When it comes to restaurants, bars and cafes worth your travel time, Mott Haven has been leading the charge. Whether you’re a local or a daytripper looking to explore, the south Bronx neighborhood is a destination with picturesque historic streets, public art and plenty of delicious food.
From places both newer to the area and those with more mileage, come for brunch, stay for dinner, and grab a few drinks and snacks in between.
Coffee: Mottley Kitchen
Minimalist with thoughtful touches like pops of greenery, Mottley Kitchen at 402 E. 140th St. has the kind of space that makes you want to linger all day – perfect for a weekday work session or a weekend reading break. Pop in for all of your coffee and tea classics or try something a little more special, like a horchata latte or iced turmeric chai. It’ll be hard to resist one of Mottley Kitchen’s pastries, so just give in – and if you’re hungry for something more substantial, try their breakfast bowl with eggs, roasted potatoes and avocado; overnight oats, with blackberries and nut butter; one of their toasts (avocado, hummus, butter and jam or almond butter); an egg sandwich like the Rancheros:, with over easy eggs, avocado, black bean spread, white cheddar and salsa verde; a farro grain bowl, hearty with chicken thigh; or kale salad.
Juice and healthy eats: Freshly Made
Cousins Marielys Quezada and Angi Tejada opened Freshly Made at 2535 Third Ave. in 2018 to provide the neighborhood with both knowledge about healthy eating and the delicious options to put that knowledge into action. With a mission to keep costs low, the business owners stock their menu with the freshest produce for make-your-own salads, vegan wraps, smoothies, pressed juices and more. Just stepping into the bright and airy shop will make you feel rejuvenated, and then you can treat yourself to an acai bowl; a “joffee” (citrus juice and coffee); a Bronx PB&J smoothie; a juice with kale, cucumber and pineapple plus shots like the BronQuil immunity booster; a salad or sandwich; or an artisanal fruit pop to cool down in the summer.
Mexican: La Morada
Widely acclaimed for its authentic representation of Oaxacan cuisine — married owners Natalia Mendez and Antonio Saavedra are from the southern Mexico state — La Morada (308 Willis Ave.) is a star among Mott Haven’s rich dining scene. The family-run restaurant does more than serve food: It acts as a sort of gathering place, with a free library of swapped books in the back and art by community members on the walls. Here, you can feed your mind and your soul with lovingly made tacos, nachos, enchiladas, burritos, chilaquiles, flautas, enfrijoladas and more. The main attraction? Six moles. La Morada does a mouthwatering version of mole poblano, the chocolatey one you’re probably familiar with, but you can really get to know Oaxacan fare through its verde, negro, Oaxaqueno, Pipian and mole blanco versions.
Elevated bar fare: Gun Hill Tavern
With its exposed brick, warm lighting and industrial slant, Gun Hill Tavern at 2515 Third Ave. is a modern update on the quintessential neighborhood hangout. Post up at the bar to enjoy quality drinks and bar grub done well. The pub, open since late 2016, is owned by Gun Hill Brewing Company, so you can sip on pints of their IPAs, pilsners, stouts and blonde ales, or you can try cocktails made with local spirits, like Brooklyn’s Greenhook Gin or Van Brunt Grunge IPA Moonshine Whiskey. Snack on fries with jerk seasoning or garlic, Parmesan and parsley or tuck into wings, burgers (of the meat and mushroom variety), or a grilled chicken sandwich with mozzarella, caramelized onion and sriracha mayo.
Hip-Hop dining: Beatstro
Stylish yet decidedly un-stuffy, hip hop-themed Beatstro (135 Alexander Avenue) is an ode to its South Bronx neighborhood. Opened last summer, its community and music motifs are present in the soundtrack as well as murals painted by local artists, a speakeasy bar section reminiscent of old-school block parties and a lineup of up-and-coming performers on the events calendar. You’ll want to spend your whole evening here, and you can, starting with dinner and ending with drinks and music. As for that dinner, snack on fried green tomatoes or spit-roasted pork and cheese fritters, share the spicy shrimp tostada or “The Alphabet Soup” with rotisserie chicken and sofrito, and dig into a charred okra and eggplant stew, cornmeal-crusted catfish, jambalaya or fried chicken.
Brunch: Charlies Bar & Kitchen
With its homey atmosphere adorned with antiques and convivial vibe illustrated by tables of happy, chatting friends and families, Charlies (112 Lincoln Ave.) has offered a warm and welcoming start to the weekend since 2012. Its Southern-tinged American comfort food shows itself in the form of indulgent dishes like Fried Chicken Benny, a chicken and waffles spin; shrimp and grits; and biscuits and gravy. If you’re more partial to the lighter side of brunch, there’s avocado toast, vegan quinoa, a Cobb salad and fish tacos. To complement your meal, opt for the popular mimosas or try one of the signature cocktails, like Champagne Charlie: gin, lemon juice, honey, passionfruit and prosecco.
Burgers: Milk Burger
Casual and cool with splashes of local art, Milk Burger at 148 Bruckner Blvd. is a reliable go-to in the neighborhood for quality burgers. The team strives to use the freshest ingredients, and that mission pays off in the above-average taste of burgers, sides and hand-spun shakes. Milk is especially good to have in your repertoire if you like – or need – to sub out the beef in your burger — this spot, around since 2016, is known for its turkey patty, and it also has a fish burger and a grilled chicken sandwich. Round out your meal with sweet potato fries or onion rings or go with an arugula walnut goat cheese salad if you want to keep things lighter, and sweeten the deal with an Oreo milkshake or frozen strawberry lemonade. They also have cocktails and beers from Bronx Brewery.
Asian fusion: Ceetay
Ceetay (129 Alexander Ave.) stood out during its 2012 opening because it was one of the first Asian dining options in the neighborhood, but it quickly distinguished itself further for its innovative and masterfully executed dishes. With newspaper-collaged walls, the space has a clever sort of hip factor while remaining inviting and laid-back. Watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen and get ready for tuna “bruschetta,” spicy tuna and guacamole on crispy rice; rock shrimp tempura; Thai cabbage salad; fresh sashimi; rolls with Wagyu beef or oven-baked crab; a soba noodle stir fry; or maple and eggplant beef.