Neerob Rebuilds At Halal Chicken Restaurant Packsun
Mohammed “Khokon” Rahman is the perfect example of a community leader. As Bangladeshi Americans moved into the Bronx neighborhoods surrounding Parkchester, he used his skills as a realtor to help newcomers find good homes. He then worked with local grocers to open a restaurant on Starling Avenue, which had become the center of Bangladeshi culture in the borough.
That restaurant, Neerob, became known throughout the city for its authentic cooking. It also became invaluable to locals as a “third place,” that vital spot for communities that functions as a place to gather and build relationships. Neerob was a place for a special family dinner or a light snack; it was also a place where one could sit with a cup of tea and a newspaper, waiting for other locals to come along and while away the hours in conversation.
Unfortunately, business disputes between Rahman and the formal owners of the restaurant led to the closing of that restaurant in 2016. The only thing that Rahman managed to save from that relationship was the name. Originally suggested by his mother, the word “Neerob” (translation: “cozy”) now hangs in the window of Packsun, a halal fried chicken joint that Rahman had opened as a second business just a few blocks from his first one.
The decor at Packsun is decidedly less inviting. Nevertheless, Rahman has taken down the fast food menus and brought back his Bangladeshi cooking, his sense of hospitality, and his dream of owning a restaurant where the entire community can feel at home. His chai—likely the best in the city—is always simmering. His trays are re-filled with fresh rice dishes, curries, bhartas, and sweets several times a day. His smile is infectious, and his eye is already on a space back on Starling Avenue, where he plans to preside over a new “third place” for years to come.
Photographs by Donnelly Marks
Through September 1, Edible Bronx is collaborating with Edible Manhattan, Edible Brooklyn, Edible Queens, and the Staten Island Advance to debut 30 new videos about food and life in New York. Subscribe to 1 Minute Meal to see food films from all five boroughs.