Tap These Black-Owned Bronx Outposts and More on Your Next Visit to New York City
We teamed up with Ghetto Gastro co-founder Jon Gray—whose mission is all about food, community, and the Bronx—for these ways to support Black businesses and other ways to enjoy his home borough.
A blend of urban and green spaces, with Manhattan less than 30 minutes away by subway, the Bronx has everything to do with how Jon Gray operates at the intersection of culture, food, and community. As a Bronx native, Gray is a firm believer in investing, creating, and fortifying the area’s economic framework. Ghetto Gastro, the culinary collective that he started with his partners in 2012, is primarily dedicated to bringing “big Bronx energy” to the rest of the world. We asked Gray to share what that energy is to help AFAR curate this roundup of Black-owned spots and other places that are the heart and soul of the borough.
If you’re looking for an alfresco oasis in the city, you’ll be pleased to discover an abundance of outdoor gems here—accompanied by the buzz of a lively community. Gray says “salsa parties on Orchard Beach on Sundays” epitomize the sound of the Bronx. And green spaces abound; the Bronx has the largest amount of public park acreage of all the boroughs, a fact unbeknownst to most city dwellers.
Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Gray would play basketball on the east side of the Bronx at the courts of Pelham Bay Park, and he continues to take full advantage of the easy access to green space, enjoying the summer season on the Park’s 1.1-mile-long beach and beyond. “It’s the city’s largest park, at three times the size of Central Park,” he explains. “I like to take my runs on its trails, tap into a creative flow, or catch an unmatched view of City Island from Orchard Beach.”
To kick start the day, Gray whets his palate with a ginger wellness shot and shake from one of his neighborhood juice bars, Green Garden Health or Juices For Life. “I enjoy a daily shake which consists of moringa, broccoli, kale, and mango for the natural sweetness.” For more substantial provisions, grab a handheld Caribbean snack. Gray’s go-to establishments include Feroza’s on Burke Avenue for the shrimp roti wrap with pepper and tamarind (pro tip: do like Gray and ask for extra pepper sauce) and Jamaican patties on hard dough bread from Kingston Tropical Bakery, a beloved storefront and one of the first to cater to the West Indian population in the Wakefield neighborhood.
When it’s time for a sit-down meal, Gray’s favorites include the Jamaican spot Fish n’ Ting where diners enjoy everything from whole snapper and lobster to Jamaican Chinese Fried Rice and classics like curry goat. He’s also a fan of the Oaxacan dishes served at the restaurant La Morada, which Ghetto Gastro partnered with to provide meals to feed residents of the Bronx and Washington Heights at the onset of the pandemic. “Community builds immunity,” he explains. “One hand washes the other, both wash the face.”
Recently, Gray and his Ghetto Gastro partners Pierre Serrao and Lester Walker announced their forthcoming book Black Power Kitchen by encouraging pre-orders from Black-owned bookstores. One of them, The Lit. Bar, an Afro-Latina-owned bookstore, wine bar, and community center with a goal to empower and service the community, is the Bronx’s only independent bookstore located in Mott Haven.
Craving something sweet? AFAR recommends checking out There Should Always Be Cake. This cute bakeshop specializes in Dominican cakes, cupcakes, and cookies with flavors like guava jam, Morir Soñando—a blend of orange juice and milk—and tamarind in homage to owner Laury Saldana’s Dominican roots. Or look to the South Bronx, where you’ll find the borough’s first bean-to-bar chocolatier and first 100-percent Black-owned chocolate factory in the United States, Sol Cacao.
Co-owners and brothers Daniel, Dominic, and Nicholas Maloney honor the integrity of their history as grandsons of fourth-generation cacao farmers. Like Gray, it’s important to them that accessibility to a diverse community be a key component of business operations. By breaking ground in the Bronx neighborhood of Port Morris, they aim to inspire future generations of chocolate makers—and are already writing the borough’s next brilliant chapter.