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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