Desus and Mero name-check it at least twice during every Bodega Boys episode. J.Lo passed through it while she still rode the 6. French Montana lived there before people cared about his mixtapes and dating scandals.
Mott Haven was just another Bronx neighborhood only diehard hip-hop heads would frequent a few years back. Nowadays, though, the greater New York community has started to recognize that the southernmost tip of the borough is not only highly accessible—just one stop away from Manhattan, right on the waterfront, with pedestrian walkways to Randall’s Island—but also highly visitable. What you’d expect from the Bronx (aka street art and delectable eats) is readily available on the Alexander Avenue stretch, but would you guess that you’d also see Italian Renaissance architecture around these parts?
Everybody wants to be a locavore nowadays, even in Mott Haven. In an effort to educate the local community about affordable healthy eating, the weekly South Bronx Farmers’ Market highlights regional producers using Bronx rooftops and lots as their makeshift farmland. Buy some heads of wasabi arugula and Thai basil from Sky Vegetables, a hydroponic rooftop farm operating on top of affordable housing units in the Forest Houses neighborhood, or buy ingredients to whip up a summer salad from La Finca del Sur, a group of female farmers of Latin and African-American descent.
If street cred is what you’re after, walk down a few blocks to Famous Nobodys. The name suggests that everybody’s famous in their own right, though you’ll find plenty of famous somebodies rocking its ’wear. (Former New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is a huge fan, as are hip-hop icons like Swizz Beatz and Jadakiss.) Some of the more controversial pieces—a God > Trump tee or a snap-back baseball cap that states “Being broke is childish”—often sell out in under 24 hours.
Arthur Avenue meets Alexander Avenue at Famous Nobodys’ Italian joint, Nobodys Pizza. Nonna would be impressed by traditional iterations of mile-high lasagna, thick calzones, and luscious burrata presentations. Of course, it wouldn’t be the South Bronx if the kitchen didn’t put a twist on the classics—Nutella-filled zeppoles, thin-crust pizza topped with jerk chicken, DJ sets during brunch service. You might even find a baller or Bodega Boy posing with the bold black and white Nobodys mural…or Carmelo Anthony in the kitchen. (How does he have so much free time?!)
You think you’ve entered a curated vinyl shop when you first step into Beatstro, but behind the black curtains is an Afro-Caribbean restaurant touted as the city’s official “hip-hop restaurant.” Eccentric murals and artwork from the likes of muralist Andre Trenier and graffitist SKEME pay tribute to the legends that make the Bronx one of the hip-hop capitals of the world, and extravagant design elements like crystal chandeliers and dozens of golden woofers mounted on the wall make you feel like you’re in a music video. Order a soulful plate of Louisiana-style shrimp and grits; the kale Caesar covered in a mountain of shaved Parm; and the Josefina, the pork- and cheese-loaded fried rice balls that may be the best in the city.
Dig History Here
Further north on the Alexander Avenue stretch is a glimpse back into New York City’s history. Located between East 137th and 141st Streets is the Mott Haven Historic District, the first neighborhood in the Bronx to receive historic designation in 1969. Architecture you’d rarely find around these parts of town, let alone the city nowadays, is represented throughout the four blocks. Historic highlights include connected row houses and brownstones from the 1860s still occupied by Bronx families, creatives, and politician James L. Wells’s ghost; the oldest library branch in the Bronx, funded by Andrew Carnegie and designed in the Neo-Renaissance style; and St. Jerome Roman Catholic Church, the Spanish- and Roman-designed congregation catering to immigrants of all communities since the late 19th century.