Black Safe

Objectively Black does South America – Pt. 2

And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the second part of our South America trip in Cartagena de Indias more commonly known as ‘Cartagena’ Colombia. When most of us hear Colombia, we immediately think about “Narcos”. And while that show is one of the best series that Netflix has ever produced, we knew that the show was not at all an accurate representation of the current state of Colombia. Still, we made sure to do our research before we went. But we found out it was that Cartegena is very safe and makes for a great stop during your trip across South America. There are no special visas required for either Peru or Columbia and although it helps to speak espanol, many of the local people speak English.

Once again we took Avianca Airlines into Columbia. Now I don’t know if this is normal for flying into Columbia from Peru or if this was just a rare occurrence, but our flight was turbulent. I’m pretty sure the entire plane was making their peace with God at a certain point. Thankfully we made it to our first stop in Cali. We had a quick layover where we enjoyed a hamburger made with actual ham. They also provided a pre-mixed mayonnaise and ketchup condiment usually in the States you have to make that by yourself. We appreciate that touch.

The very first thing we noticed was how HOT it was. When we left Peru it was 36 degrees. We were wearing coats, but just a few hours later we were in 90-degree weather. Our next goal was to find a cab. And to answer your question, yes Uber works down here. Our Uber driver showed up in a completely tinted out Honda Civic with a ridiculous spoiler, Tokyo Drift style. At that moment we looked at each other and questioned whether or not we should enter this car. We’ve heard some horror stories about taxis and even Uber’s so so we were jokingly a little weary. Nevertheless, we are men. So without question, we got in that car wondering if we would ever see the states again. Needless to say, our Uber driver was awesome and gave our Spanish-speaking friend some tips about where to the best food was, the tourist locations, and even some unsolicited tips on picking the right hooker… I swear it was unsolicited. Having been in South America for several days now, driving through another city was no big deal. I mean seriously, at this point we felt like locals. I was even speaking some Spanish via osmosis. I guess that if I had stayed or a good month or so, I’d be fluent in the language.

Anyway, after the two flights from Peru, we were pretty exhausted so when we got to our hotel within the walled city. (Hotel Casa de la Trinidad) Note: Make sure that when you do travel to Cartegena you stay in the walled city. We did wander out by mistake, nothing happened, but you want to stay within the confines. It’s just safer. We crashed for a few hours and by the time we got up, it was night time in Cartegena so we began to explore the city. When you are within the walled City you can’t go wrong. Our hotel room was right next to several restaurants and Nightclubs in the “Old Town” and we felt safe in every spot. We passed by a spot called Restaurante Coroncoro and decided to have some food before we drank. The carne asada hit and become our dish of choice for the remainder of the trip. Once we had eaten we decided to walk avoid for a bit and get a feel for the vibe. The streets were packed with tourists and locals. Salsa music was blasting through seemingly every doorway. It seemed like everyone in the city was partying. The very first spot we hit was a small bar called the “Tipsy deer”. We grabbed a few ‘cervezas’ and had a nice conversation with the 2 bartenders there. If you ever find your way to the tipsy deer, tell them that we sent you. We also noticed a club across the street called Cafe Havana. We heard the live music playing while we passed by and asked about the cover which was 30k Columbian with is about $10. We decided that we would come back on a different night since the band was already in full swing and we didn’t want to miss any of the show.

So we continued our night and headed towards ‘Plaza de los Coches’. Fair warning, if you come here at night time you will be surrounded by escorts and savages trying to broker deals. Seriously it was like wall street up in there. Needless to say, we don’t pay for it. Sex is better free(ish) yall know what I mean? So we continued. I’m kind of angry at myself for not taking more pictures of the nightlife but we didn’t want to stick even further out. Pulling out my phone while the block is lit just never occurred to me. The streets taught us better than that. But the streets were really packed and so were the clubs. There were lines to get into a few of them and in everyone, the music was hittin’ and the drinks were cheap (by our standards) The dollar is strong yall. Thanks, Trump! One of the clubs that stuck out was Alquimico Bar. If there is one thing regarding the nightlife in Cartegena you need to trust me on, its this place. The drink menu was large and the staff was awesome and skilled. There are 3 levels in the bar. The ground and 2nd level play a combination of hip hop and dance music, while the top-level rooftop plays a mix of Spanish, Brazilian, and even African music. It was easy mingling with the people out there. Everyone was easy going, and positive. You could sense the love out there for real. Just be sure to ask any girl you hit on if she’s an escort before you fall for her. Learn from our mistakes. We hopped around several different bars the first night. Some had covers but the bouncers were nice enough to let 1 person in your crew check the place out before you paid to see if it was packed enough for your liking. We got back to our hotel that night feeling pretty excited about the rest of the trip.

The next day in Objectively Black fashion, we decided to have a workout and walk around Cartagena. The city is beautiful. The streets are lined with colorful colonial-style buildings. There are beautiful murals painted all across the city and plenty of historic statues and squares to visit. The markets are worth walking through as well. Even for those of you who hate shopping like me, you’ll want to pick up some souvenirs. The markets offer some authentic handmade crafts. One of the many spots we explored was Castillo San Felipe de Barajas / Fortress of San Felipe. Now did we mention the heat? The day we decided to summit this fortress it was well into the 90s and humid as all fuck. Still, we climbed. Our short trip to Peru may have come in handy, because next to the climbing that we did in Peru, climbing this castle was nothing. Next, we hit La Paletteria a Popsicle dessert shop in the middle of the old town. There are several different flavors divided by ‘base’ yogurt, water or cream. On a hot day of walking, one of these really hits the spot.

By chance, we were in Columbia during Copa America and we were able to catch the Columbia game against Argentina. We watched the game at Mister Babilla, a night club that was showing the game on several projectors in the venue. As you would expect the atmosphere inside was crazy. Futbol is bigger than religion out there so we were very lucky to be in Columbia during this even. This ranked up there with the most authentic experiences we had in the city. We just got lucky, but if you can, try planning your trip around a similar event to experience futbol in South America.

One of the most important things for us to do what to see an authentic live salsa band in Columbia. And to do that we went right back to Cafe Havana. If you remember we stopped by earlier in our trip but decided that it would be best to arrive early one night. And we were right. We arrived at Cafe Havana around 10 pm. By that point, most of the tables had already been taken. Luckily we found a table right next to the stage which was also close to the bar. The band played for about an hour and needless to say they were amazing. The entire place was lit. And this was my favorite part of the trip. It wasn’t even close.

South America has a million different things to offer. If you have the opportunity I will suggest taking way more than just two weeks to travel the continent. But if you do just have a few days to travel you could do much worse than Peru and Colombia. Both offer vastly different experiences yet they’re only hours apart. Listen, Objectively Black is traveling a lot this year. If you want to stay up-to-date on what we’re doing and get a good idea of what these different places have to offer, keep following. And also let us know what you think. Where do you want us to travel to next?

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Black Safe, General

Objectively Black does South America – Pt. 1

It’s been several months since your uncles at OB have traveled. Our last trip to Denver was “lit” as the kids are saying, but we were long overdue for “another one”. In picking a place to travel there were several things that we had to consider. For us it was important to travel someplace that we had never been before. Somewhere with a different culture entirely. And most importantly somewhere with extraordinary views for Instagram. Bitches love views.

Some other things that we needed to consider was our less than extended time off. Sadly our swagger-less day jobs don’t allow us to take that much time for vacation. We thought about doing South America because we could hit several countries. Europe has a similar draw, but everybody goes to Europe. Here at objectively black we are different… and we also like salsa. Initially the plan was to hit Brazil, Columbia and Peru. But at the time of booking, Brazil was too hot. There were ridiculous stories coming out about Brazil and we didn’t want to fuck with that since Spanish was already a struggle and we knew zero Portuguese whatsoever. We did meet several people during the journey who didn’t speak Spanish and got along just fine. But I suggest that if you can, learn some of the language of your destinations or fly with someone who knows it. It just makes everything easier.

I should mention now that we traveled with a buddy who was from the Dominican Republic and was fluent in ‘Spanish’. He really was responsible for what we thought was an authentic experience. We didn’t want to be some gringos in SA. So we finally decided on Peru for 4 nights and Cartagena, Columbia for another 4 nights. We’re going to break each stop on the trip into 2 separate articles. This is part 1.

Peru

Our first stop was in Lima Peru. The plan was to stay one night in Lima and fly out to Cusco the next day. We flew Avianca Airlines which was pretty dope. The flight was broken in 2 with a layover in Bogota. The connecting flight to Lima was delayed for 5 hours but that kind of thing happens when you travel overseas. Expect it and go with the flow. After we landed in Lima we took an airport Taxi to an Airbnb we booked that was 15 minutes away from the airport. Our plan being to see some sites around the area and still be very close to the airport in case we got drunk and need to sleep in. Driving through the city of Lima right outside of the airport was a bit surreal but also familiar. The born-and-bred in New York City side of me found it a bit foreign naturally. The streets were dark and the buildings or houses all looked a little run down. There were huge piles of trash on the median’s, and the driver had me nervous. These drivers were aggressive to say the least. The Nigerian American in me, the guy who’s been to West Africa a few times, to me this felt familiar as fuck. We were officially in the 3rd world. And I was nervously loving it already.

The nervousness got real once we arrived at our Airbnb. To say the least we weren’t in as comfortable a location as I would have liked. I had to reach out to some friends back in the States to point me in the right direction. They instructed me to change my Airbnb from a place in San Amadeo De Garagay to a hostel in Miraflores. So that’s what we did. After a 40 minute Uber it was like we were in a completely different country. Miraflores was “gorgeous gorgeous”. It’s also where all the tourists were in Lima. I should be clear though that these tourists weren’t just American. We met Brits, Spaniards, Brazilians and Dutch peoples in just in a couple of hours at the hostel.

We stayed at two hostels during our time in South America. Depending on what kind of trip you are looking for, your noise tolerance, and your age you may want to stay clear of certain hostels. You don’t have to worry about Selina hostel in Miraflores, which was safe for all. Even though we booked it that same night we were able to secure a private room for cheap (by US standards). It was quiet, they had a nice bar with good food, and the bartender was super helpful. We asked him if there was anything to do on Sunday night and he pointed us in the direction of Calle de los Pizza. Sadly, because it was a Sunday night this strip wasn’t popping. Do we say popping anymore? Still we were able to find a couple of clubs that are open. We decided on Son de Cuba after a little encouragement by what seemed like the manager of the spot. The next day we walked the streets of Miraflores. The weather in Lima was pretty comfortable at about 60 degrees, with constant cloud cover, so we just walked around in t-shirts. The streets are filled with beautiful artwork and the architecture reminded us of the Art Deco structures in Miami. The people stared a bit but I may have been the blackest tallest person they had ever seen in life. We made sure to eat a good meal of Lomo Saltado and see a few nearby sights like Larcomar and Huaca Pucllana before our flight to Cusco.

Cusco was a different beast all together. Firstly, the flight up there was only an hour but we were warned about the turbulence. So in natural fashion for me I made peace with my God and prepared for whatever might come next. I also left specific instructions with my family that if the worst should happen, i’d like to be buried with all $523.24 of my checking + savings account (Shout out Drake). Needless to say the flight went fine with very little turbulence. When we landed we called and Uber to take us to our 2nd hostel. Wild Rover. Remember that short warning about hostels? Well Wild Rover is one that you may want to research a bit before booking. It honestly wasn’t that bad, but I am a very light sleeper so it just wasn’t for your boy. Still the people were very nice and we did have some fun at the onsite bar for the 1 night we stayed there. 

Cusco is an amazing city just visually. The streets are cobblestone and the entire city is on a hills/mountains sides. Not only that, but the city itself is surrounded by mountains. So anywhere you look you see breathtaking views. Be sure to have some of that coca leaves tea  because you will want to walk, and that altitude will get your ass. After our first night we hit the ground running with Laguna Humante which we booked through one of the several tour companies with offices across the city.

We had to get up 4:00am to get on a bus that stopped right outside of Wild Rover’s gates. We got on the bus and finished our sleep but awoke to some next level views of the sun rise. Seriously the back of your neck is gonna get toned from looking up all the damn time during this trip. But it will all be worth it. Now if the sun doesn’t wake you up, then the driver whipping that bus around those tight turns to the base of that mountain will. Anyway, after a meal and a bit more driving you are face to face with the base of the mountain looking up at what will be a 1.5-2 hour trek up at 4,200 meters in elevation. Don’t worry though. If you aren’t in shape and aren’t willing to suffer a heart attack on the side of a mountain in Peru, you can take a horse. I am not in shape but I am certainly willing to stress my own heart instead of these senoritas doing it for a change. So we climbed…

And it sucked.

But it was worth it.

On the last day in Peru we took a train to Machu Picchu on the PeruRail. If you aren’t doing the 4-day hike to Machu Picchu, then this has to be the 2nd best option. The train is equipped with huge windows on the sides and the top of cars allowing you to see the whole 360 view of all the surrounding mountains. The conductor stopped the train at certain points and on the loudspeaker you can hear an explanation of historical significance of the spots along the way. Also they serve beer. This was also the point when we realized how shitty our work-life balance is. On the trip up to Machu Picchu sat across from 2 young Australian ladies. They were both on the tail end of a 5-week trip across South America. We were lucky we got a week!

Anyway, they were cool and wanted to hang out after the tour so we never talked to them again. More on the train though. After the tour we got in one of the first class train cabins and were treated to a fashion show as well as what can only be described as Peru’s version of a Jester. A dude dressed up in masks and danced around the train for our amusement. I just wonder what other first class experiences I’ve been missing my whole life. In short Machu Picchu was dope. I’m not a historian and I couldn’t do our tour guide Percy any justice, but I hope this pictures will suffice. 

By the end of Peru, we did not want to leave. The experience we had was definitely life changing. Seeing how other people live and being around so much beauty everyday is something I could definitely get used to. But sadly it was time to hit the next spot on our journey, Columbia. I can guarantee that I’ll be back to Peru. I’ma try to do that 4-day hike to Machu Picchu and I’ma eat all the Lomo Saltado I possibly can until I go back. 

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Black Safe, Dining

NYC Restaurant Review – Madame Vo BBQ – Objectively Black

“Black Safe” – A discussion and review of restaurants and bars that we’ve visited. The point of these reviews is to give people of color a sense of how we felt or were treated when patroning these establishments. We’ll each give our take on what we experienced, then we’ll give a score out of 5 on the below criteria:

Madame Vo BBQ

For this week’s iteration of “Black Safe”, we visited Madame Vo BBQ in the East Village. If you don’t know, MVB is a joint venture by Chef’s Jimmy Ly and Yen Vo. Frustrated with the sameness of many Vietnamese restaurants in NYC, they decided to open a new concept and bring some unique new flavors to their traditional cuisine. On a good night, you might run into personalities like Aziz Ansari, Miss Vietnam, or fashion legend Calvin Klein.

The menu has many amazing flavors and options, but we went for the “Beef 7 Ways”. It’s a multi-course tasting of 7 different cuts of beef. Probably the best way to try Vietnamese BBQ, right? You get unlimited rice paper, greens, and accompanying fruits to accentuate the flavors of each special dish. We highly recommend going this route because it’s a really fun and interactive way to taste Vietnamese BBQ.

Our servers were very knowledgeable about everything on the menu. They recommended how to prepare and eat each and what paired well with what.

The ambiance was chill. It felt like you were at a pool party in the heat of summer. The playlist definitely helped to cater to this mood.

Course #1: Round-eye beef carpaccio salad.

F. Dougie – So I loved the concept and I thought that the food was really good. The servers did a really good job of helping to navigate us through all of the different dishes. The smoke from the BBQ was a little much but I guess don’t cook your own meat at the table if you ain’t ready for a little fire, right?

I wasn’t a huge fan of the seaweed wrapped dish and I also thought that the steak was kind of bland but maybe we were supposed to be using the accompanying sauces they gave us? To be honest, I really wasn’t in the mood to drink because I been in the gym making sure I keep my rock hard abs, but if I was I’d be pretty disappointed that MVB doesn’t have their liquor license yet. They should have it very soon, but if you’re looking to get lit, you’re going to need to wait another week or two.

Black Safeness: 4.4/5

Idris Gray – I think it was very typical of a Vietnamese BBQ restaurant. The assortment of meats was good. It was a great suggestion to do the Beef 7 ways, although I feel like they can name it something different.

What was unique about this spot was the vibe and scenery. It was like being in a Miami Vice movie. The walls are covered with rainforest wallpaper and everything in the restaurant is either green or pink. And I can’t overstate how helpful and nice the servers were. Our server saw me struggling with chopsticks and immediately brought over the fork. He a real one.

Black Safeness: 4/5

We both liked this joint. The ambiance was dope but in order to capitalize on it and really keep people engaged with the vibe they have going on, they’ll definitely need to get that liquor license (they should have it before the end of the month). Overall, its a solid recommendation from the both of us but if you wait a week or two, I think this spot will really grab you. With that, May mắn nhé”.

Madame Vo BBQ / Pool Party Vibes
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Black Safe, Dining

2 Black Men in Denver. Day 1 – Objectively Black

“Black Safe” – Denver, CO – DAY 1

         If you’ve never been to Denver, it’s actually a pretty small city. You can hit a fair amount of sights and tourist attractions in just one day if you really try. The buildings aren’t very tall, so the city seems very intimate. There are a ton of locally owned businesses all serving a similar purpose…The purpose, you guessed it; Beer.

It’s super easy to get around, but we recommend using the Lyft or Bird Apps to rent scooters. They are everywhere and they’re pretty dope. The utility of reaching in your pocket, grabbing your phone, then scanning a random scooter from off the curb is incredibly novel. They aren’t strewn all about either, The scooters are fairly well maintained and easy to use. Scan the scooter, kick, push, and coast. Throttle is on the right. Brake is on the left. It’s that simple. They are pretty fast, so it’s a fun way to move around the city. Just be sure you aren’t drunk or high while riding.

Cherry Cricket – Brewpub

As soon as we landed, we were starving. So we asked around for a recommendation that was still pretty close to where we were staying. We were also in the mood for burgers. It’s no secret that the cattle in this area of the country is choice so we ended up going to Cherry Cricket. The service was slow (I’m starting to think that anything outside NYC is) but the staff was crazy nice and their manners made up for it. The food was delicious. And no surprise, the beer selection was good as well.

Black Safe Score 4/5

Great Divide – Brewery

Next, we shot on over to The Great Divide for our first taste of the Denver Craft Beer scene. The brewery has some interesting art on the walls. A painting of Hov and Ye in full cowboy garb caught our eye. It perfectly captured their personalities and we almost copped before we talked ourselves out of it. The artwork in Denver would continue to catch our eye during the trip.

Black Safe Score 4/5

Dispensaries

After a few more beers, we hit our first dispensary. They are everywhere and you can’t really miss em. Obviously, bring cash. At least until the rest of the country gets their act together. These places have something for everybody. From your hardcore weed enthusiasts to your newbies and Ganga virgins. The staff is knowledgeable and will give you the rundown on anything you have questions about. After some perusing, we opted to go for the fast melting gummies. Like two kids looking at a playboy for the first time, we rushed outside, ripped opened the shiny packaging (no golden ticket tho) and ingested our first legal round of oh so masterfully manufactured THC. Since we had about an hour before liftoff, we took an extra slow stroll back to the BnB before we left for the Pepsi Center. We were told that the gummies wouldn’t hit us for an hour. So we took our suggested doses, 1 for Dougie and half for Idris, and waited. Of course, we got impatient and doubled up after an hour of waiting with no real effects…

Black Safe Score 4/5

Denver Nuggets / Houston Rockets

Since the high was starting to kick in, we opted for a Lyft. Our driver, a French woman named Elaine, arrived pretty promptly in a shiny new Ford Fusion:

Driver: You boys from out of town? (yeah, they are chatty down here. Get your talking points ready)

F. Dougie: Yeah, we’re from New York.  Brooklyn and Queens. We wanted to see what Denver is all about.

Driver: Oh, so you guys are just here for fun? No special occasion?

Idris Gray: It’s funny you mention that. We’re actually celebrating the launch of our blog.

Driver: Ohhhhh, very interesting. What is the blog about?

Dougie: We are writing about pop-culture, politics, music, movies, and other things from our own unique perspective. We really think that people can identify with some of the ways that we view things.

Idris: It’s called “ Objectively Black”.

Her face turns to stone*

Driver: Soooooooo…… (pauses)

Are you going to educate black people? Or is this just black people complaining about SLAVERY AND BLAH BLAH BLAH?

Dougie: “Bitch, what?!”

Fam did she just say slavery and blah blah blah?! My nigga, I’m too high for this shit!! I can’t even process it!”

Idris: Hold up man. Don’t turn up. Let’s see what she has to say.

Driver: “I have many black friends. They complain a lot and….”

Dougie: This is the first day of black history month! I cannot sit here and listen to this.

(indecipherable yelling)

Driver: I’m trying to say that I try to be a good person and help my friends see a different perspective than complaining. How can someone like me help?

Idris: I’m trying to process what she’s saying, and in a weird way it reminds me of that time, that white college student approached Malcolm X and said that she was an ally and wanted to know what she could do to help… He milly rocked her to the side and said “NOTHING”.

Dougie: Right?! Now you asking how you can help?! Let me out this Lyft…

Later*

Dougie: Well that was fun…By the way, It’s 7:00 pm and We are STILL the only 2 black People in Denver!!!! I ain’t seen one of us, YET! (Day 2 got better). The Pepsi Center is adequately mediocre. Where is the house that Melo built?

Idris: Where are the lobsters?!  Where is the filet mignon?!

Dougie:  Where the fuck is Shake Shack?! Where am I right now?!

Hold up, we gotta take a little intermission to talk about the National Anthem. You wanna talk about spiritual? Fam, I thought I was in church. Yeah, the dude on the saxophone was good, but I’ll be damned if that wasn’t a spiritual experience. People really love the flag out here. I swear the dude next to us was catching the holy ghost. Also pretty sure we saw a lady have an orgasm.

But then immediately after, they started playing Lil Dickie’s frat anthem, “I dreamed I was black so now I can say nigga” so we were a little offended….Anyway. Onward.

Idris: My man, there are NO single women ANYwhere in this town. Everybody is Boo’ed up.

Dougie: They’ve all been betrothed since age 15. You know how it is in the midwest. This is technically the midwest, right?

Idris: Yeah, I’m pretty sure. I’m also pretty sure they are playing Ice Ice Baby right now.

Dougie: Holy shit, I’m high as fuck. I almost kicked that lady’s drink out of her hand for no reason. Other than the fact that it would have been hilarious. Why did we get seats all the way up here?!

Idris: ….Dougie, we are in the 12th row from the floor.

Dougie: Yo, did that little kid just say “You can’t stop yo bitch?! Where are his parents?!”

Idris: I think he said You can’t stop Jokic.

Hold up…Who the fuck are Bonnie and Clyde?!

Dougie: They look like a brother and sister pop group or some shit. Let’s boo them.

Both: Boooooooooooooooo! Y’all are trash!

Dougie: “Yoooooo! That girl just got hit in the face with a beachball!

*end scene*

Black Safe Score 5/5

…to be continued in Part 2

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Black Safe, Dining

2 Black Men in Denver. Day 2 – Objectively Black

“Black Safe” – Denver, CO – DAY 2

       If you did day 1 correct, you are probably stupid hungry and in need of sustenance. You’re probably still in pain from the hour of straight laughing from that joke you and your people were laughing about, but you can’t quite remember what the subject of the joke was. Your throat is probably hella dry, and you can’t really find a pharmacy close by to grab a Gatorade because Denver is basically all micro-breweries. You’re definitely exhausted and still need to sleep. But trust us, Denver’s got much more to offer.

Snooze, an A.M. Eatery

Snooze came highly recommended and we were not disappointed. We arrived around 9:00 am and the line was already around the door. The wait wasn’t too crazy, but you can tell that this place always does crazy business because they have games like cornhole outside the restaurant and give anyone waiting for a table, free coffee. Their specialty seems to be a section on the menu called “the art of hollandaise”. We both got two different orders of poached eggs and there was an option to replace one of the sides with a pancake. We were all over that!

The drinks were pretty dope as well. I definitely recommend the bacon-infused bloody mary, with Bacon.

Black Safe Score 4/5

F. Dougie: Yo man, you’ve been quiet all morning. You aight?

Idris Gray: I think I’m still smacked. I’m never doing this shit again.

*A bum walks in*

Bum: Ay Youngblood, let me hold a few dollars.

Dougie: Damnnit! Can’t I enjoy this come down in peace?!

Bum: Hey man, I’ll take yo teeth!

Dougie: Look fam, I’m sorry. I can’t help right now.

*Waitress escorts the homeless fellow out*

We actually stayed at an Airbnb a few blocks from a rescue mission during our time in Denver. It’s not completely new to see a few blocks of a city sectioned off for the homeless, but it doesn’t get any easier to see things like this either. We definitely encourage you to take a look at the mission and do what you can to help.

Five Points

Looking for a change of cultural pace, we ventured to 5 Points, a historically African American neighborhood in Central Denver. According to the neighborhood’s history,  it became a predominantly black neighborhood in Denver because discriminatory housing laws in other neighborhoods forbade black people from settling in them. Think of it as your typical housing discrimination policies in Long Island but much more serious.

Today, Five Points is much more gentrified and no longer predominately black, but we do have to say that it was much more diverse than the parts of town we’d seen so far. The part of town hosting the annual Juneteenth celebration, African-American history museum, and beautiful murals of black historians was a must visit.

Black Safe Score 5/5

Ratio Beer Works

This micro-brewery came highly recommended by some craft beer OGs back home in NYC. Ratio definitely had some class and seemed to be a staple in the community. Like almost everyone else we’d met in Denver, the staff was genuine and friendly (a foreign concept, we know). They were highly knowledgeable of their product and I could say with 100% certainty that they could find something for you, even if you aren’t a frequent beer drinker.

There’s an outdoor patio so you can soak in that Vitamin D. Since Denver has over 300+ days of sun per year, you’re definitely going to want to head outside and grab a table. AND FOR CHRISTS SAKE, BRING SUNGLASSES YOU FOOLS!

Ratio is even dog-friendly. Definitely hit this spot if you’re a dog lover. I’m actually certain at one point there might have been more dogs than people.

Black Safe Score 4.5/5

Art

Taking in the neighborhood and the gorgeous murals bringing the buildings to life, we ran into a beautiful rainbow colored mural of Nina Simone and another homage to professor and activist Angela Davis.

The Denver street art was really inspiring. The neighborhood was no longer predominately black but still paid homage to its past heritage. What also comes to mind when taking in all of this art, is the fact that in many major cities it just wouldn’t be possible. The respect and love for the art are what keep these displays in perfect condition. Keeping anything in one piece back home in NYC seems to take an act of god.

Black Safe Score 5/5

Lazo Empanadas

This place is a must visit. It’s a small family owned Argentinian restaurant with a few tables, but what they lack for in size, they more than make up for in taste and soul.

With 14 different flavors of Empanadas, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. They use dough from Argentina and the result is a flaky, crunchy but soft shell. They are great as a snack, but 3 empanadas seem to be the magic number for a hearty lunch.

Black Safe Score 5/5

Union Lodge No. 1 – Speakeasy

If you’re looking for a cocktail bar with delicious drinks, that also stays historically accurate to the mid-1900s, then you’re in luck. Why you’d be looking for this specifically this is interesting, but we’ll stay objective. And in case you were wondering they don’t keep it all the way 1920 if you know what I mean.

Anyway, the staff was very friendly, and the service was great. The menu is large so if you don’t know exactly what to order, just ask one of the bartenders for a recommendation. They’ll set you up nicely. Now, don’t be surprised if you see a few people in the back dressed like Al Capone, or if your bartender begins to violently crush ice with a mallet. It’s all apart of the ambiance here.

Black Safe Score 4/5

RINO Art District – The Source Market + Hotel

After hitting up this spot for the first time, late in day 2, I was disappointed we didn’t have more time to explore all the various retailers, restaurants, and art pieces at The Source Motel and Market Hall. The hotel itself was a cool-looking modern building with a panoramic rooftop for those views of the rocky mountains. While the market had over 25 food and retail vendors and 2 breweries.

We decided that we wanted more drinks to offset the weed gummies I vowed to never do again but did anyway. Once again, the service was fire. The bartenders were nice and the drinks were hitting.

We were able to check out some of the art at the source as well, and just like the rest of the city, the art was beautiful and with only a few exceptions, was a bargain. If I hadn’t spent all my money on weed, alcohol, and burgers, perhaps I could have purchased an elephant with AK-47s as tusks.

Black Safe Score 4.5/5

Closing

Denver is not the place to come if you are looking for diverse types of people or if you are looking to turn up or party. It’s pretty obvious that when the plane lands you are going to get a different type of American experience. We really recommend that you put it on your travel list in the near future. Sure, you may run into a few hiccups, but overall Denver is a great place to visit. The food is great and the people are cool. You can’t beat the breweries, and if you really want to chill you’ve got dispensaries every other block.

Coming from a big city like New York, it’s easy to forget that people live so much different in other parts of the country. People have different values. They have different ways of looking at things and different things that they consider important in life. We found it very inspiring that the local breweries each partnered with local artists to promote art and culture in the various neighborhoods. In a big city like New York, we don’t even say hello or acknowledge each other most of the time. Someone will accidentally bump into you in the street or on the subway and it’s like the whole world is unfair. In Denver, you won’t get away with walking by someone and not saying hello or at least giving a smile. No one is going to run into you in the street and not apologize. If you keep an open mind, Denver has a lot to offer. If you love great food, beer, and art, its at least worth visiting over a long weekend. Chances are, given an extended stay, you could even come to love it.

Black Safe Score 4.5/5

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Black Safe, Dining, Drinks

NYC Restaurant Review: The Randolph At Broome – Objectively Black

“Black Safe” – A discussion and review of restaurants and bars that we’ve visited. The point of these reviews is to give people of color a sense of how we felt or were treated when we patronize these establishments. We’ve all been there. Your service seemed extra slow. Maybe people are looking at you crazy. Either way, we know that our treatment in public spaces is much different than others. We aren’t going out looking for fights, and hopefully soon, Black Safe won’t even be necessary. But for now, we gotta report back to y’all on what we experience.

How was the food? How were the drinks? We’ll each give our take on what we experienced, then we’ll give a score out of 5.

F. Dougie: To start off, I gotta say that I’ve been to Randolph Beer before. Not this location, but the Randolph’s in Dumbo serves as a hangout spot for me and my crew on weekends. The Broome street location was easy to locate and had plenty of space both at the bar and in the dining room. With over 30 different beers on tap, this is a choice spot for happy hour. The 10oz to 16oz Happy Hour upgrade is catchy, but not stellar enough to be considered a happy hour favorite.

Again, the beer and drink selection is dope so it’s hard to complain, especially when the prices are around an average $8 per pint. The bar itself is dark AS FUCK so set your phone to low brightness unless you want temporary corneal damage. As for the ratio, we definitely held it down on Broome street. A few other brothas and sistas rolled in and I personally want to thank Randolph’s for not asking me and my partna to leave (as they could have) when we got extra, extra black and had a loud “discussion” about gentrification and opportunity zones (more to come on that later). I have a feeling we’ll definitely be back. The fried chicken sammich was bomb bar food and definitely hit the spot after a long ass stressful day. I also appreciate the bartender asking if I wanted hot sauce on the side. We really appreciate you for that, fam.

It’s the little things, right Y’all?

Black Safeness: 4.4/5

Idris Gray: Listen Y’all, we started this segment off the only way we know how. LOUD! As we do… we got into a heated conversation about politics on a random Wednesday night.  But that’s ok, the Randolph at Broome, was still happy to accommodate all our blackness. First off, the location is super easy to get to, both the green and orange are nearby. They have a wide assortment of beers and plenty of space to accommodate big groups.

While there isn’t anything special about the bar upon entry, it fit the bill as a comfortable location for drinks and or a meal after work. I am currently abstaining from drinks after a very eventful New Years, but the food was good and priced about right for Manhattan. I had a grilled chicken sandwich which hit the spot. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, how was the ambiance? Well, it was fucking dark. Like I almost lost Dougie, dark. So take some advice from uncle Idris, and make sure you take that first date outside under a streetlamp before you make that final decision. Furthermore, it seems like Dougie and I have been going to the wrong spots for years. Cause this was one of the few times we weren’t the only two brothas in the spot. That was a pleasant surprise for sure. The Randolph was good all around and I will for sure be hitting this spot if I’m ever in the area again.

Black Safeness: 4.4/5

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Black Safe, Dining, Drinks

NYC Restaurant Review: The Henry at Life Hotel – Objectively Black

“Black Safe” – A discussion and review of restaurants and bars that we’ve visited. The point of these reviews is to give people of color a sense of how we felt or were treated when we patronize these establishments. We’ve all been there. Your service seemed extra slow. Maybe people are looking at you crazy. Either way, we know that our treatment in public spaces is much different than others. We aren’t going out looking for fights, and hopefully soon, Black Safe won’t even be necessary. But for now, we gotta report back to y’all on what we experience.

How was the food? How were the drinks? We’ll each give our take on what we experienced, then we’ll give a score out of 5.

F. Dougie: Henry at Life Hotel is an African, Caribbean, and African-American inspired concept by head chef J.J. Johnson. He took over the restaurant in the fall of 2018 and it quickly jumped to the top of many New York restaurant critics must-eat lists.

From the moment we walked in, we could tell this was going to be a different dining experience. The staff was diverse and the music was expertly curated. I can’t remember the last time that I stopped in the middle of a dinner conversation to sing “Hypnotize” (Biggie) “I Get Around” (Pac), and “Electric Relaxation” (Tribe). My man Idris almost started freestyling to “Get By” (Talib) during a conversation about the government shutdown. This expertly chosen playlist helped inject some much-needed blackness into lower-midtown. After a long ass day of dealing with entitled-ass clients, sometimes “Gon’ blast, squeeze first ask questions last” is just the shit you need to hear to keep you motivated.

The food was on point, but you didn’t really expect a brotha to get African and Carribean food wrong, did you? The drinks were pricey, but much to be expected from a hotel restaurant. I had a Captain Lawrence ‘Golden Delicious’ and couldn’t have been happier with my decision. I know what y’all are thinking. “Why would he drink a Belgian ale with Afro-Carribean food?” Sure, I’m certain there are many different cocktails that would have paired better with my meal, and I’m sure the head chef and mixologist worked hard to create some great cocktails that complement their menu better….but I got a baby that needs to go to college one day and you know damn well how much a cocktail costs in New York City so Y’all can go to hell.

The Lamb Suya Kebabs with Za’atar Yogurt and Roti were an excellent starter and you already know I had to go with the Roasted Jerk Chicken for my entree. Yeah, I got chicken for dinner. I did this for Y’all! We gotta make sure if someone is putting Jerk Chicken on the menu, they representing. It was tender, succulent, and had a crispy, almost fried skin. If you like spicy (white people beware), this should give you juuuust enough of that Caribbean kick without overpowering. We’ll definitely be back.

Black Safeness: 4.6/5

Idris Gray: “Mazel tav, it’s a celebration bitches!” – Jay -Z (Roc Boys). This was the mood as soon as we entered Henry at Life Hotel, right on 31st between 5th and 6th avenue. It’s the one with the big neon pink sign in the window. You can’t miss it.

As you walk in the restaurant you are immediately greeted with great service. You’ll want to make a reservation before coming, but walk-ins are definitely welcome. There’s a good sized bar as well, which is ideal for those after work drinks. We made a reservation for 7:30 but they were able to seat us a bit earlier. Now let me warn you, as you walk to your table you may be stopped in your tracks by the sound of 50 Cent, Talib or HOV over the speakers. Do not adjust your TV set fam, this real life, you’re at home. At several times during the dining experience, you may find yourself breaking out in song just to remind everyone that you know all the words to Let’s Ride by Q-Tip.

We can’t say enough about the diversity of the restaurant. It’s not that hard to find good service at a hotel restaurant but it is hard to find a staff as diverse as the one here in midtown Manhattan. That diversity doesn’t quite resonate in the seats of the restaurants from our sample size, but this was one night. And this is why we are here! To let Y’all know about these gems!

For drinks, I did the Captain Lawrence ‘Golden Delicious’. Cocktails looked good but I’m never sure what type of glass a mixed drink will come in, so I just get beer. Weird, I know. Don’t @ me. Either way, the beer was good. Now for the food and the menu. Being of West African descent, I could definitely appreciate the menu choices. I think the chef does a great job of incorporating different parts of the diaspora. That being said you don’t have to be African to enjoy every part of the experience here. In fact, if you’d like to enjoy every part of the menu there’s an option for that. It’s called the “It Was All a Dream”. I imagine that the food coma you are put in post meal is the main reason why, but it incorporates the main dishes in the menu into one and feeds the whole squad.

After the Lamb Suya Kebabs with Za’atar Yogurt and Roti appetizer which was amazing. I chose to go with the Salmon Noodles with  African Nectar Broth, Bok Choy, Edamame, and Rice Noodles. I had no idea what “African Nectar Broth” was. But now I’m mad at moms for never making it. The broth was delicious and the Salmon perfectly cooked. I really can’t say much more than you need to try it, and try this restaurant. We’ll definitely be going back.

Black Safeness: 4.8/5


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