Every year on June 19th, communities around the country come together to celebrate Juneteenth. Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth commemorates the day that news of the emancipation proclamation (issued more than two years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863) reached enslaved persons in Texas, the last confederate state to practice slavery.
Last year, on June 17, 2021, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was signed into law, making Juneteenth the first national holiday to be recognized since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. Since many of us will be off work, Juneteenth serves as the perfect occasion to learn more about Black culture and traditions, and support Black businesses by way of your fork!
Though the celebration started in Texas, as people have migrated to other parts of the country, so has word of the Juneteenth tradition. You can now find a unique local celebration in almost every major city in the country! A quick search of “Juneteenth festivities in my area” should reveal a whole host of parades, pageants, cookouts, festivals and events meant to teach about the past and empower the future.
Not able to make it out to any events? No worries, you can still celebrate Juneteenth by exploring some of your favorite Black-owned restaurants’ takes on Juneteenth food traditions. We’ve compiled some Juneteenth meal ideas you can order to kick off your holiday celebrations right!
If you want a traditional Juneteenth meal, then you’ve got to order some traditional soul food dishes. A hefty plate of BBQ or fried fish will do if you find yourself without an invitation to a cookout. While you’re adding items to cart, don’t forget the go-to sides: collard greens, candied yams, and baked macaroni and cheese. And of course, you can’t skip dessert! Be sure to grab something decadent like pound cake or banana pudding to round out your Juneteenth meal.
Juneteenth Menu Ideas
Cultural melting pot that it is, you can find Black-owned eateries in virtually every burrow in the city. Located in Harlem or Manhattan? Try the fried chicken and guava waffle from Lucille’s or vegan soul food classics from Seasoned Vegan. If you’re across the bridge in Brooklyn, the oxtail pizza from Zurilee is a must-order. And If you find yourself a little farther away in Queens, Southern Girls Soul Food can handle all your fried fish, greens and mac & cheese needs.
The contributions of Chicago’s Black restaurants are part of what makes it the world-class food city it is today. There are tons of Black-owned restaurants to choose from. But if you’re looking for a South Side staple, start with Pearl’s Place, they’ve been serving up southern classics like smoked ham hocks and smothered short ribs to the local community for over 30 years. If you’re looking for a more modern take on classic flavors, The Licking has great seafood dinners, and Jars by Jasiman makes a banana pudding dessert jar that you’ll definitely want to stock up on.
Philly is a city rich in Black culture and heritage, and that is particularly evident as you explore the long list of Black-owned eateries to choose from. There’s Amari’s for hearty breakfasts like a crab benedict or salmon and grits. Relish for decadent favorites with a twist, like the fried Carolina catfish with lobster sauce. Gilben’s Bakery for dozens of different po’boys and cheesesteaks on fresh bread. For dessert, check out the personal-pan peach cobblers from The Sweet Life Bakeshop, they’re topped with a sugar biscuit and baked to perfection.
Recently, a steady tide of new Black-owned restaurants have come onto Boston’s food scene, with more popping up every year. This Juneteenth, celebrate the local way by ordering some Boston classics with a soul food twist. Check out M & M BBQ’s sandwiches, each inspired by and named after Boston’s most popular intersections. Or perhaps the “Beantown Burrito” from Rhythm and Wraps is more your speed? If you’re planning a grand Juneteenth feast, Buttermilk & Bourbon’s modern take on traditional southern fare is sure to impress even the most discerning guests. Try the Nashville hot alligator fries or lobster and corn hush puppies if you want to shake up your Juneteenth food traditions a bit.