More info: 516-226-3808, uncledonskitchen.com

Bayview Kitchen

393 Bayview Ave., Amityville

By day, the cozy 48-seat dining room of chefs Antoine Reid and Asim Henry is flooded with sunlight. Nighttime brings a party atmosphere, where Rastaritas (cranberry-flavored margaritas, a house specialty) flow. Touting breakfast all day, classics like waffles and grits are served with a variety of toppings from shrimp to salmon to whiting. Omelets, pancakes, wraps and sandwiches round out the menu. Bayview Kitchen offers more pleasures for the curious diner, like a plate of nachos that substitutes plantains for tortilla chips, and small pods of whole okra fried in cornmeal. More info: 631-608-4785, bayviewkitchenli.com

Sunflower Cafe & Bakery

825 Montauk Highway, Bayport

After the 46-year-old French restaurant Le Soir closed in November, new owner Stacé Hansen re-imagined the spot as a chef-driven cafe. At Sunflower, she's keeping some of the staples of the Le Soir menu like the duck l'orange, but with her own twist. The space is casual and airy during lunch, when Hansen and her daughter Kathrine serve a fabulous French onion soup and one of the largest Nicoise salads ($23.92) you'll ever see, packed with tuna and freshly roasted beets. Sunflower also makes its own pastries and desserts, and on a recent visit was offering housemade lavender ice cream. More info: 631-472-9090, sunflowercafebakery.com

Good Bickle

617 Montauk Hwy., Center Moriches

Yakeev Chance and his brothers Yannick and Lester Ellis are the proprietors of this jerk powerhouse, where exceptionally tender, flavorful meats typically spend a day or two sitting in jerk marinade. But it’s the period spent smoking in the wood chip-fed barrel grill — roughly three hours — that will make a believer of you. There’s also curry goat and chicken, stew chicken, braised oxtails and, for vegetarians, Rasta Pasta (with bell peppers and cheese), rice and pigeon peas, and macaroni and cheese. More info: 631-909-3720, goodbicklerestaurant.com

Coco's Cuisine

391 Peninsula Blvd., Hempstead

With silken shreds of beef that flow into the macaroni, this oxtail mac-and-cheese is worth the trip alone. At her new takeout joint, Jamaica native Collette Daley blends Caribbean dishes from her mom with soul food staples she learned in the United States, like a burger topped with jerk sauce, brown stew chicken with rice and peas, or freshly fried shrimp on a waffle. She also prepares her own fresh juices, like a crimson-colored sorrel juice made from hibiscus and a generous hit of ginger ($4.25). Her partner Mark Davis makes the dessert; a red velvet Hennessy cheesecake is just as beautiful (and decadent) as it seems. More info: 516-636-5755, cocoscuisines.com

Oxtail mac-and-cheese is the main event at Coco's Cuisine in...

Oxtail mac-and-cheese is the main event at Coco's Cuisine in Hempstead. Credit: Newsday/Andi Berlin

Pretty Toni’s Cafe

759 W Merrick Rd., Valley Stream

Chef-owner Toni Clifton serves a healthier version of soul food with no pork products and limits on fat and sugar. That said, there's plenty of comfort to be had from specialties such as fried whole whiting served with eggs, grits and home fries; a French toast croissant topped with whipped cream and berries; and sides of turkey bacon and sausage. Saturday is waffle day, with choices such as blueberry, chocolate chip and banana, and the Soul Brunch (named for the recorded soul, jazz and R&B piped into the comfortable dining room during the meal) is served Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. More info: 516-285-8664

Pops & Poosh

988 Merrick Rd. Baldwin

The small room is dominated by a stunning wall-length photo of colorful Haitian buildings weaving their way up a hill. In this fast-casual setting, Jessie Byron and her sons Parnell “Pops” Gervais and Wagner “Poosh” Gervais, showcase the cuisine of her native Haiti. Her meat-based dishes benefit from the seasoning mixture called epis, which contains scallion, parsley, thyme, garlic, peppers and cloves. In the iconic pork dish griot, the shoulder is gently cooked with epis into large chunks and then deep-fried until it has a crackling crust. Served in a takeout container topped with the pickled vegetable relish pikliz, it’s deeply savory and shockingly spicy. But nothing one of those refreshing housemade lemonades can’t fix. More info: 516-223-2600, popsandpoosh.com

Backyard Barbecue

300 Woodcleft Ave., Freeport

Come for some of the best brisket on Long Island, and stay for the funky ambience that includes a wall-length mural of Black music luminaries. Co-owner Kenneth Ware, a classically trained chef who's worked in Michelin starred restaurants in London and with Jean-Georges Vongerichten in Manhattan, took the business over from his dad Archie in 2021 and updated the menu. The restaurant on Freeport's Nautical Mile is influenced by his family's Southern roots in Alabama and Arkansas, as well as Ware's time cooking at Husk in Savannah, Georgia. He smokes all the meats in his Southern Pride smoker in the back, and makes all his sauces and pickles in-house. In addition to the barbecue, the restaurant is also knowns for its collard green empanadas and feisty lemon pepper wings. More info: 516-774-2120backyardbbqinc.com

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