This month marks the fourth annual Boston Black Restaurant Challenge, which sets diners the enjoyable goal of patronizing one Black-owned restaurant each week. The community and its independent restaurants need support now more than ever, in February and beyond. More than 20 percent of Massachusetts restaurants that closed at the beginning of the pandemic have not reopened. And Black-owned restaurants didn’t enter the COVID era on equal footing, facing factors such as disinvestment in communities, lack of access to capital, a wealth gap that means smaller savings, and challenges accessing PPP funds. According to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, Black-owned businesses declined in the United States by about 41 percent from February to April of 2020.
So: What are you in the mood to have for dinner? Here are a few suggestions of Black-owned restaurants to visit for takeout, broken down by craving.
If you want: Asian fusion
Partners Joy Phoubaykham and Eddie George (a.k.a. Chef Flexx) created Medford restaurant Neighborhood Kitchen as a reflection of what Phoubaykham calls “a melting-pot family”: Asian-influenced dishes from her side, Haitian from his, and American classics to please their kids. The restaurant recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Everything here is fresh, comforting, and ultra-delicious: pupu platters and salmon fried rice, chicken and waffles and gooey mac and cheese, Haitian-style spaghetti and Creole chicken with sweet plantains and fragrant djon djon rice. “Food is our love language,” it says on their website, and you can taste it. 84 Spring St., Medford, 781-391-9000, www.nkboston.com
Also try: 50Kitchen, for inspiring conversation and dishes like jambalaya egg rolls, smoked brisket banh mi, and kimchi and collard greens from chef Anthony Caldwell. 1450 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, 617-474-2433, www.50kitchen.com. ZaZ Restaurant, where chef Olrie Roberts serves up the likes of Cajun crab hush puppies, curry chicken, coconut shrimp, and smoked jerk tofu with Thai lo mein, jollof rice, and more. Plus brunch! 1238 River St., Hyde Park, 617-276-3729, www.zazrestaurant.com.
If you want: Barbecue
M&M is Marion and Maurice Hill, who started the business out of a trailer in 1982. Now it’s operated by grandson Geo Lambert, who ran it as a food truck, then finally went the brick-and-mortar route, partnering with Dorchester Brewing Company. There’s almost 40 years of history behind the ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. No wonder M&M’s barbecue is so good. 1250 Massachusetts Ave., Dorchester, 617-307-7674, www.mandmbbq.com
Also try: Pit Stop Barbecue, another legacy outfit, serving smoke-scented meat and sides from a little red hut in the corner of a parking lot. 888A Morton St., Mattapan, 617-436-0485, www.pitstopbarbecue.com
If you want: Date-night romance
The Blue Nile
Rip it up with your honey, literally — tearing off pieces of the tangy, springy Ethiopian flatbread injera and using them to scoop bites of fragrant red lentils, stewed greens, turmeric-dyed split peas, and rich, flavorful meat stews. This is food made to be shared. Add on a bottle of house-made tej, a honey wine, and you’ll fall in love with Blue Nile, as well as the person you’re sipping it with. 389 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-522-6453, www.bluenileincjp.com
Also try: Mida, where chef Douglass Williams wins hearts and minds with absurdly good handmade pasta and more. Enough good things cannot be said about the Mangia Monday Pasta for Two, which includes five kinds of pasta, salad, and bread for $70. 782 Tremont St., South End, Boston, 617-936-3490, www.midaboston.com
If you want: Health-consciousness
Cafe Juice Up
You can practically feel the vitamins coursing through your veins after a visit to Cafe Juice Up, where you can DIY your own smoothie or cold-pressed juice blend, or choose from options like the African Queen (banana, chia seed, flax seed, and cocoa powder) and the Boston Strong (blueberry, pineapple, spinach, and avocado). You’ll also find acai bowls, baked goods, nut milks, and more. 1290 Blue Hill Ave., Mattapan, 617-702-1808, www.cafejuiceup.com
Also try: Shea Butter Smoothies, relocated from its original location inside a Mattapan Mobil station to a Morrissey Boulevard storefront, where you can take your Bad and Boujee blend (banana, mango, pineapple, strawberries, honey, and coconut water) for a stroll by the water. 777 Morrissey Boulevard, Dorchester, 617-922-2181, Instagram @sheabuttersmoothies. Yelu’s, where stir-fries rule the day, made with organic vegetables; free-range, antibiotic-free chicken; sustainable seafood; and house-made sauces. 116 Washington St., Dorchester, 857-271-3926, Instagram @yelusboston.
If you want: Island life, vicariously
Jamaica Mi Hungry
This time of year, it would sure be nice to pack up the old swimsuit, hop on a plane, and head somewhere sunny and warm. At least we have takeout, which brings us there momentarily via our tastebuds. Jamaica Mi Hungry is a Caribbean island of the mind. Chef Ernie Campbell’s curry goat, beef patties on coco bread, and fiery, moist jerk pork shoulder with dill slaw and plantains will transport you. The restaurant is next to the Jackson Square T station; Jamaica Mi Hungry is currently popping up in Allston, too. 225 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-708-0465, www.jamaicamihungry.com
Also try: Restaurante Cesaria, where Cape Verdean cuisine is showcased deliciously. You’ll find grilled shrimp, octopus, and mussels with molho verde; grilled salt cod with potatoes; katchupa, a stew of hominy with pork, beef, beans, and greens often referred to as the national dish; and bottles of lightly fizzy vinho verde. 266 Bowdoin St., Dorchester, 617-282-1998, www.restaurantcesaria.com
If you want: Nigerian specialties
Chef-owner Gloria Omoregbee serves traditional dishes from her native Nigeria, as well as inventions like coconut pasta, at this Roslindale restaurant. You’ll find soups flush with peppers, stews enriched with palm fruit and served with creamy pounded yam, and a brick-red jollof rice that warms the back of the throat. Don’t miss the small chops — finger foods like meat pies, fish rolls, and samosas — or the fish pepper soup. 146 Belgrade Ave., Roslindale, 617-327-3700, www.obosafoods.com
Also try: Suya Joint, Cecelia Lizotte’s Nubian Square salute to the restaurant’s namesake skewers, along with soups and stews, meat pies, and more. 185 Dudley St., Roxbury, 617-708-0245, www.ordersuyajoint.com
If you want: Pepperoni pie
Rock City Pizza
There’s much more than pizza at this restaurant with a name that salutes its Allston locale. But pizza’s where you’ll want to start, with pies like the Blanco Hawaiian, Chicken Pesto Supreme, and Eggplant Parm. From there, move on to wings, subs, burgers, pasta dishes, and a bevy of desserts like red velvet cake and fried dough. 568 Cambridge St., Allston, 617-782-7625, www.rockcitypizzeria.com
Also try: Oggi Gourmet, Steve Welch’s longtime Harvard Square stop for fresh-baked muffins, pressed sandwiches, and salads, but above all excellent pizza topped with wild mushrooms and herbs; cherry tomatoes, almonds, and goat cheese; spicy sausage; and more. 30 Dunster St., Harvard Square, Cambridge, 617-492-6444, www.oggigourmet.com
If you want: Sandwiches
This is not to knock sandwiches like the Marley (jerk chicken with Scotch bonnet relish) and the Pig Candy (candied bacon with jalapeno cream cheese, lettuce, and tomato), but Bred is first and foremost about the burgers. Made with grass-fed beef, they come with toppings both standard and … less so. (The Maui includes pineapple, ham, and plantains.) Salmon and veggie versions are available too. The Classic, a glorious bacon cheeseburger, is a staple for a reason: “It’s made with love,” says chef-owner Tambo Barrow. 2255 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, 617-698-0103, www.bredgourmet.com
Also try: Exodus Bagels, where you order bagels, spreads, and sandwiches online, then grab them from the pickup window. Sometimes you just need smoked salmon and capers on an everything bagel (but they also come with egg and cheese, roast beef, and a whole lot more). 2 McCraw St., Roslindale, www.exodusbagels.com. Ideal Sub Shop, everybody’s favorite place to get a fresh, affordable tuna sub, for more than 30 years. (There’s plenty to choose from! But people really love the tuna.) 522 Dudley St., Roxbury, 617-442-1560. Rhythm ‘N Wraps has all of the vegan goodness, from jackfruit tacos to “steak” bomb subs to loaded wraps, near BU. 1096 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-566-4144, www.rhythmnwraps.com.
If you want: Somali spices
Tawakal Halal Cafe
The scents of cinnamon, cumin, and cloves fill the air at this East Boston Somali restaurant, where owner Yahya Noor and team prepare sambusas, turnovers filled with ground beef; biryani with slow-cooked goat; coconut grits; and heaping plates of chickpea and spinach stew. Don’t forget a steaming cup of shaah, the milky, sweet, craveable tea that’s reminiscent of chai. Pick up a bottle of house-made hot sauce, too; you’ll want to put it on everything. 389 Maverick St., East Boston, 617-418-5890, www.tawakalfoods.co
Also try: Ashur Restaurant, which has a following for kebabs, biryani, Sports Plates heaped with multiple meats, and other halal fare. 291 Roxbury St., Roxbury, 617-427-0599
If you want: Straight-up soul
The Coast Café
This Cambridge spot, going on a quarter-century in business, is a strong contender for best fried chicken around: crunchy, well-seasoned, juicy. Ribs, sides, and generous servings of friendliness complete the picture. 233 River St., Cambridge, 617-354-7644, www.coastsoulcafe.com
Also try: Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, for a historic pedigree (it was long Bob the Chef’s, beloved for its gospel brunch) and excellent Glorifried Catfish. The Neighborhood Combo Meal ($16.50) is a bargain. 604 Columbus Ave., South End, Boston, 617-536-1100, www.dcbkboston.com. Maxine’s on Saint James, for chicken and waffles, baked catfish over grits, mac and cheese and dirty rice, jambalaya and etouffee, banana pudding and sweet tea. 304 Dudley St., Roxbury, 617-207-0551, www.maxinesonsaintjames.com