From the mom-and-pop to the upscale, more restaurants in Uptown and the Bronx have come across my radar. The Uptown dining scene, with many restaurants owned by people of color and operated by family and friends, doesn’t look much like the more celebrated food scenes downtown and in Brooklyn. But the options closely reflect the ethnic makeup of different neighborhoods, and the cuisine just isn’t readily available in trendier parts of town. The end results are always delicious and worth the trip. Here are some POC-owned places to visit for food in neighborhoods that are off the tourist path:
(A train to 175 Street)
Mambi, a fixture on Broadway since I was a child, is the kind of spot you can reliably get delicious Dominican food on a budget. They serve everything from savory stews like mondongo and sancocho to your typical dish of rice, beans, and meat or chicken. The menu-of-the-day items are displayed behind the counter, and you can just point out what you would like and get it packed up to go. While patrons often choose wait service, be warned: if you’re in a rush or looking for a place with an attentive waitstaff, Mambi isn’t the place for you.
431 W 202nd St
(1 train to Dyckman Street)
Nestled in a part of Inwood that looks more like a meatpacking district than the actual Meatpacking District, the famous Patacon Pisao food truck welcomes everyone from local workers on their break to clubgoers heading home in the wee hours of the morning. And the Venezuelan comfort food that Patacon Pisao specializes in is suited to the task. It’s named after a sandwich that is heavy on the meat, fried cheese, and sauce, in between two giant mashed-plantain cakes. Other delectables, like fried cheese sticks called tequeños and cachapas, sandwiches with sweet cornmeal cakes instead of buns, will definitely satiate your appetite.
237 Dyckman St
(A train to Dyckman Street)
MamaSushi is a part of a wave of restaurants that cater to younger Latinos by combining the kinds of food experiences and customer service available downtown with other entertainment options that are popular in the area. For example, MamaSushi has a separate area for patrons who would like to enjoy hookah smoking with their meals. This is the place my fiancé and I go when we want a great dining experience without having to travel far from home. MamaSushi offers both the Japanese-inspired fare you’ll find at similar upscale restaurants and a menu of sushi rolls that are undeniably Dominican and Latin American in nature: the El Campesino roll comes with fried salami, fried white cheese, rice, and sweet plantain, and it’s like biting directly into a typical Dominican lunch. With delightful names that hearken to neighborhoods back in the Dominican Republic, popular drinks, a kids menu, and other interesting concepts—one roll is called La Chapiadora, Dominican slang for “the gold digger”—there is something here for everyone.
Cơm Tấm Ninh Kiều
2641 Jerome Ave
(4 train to Kingsbridge Road)
Cơm Tấm Ninh Kiều is one of those hole-in-the-wall places that you could completely pass over without knowing it was ever there at all. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant that’s well known to the Bronx’s Vietnamese community and popular among locals in the area who want something quick and cheap for lunch. This place is by far the best Vietnamese I’ve ever had in NYC, and worth the trip for anyone who loves Southeast Asian cuisine. (Note: be sure to visit an ATM beforehand; payment here is cash only!)
Aman Halal Restaurant
3594 Jerome Ave
(4 train to Woodlawn)
One day when my fiancé and I were hoping to try something new on Seamless, we found this small, family-owned joint, across the street from the eastern reaches of Van Cortlandt Park on the lonelier stretch of Jerome Avenue at the end of the 4 train line. Aman specializes in standard Pakistani cuisine, and you get served so much food there will be leftovers. Their samosas, chicken tikka masala, and garlic naan are the best we’ve ever had, a sentiment shared by countless others on review sites like Yelp. (Note: Cash only here too!)