A restaurateur that’s recreating the feeling of his family cookouts at a seafood stunner in DTLA, a Jamaican restaurant nearby where the owner is mashing up her mom’s traditional recipes with global influences, and two friends in Inglewood who want to shine a spotlight on the local cooking scene with their Afro-centric flavors.
It’s obvious that the teams at these Black-owned restaurants in Los Angeles have all created love letters to Black culture—and the start of Black History Month is just one reason to get in on these joyous celebrations by making a booking. Read on for three reservations you’ll want to hop on right now.
(abeautifullife) Jamaican Kitchen (DTLA + Little Tokyo)
Aja Dawson ate traditional Jamaican food growing up, but one of the things that always excited her about mealtime was her mom’s creativity in the kitchen. “My mother would make things like jerk chicken bao,” Dawson says. “That was a Tuesday night in our home.”
Those deft mashups were the inspiration behind the beloved (abeautifullife) Jamaican Kitchen, which recently celebrated 10 years at its DTLA flagship. LA has plenty of strong Jamaican restaurants, but it’s these exciting takes on Jamaican food with some global twists thrown in that really make abeautifullife stand out. “That crossover flavor profile is the bones and soul of who we are,” Dawson says.
That means oxtail mac-and-cheese, oxtail egg rolls, and jerk chicken done both traditionally and in a lemon-pepper iteration. It’s the kind of place you can drop by for a jerk salmon rice bowl or a smoothie lunch, for a savory dinner of lobster curry, or for a rollicking bottomless mimosa brunch with a big group of friends. With an ever-changing menu—Dawson says the team is constantly innovating—the flavor-led party never ends at abeautifullife.
Restaurateur Prince Riley was eager to share the warmth of the cookouts and reunions he had growing up with his family in Georgia. Enter Joyce, a restaurant that’s not even a year old, but has already won raves for chef Sammy Monsour’s soul food-inspired cooking and its welcoming embrace.
“We wanted to not only do a restaurant that paid homage to the feeling of being at social gatherings, but have a menu that’s true to the South,” Riley says. That’s obvious in every aspect of the restaurant: The word Joyce means joy and is also the middle name shared by Riley’s mother and daughter; the vibrant, midcentury interiors are dotted with portraits of Riley’s mother; and the food is peak family get-togethers. Think cornmeal-crusted hot Nashville catfish, whole-fried game hens, and cornbread with whipped sorghum butter.
Riley, who lives above the restaurant with his wife Athena (who runs the restaurant with him) and daughter, is especially glad that Joyce’s cozy, welcoming hospitality has translated to diners. “It’s impressive and amazing to see the people who live and work here and are passionate about downtown LA,” he says. “They feel that the restaurant belongs to them, and that’s so inspiring.”
Two Hommés (Inglewood)
Inglewood’s joyous Afro-centric restaurant nabbed a spot on the Los Angeles Times’s most recent, coveted 101 Best Restaurants list—only a little over a year after it opened. “To make that list in our first year was just like ‘wow,’” co-owner and co-chef Marcus Yaw says. “There are 10,000 restaurants in LA, so to come and find us in Inglewood is just a testament to good food.”
And by that he’s referring to the food he makes with his friend Abdoulaye Balde that’s rooted in African cuisines, but influenced by Caribbean, Latin American, and, of course, Californian traditions.
The duo start from their background—Yaw’s mother is Ghanaian and Balde’s father grew up on the Gambia-Senegal border—and keep building on playful, creative mashups from there. It’s no surprise that the Ghanaian jollof rice platter with black beans, plantains, and pickled onions is a runway crowd favorite. There’s a secret ingredient, after all: arugula—“a nod to the California freshness we grew up with,” Yaw says.
Yaw and Balde are busy getting together a line up of beer, wine, and cocktails now that the restaurant has its liquor license—it’s only going to be more of a celebration from here on out at Two Hommés. “We’re excited to be making good food that the Inglewood community deserves,” Yaw says.
Karen Palmer is a pizza- and pasta-obsessed food writer based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Instagram at @karenlpalmer.