Good Eats, Good Vibes, Good Business: Black-Owned Restaurants In NYC

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NYC barsThere is a large array of Black-owned restaurants in New York City, from Harlem to Downtown Brooklyn.? TNJ.com highlights a few of them. Hope you?re hungry.

Brooklyn

In Downtown Brooklyn, Amarachi (189 Bridge St.) has become the place for hot drinks and unique food. It actually started as a lounge in the Bed-Stuy area of Brooklyn more than 10 years ago before relocating Downtown in July 2014. While many enjoy? the drinks, it?s the food that fascinates. A mix of African and Caribbean cuisines, dishes include African salad, pepper soup, MoiMoi Nigerian Ben Pie, Jollof Rice and Pounded Yam with Egusi. ?We wanted to open our brand to a wider demographic…Brooklyn is ripe for an upscale Afro-Caribbean dining experience,? explains owners Joseph and Maxine Adewumi.

People love Amarachi so much, they wish the restaurant was open longer daily. ?Our customers wish we stayed open later but we remind them we are a restaurant and not a club,? says the proud couple. It?s not just the menu that keeps folks coming in and wanting to stay. It?s the entire experience. ??We treat our customers the way we want to be treated; we put out a lot of love and it comes right back,? says the Adewumis.

Husband and wife Earl Silas & Shana Cooper-Silas kicked off the 2015 New Year by opening their Khemistry Bar in Bedford Stuyvesant (216 Malcolm X Blvd.) on New Year?s Eve.? Diners here enjoy an eclectic array of offerings, from vegan beet bean burgers with kale chips, avocado aioli & house pickled veggies to jerk pulled pork to mac and cheese. ??We have a team of experts that bring together many years of experience in various industries from culinary to branding and marketing to finance. Working together as a team allows us to play on our strengths instead of having to learn on the job – or figure things out as we go along,? explains? Silas and Cooper-Silas.

The key to Khemistry?s success has been finding its niche and catering to its clientele.? So much so, its customers have even financially supported the couple via crowd-funding. ?We are a neighborhood gastropub first. So when we opened our doors, we invited our neighbors. We also created brand loyalty by launching a crowd-funding campaign where our supporters were able to ?live? on our walls forever. Their names are on the bricks in the space,? say the Silas.

It was with their children?s future in mind that the couple actually opened Khemistry. ?First and foremost, we are building a legacy for our children. But, we both have entrepreneurial spirits and wanted to open a business that played on our strengths. We are also big supporters of our communities – and you can’t get any more local than a neighborhood gastropub,? they explain.

Since the restaurant business was new to the couple, they have had a steep learning curve–but it?s been worth it. They say, ?The one bit of experience that we didn’t have before opening our restaurant was navigating the NY state and city building codes. We’ve done a lot of on-the-job learning – and it has been our biggest challenge to date.? But it?s been a rewarding experience, they say. They add that what they love most is ?when a customer enjoys the experience and our food.?

Husband and wife Natalie Lamming-Scott and Kenneth Scott opened D?Savannah Bar & Lounge (1460A Flatbush Ave.) in December 2012, bringing a Trinidadian flavor to Flatbush, Brooklyn. The menu includes such mouthwatering treats as Trini-Style Mango Chow; Grandstand Accras; Moonlighting Jerk Wings; St. James Jerk Pork and Jerk Chicken & Waffles.

The restaurant business is not new to Natalie and she loves being her own boss. ?I ?have ?been a waitress/bartender since I was 17 yrs old. I am now 37…this is what I know…this is what I eat ..breathe and sleep,? she says. ?For me, most rewarding is that I work for myself, and I get to share my culture and passion with others.

And her passion for the industry is what is driving D?Savannah to becoming a success. ?The key to success is being passionate about your brand..being disciplined…because it’s long hours..hard work..consistency..and the ability to manage your finances properly,? she says.

Still, the restaurant business in New York City is highly competitive, and Natalie knows this very well. ?I always have to come up with creative things to keep them interested, but I stay true to my vision,? she points out.

Ice cream rules at Brooklyn Swirl in Bedford Stuyvesant (445 Marcus Garvey Blvd.) opened in June 2012 with the realization that sometimes people just need to treat themselves to a little ice cream. ?Our patrons often tell us they had a rough day and Brooklyn Swirl makes them happy! So we believe the key is a friendly environment with a great product. Word of mouth is our biggest marketing tool,? say owners Jean and Gayna Alerte. ??We opened Brooklyn Swirl because we wanted to offer the community a family friendly frozen yogurt parlor. Every day we have patrons thank us for opening.?

Although the winter can be a challenging time for the ice cream parlor, Brooklyn Swirl has managed to keep the customers coming in. ?I truly believe that the key to our success is our customer service and our engagement with the neighborhood though our patrons might say it’s our Mango Sorbet or Cookies & Cream,? say the owners.

And they love what they do. ?The most rewarding aspect for us would be serving our patrons and seeing what it does for them. We have one customer that comes in twice a week after work at a nearby school. She says Brooklyn Swirl is the only place she can unwind before going home,? say the Alertes.

HARLEM

67 Orange Street (2082 Frederick Douglas Blvd.) has been open in Harlem since 2008 when owner Karl Franz Williams wanted to liven things up a bit in Harlem. ??I opened my bar and restaurant because I wanted to bring some of the amazing experiences I was enjoying in other parts of the city to my neighborhood, Harlem,? he explains. ?I also saw it as a good business opportunity and a chance to build a career doing something I enjoyed.?

In addition to the bar, he serves up great food. On the menu are such items as Kale Caesar Salad; Chicken n Red Velvet Waffles; Lobster & Shrimp Mac n Cheese; ?Monkey Bread. And the drinks are some of the best in the city.

?We are a craft cocktail bar.? We are very serious about always delivering a really exceptional cocktail experience.? Our bartenders go through extensive training to work behind our bar,? says Williams. ?We also have an excellent kitchen program.? We take? we do seriously and are constantly innovating and elevating.?

No one ever said the restaurant business was easy, and Williams says there have been some challenges. ?My biggest challenge has been managing all of the personalities and egos and keeping everyone happy and functional.? The restaurant business is a people-driven business.?We have to operate like a factory ? in other words, we have to deliver a consistent reliable product, but unlike a factory that uses perfectly engineered machines, we use people – people who are great and wonderful and then sometimes not; people who have challenges at home or leave their homes perfectly happy only to run into problems on the way to work.? There are emotions and personal goals and objectives and you have to reconcile all of that. ?When you can keep it all working in harmony and keep your guests happy, you have really mastered this business,? he shares.

?The second is a marketing challenge.? People have to continually rediscover us and connect us to what is cool and important to them.? Being a speakeasy helps us, it self- curates.? But we also are constantly doing things that keep people talking about us.? Whether they be guest appearances in media and otherwise or doing the right festivals and tastings, or getting interesting people to show up and talk about us, we always keep the conversation going.?

?The key to our success is maintaining high standards and staying relevant.? One is an operational challenge.? It starts with being very clear on the standards that you expect for your product,? he adds.

All in all, however, Williams is more than happy he made the move to open 67 Orange Street. He says,??The most rewarding aspect are the smiles, the happy guests, the conversations and the LIFE that happens in my space.? People come together for dates, hanging with friends, business meetings, proposals (really), marriages (yes, that did happen at 67 Orange ? and we didn?t know in advance), and much more.? Nothing is as fulfilling as creating a space, time and an experience that people love and come back for over and over.? That makes me super happy.?