ABOVE AND OPPOSITE: Manny’s
Universal Cafe in Greensboro, North
Carolina, is promoted by Ethnosh,
an organization that drives business
to immigrant-owned ethnic food
companies. Manny’s features the
food of El Salvador.
Mongolian families in Denver serve a whole roasted sheep cooked with hot rocks, while in
Washington, D.C., tourists and natives flock to Ethiopian restaurants for spicy lamb stew and
injera bread. And strollers along the boardwalk at Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach sit at outdoor cafes
drinking borscht and eating pelmeni.
The American food system relies on immigrant labor more than does any other segment of
the economy. Restaurants have a higher concentration of foreign-born workers than the overall
U.S. economy, employing nearly 2. 3 million. “Immigrants feed this country,” says Noelle Lindsay
Stewart, communications manager at Define American, a media company in Washington, D.C.,
focused on immigrant rights and identity.
A WILL TO WORK
According to New American Economy, New York, 5. 5 million foreign-born workers in the
U.S. work evenings, overnight and weekends, and are 15.7% more likely to work these off-hours
than U.S.-born workers.
Typical is Kazi Mannan, who came to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1996 and immediately
began working the graveyard shift, 6 p.m.- 8 a.m., as a gas station attendant. Eventually, he got a
promotion, and when he received his green card (permanent resident card), he worked three jobs.
He bought a car, and began driving for an executive car service. Now, Mannan owns Sakina Halal
Grill in Washington, D.C., named for his mother. “They said I was going to work like a donkey
when I came here,” he says. “And I was grateful. I wanted the work.”
Maria Cano had been a lawyer, judge and mayor of a small town in Colombia before coming to
the U.S. and settling in New York. She supported herself selling arepas at a small food stand under
the Roosevelt Avenue railroad tracks. She is now retired, and two of her sons—in classic second-
generation immigrant fashion—operate The Arepa Lady, a standalone restaurant.