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Eating Through Chocolate City: Your Guide To Black-Owned & Black-Led Dining In The DC Area

Updated: Sep 5

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Why This Guide?

Traditional media coverage often excludes Black perspectives and this is also true for the local food space.

According to an analysis completed with the help of volunteers in early 2020, out of more than 380 recommendations published in local food media outlets since COVID-related closures began, only a handful were fully or partially Black-owned. Generally, regional "best-of" coverage, neighborhood roundups, and listicles have sparse Black-owned listings. And the Black-owned listings that do make the cut are often repeated across media sources.


TLDR: The same small handful of Black-owned recommendations are recycled again and again in local food media.


Listicles, roundups, and guides serve as resources for the community, reference documents that inform readers and searchers as they make dining choices. They help shape public perception about what exists and is available.

The limited coverage of Black-owned businesses ultimately results in the erasure - or at the very least, a flattening - of our view of the region's food scene.


How And Why Are Businesses Included/Excluded?

This resource is meant to be a starting point for diners to further explore the DC-area Black restaurant scene. It is not intended to be a best-of list, as tastes vary so dramatically person-to-person.

In general, when considering businesses for this guide, we were intentionally accommodating about service snags, for example, shrugging off minor mix-ups or delays (up to about 30 minutes). Those issues can arise due to a variety of circumstances over which the restaurant may or may not have control. We also don't necessarily value fancy or sit-down restaurants over others.

Of the numerous Black-owned and Black-led restaurants in the DC area, this guide includes a sampling of our favorites. Arranged by occasion, we hope they offer an entree into an aspect of the local food space and encourage readers to consider the diversity of Black food offerings.


Black-Owned And Black-Led

This guide deliberately includes restaurants with Black executive chefs as in the food and beverage space it remains a rarity for Black folks to occupy positions of leadership or management. Those listings are noted as Black-led. We stick to those narrowly defined categories as this guide is independently funded and we do not have the capacity to expand beyond them.

How Was This Created?

This guide was originally created in 2020 by Anela Malik, founder of Feed The Malik, after trying well over 100 Black-owned and Black-led restaurants in the region.


Crystal Fernanders, a DMV-based food blogger, recipe developer, and freelance writer, has made more recent updates to keep this guide current. Crystal is a freelance writer for The Washington City Paper as a carry-out food critic, the first in the country. While her main focus is takeout, she also reviews casual and fine dining establishments. Check out Crystal's Instagram to watch her explore her hometown!


Including The Broader Region Beyond DC

Finally, this guide focuses primarily on DC as the historic Chocolate City referenced in the title. It also includes some businesses in MD and VA. As gentrification and rising prices push many Black and brown DC locals to surrounding areas, the food scene is being impacted. See Little Ethiopia's move from DC to Silver Spring and Alexandria as an example. The title and the composition of this guide are a nod to those dynamics and an acknowledgment of how the broader region is changing, often to the detriment of Black and brown communities.


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Black-Owned & Black-Led Dining In The DC Area

Let's get into it! See below for a starting point for exploring the incredible depth of Black culinary leadership and talent in DC and the broader region.


Note that we have professional relationships with some of the businesses below. We may have interviewed the owners or staff, highlighted them on social media, etc... All businesses from which we have received some material benefit (aka free food) are *marked.* There are no paid placements in this guide.


Click To Jump Ahead:

Burgers & Sandwiches

Drinks & Cafes

Date Night Or Special Occasion

Breakfast Or Brunch

Sweets & Desserts

Vegan Or Vegetarian

Casual Or Carryout

Map

Still On Our "To Try" List

 

Burgers & Sandwiches

Mother Rucker’s Subs

Mother Rucker's offers a variety of classic subs. Try it "mother's way" with onions, lettuce, tomatoes, oil, vinegar, and Italian seasoning.

1101 Bladensburg Rd NE, Washington, DC 20002 | (202) 388-1881


*Fishscale

Fishscale offers delicious, wild-caught fish burgers, as well as fish cheesesteaks and house-made sides from their location in Shaw. Note this restaurant is closed temporarily until early September 2022 in preparation for the launch of its second location in Riverdale, Maryland.

637 Florida Ave NW, Washing, DC 20001 | (202) 780-7886


*Roaming Rooster

Roaming Rooster offers free-range, grain-fed, fried chicken sandwiches from multiple locations throughout the District.

Check the website for location details.


*Mélange

Mélange infuses classic American cuisine with Ethiopian flavors. Try the outstanding burgers or The National, a Doro Wat-inspired fried chicken sandwich. This casual eatery also has an outdoor seating area.

449 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20001 | (202) 289-5471


Queen Mother’s

Queen Mother’s offers various mouth-watering fried chicken sandwiches out of their location in Arlington, VA. Try the Queen Mother's Classic or the Virginia Honey Butter sandwiches.

918 S Lincoln St #2, Arlington VA 22204 | (703) 997-8474

 

Drinks & Cafes

Little Food Studio

Little Food Studio is a Petworth cafe that offers great house-made pastries, sandwiches, and coffees.

849 Upshur St NW, Washington, DC 20011


Culture Coffee Too

Culture Coffee Too is a vibrant community space as well as a full-service coffee shop and cafe.

300 Riggs Rd NE, Washington, DC 20011 | (202) 507-8349


Village Cafe

Village Cafe is a lively communal space and coffee shop in the Union Market District. Don't miss the specialty drink menu.

1272 5th St NE, Washington, DC 20002


Calabash

Calabash offers teas and coffee, as well as a large selection of spices, tonics, superfoods, aromatherapy/body care, and more. Pop into the super cute shop for a sip, grab a bite to eat, relax, and enjoy!

2701 12th St NE, Washington, DC 20018 | (202) 248-1186


Turning Natural

Woman-owned Turning Natural offers juices, smoothies, and foods such as black bean burgers and vegan pastries from multiple locations.

Check the website for location information.


*Serenata/Zumo

Serenata/Zumo is a juice and toast cafe that also offers a full-service, award-winning bar with outstanding specialty cocktails. There is both indoor and outdoor seating.

1280 4th St NE, Washington, DC 20002 | (202) 920-7373


Sandlot

Sandlot is an outdoor container bar concept with multiple locations in DC and the surrounding area. The bars also feature an array of rotating Black-owned food vendors.

Check site for location information


Service Bar

Service Bar is known for its cocktails and chill, low-key atmosphere. The menu features excellent fried chicken and fried chicken sandwiches. They also have an outdoor "streatery" seating area. Advance reservations recommended.

926-928 U St NW, Washington, DC 20001 | (202) 462-7232

 

Date Night Or Special Occasion

*Anju

Angel Barreto, one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs of 2021 is executive chef at Anju, an award-winning Korean restaurant with excellent food and a quaint patio. Make reservations in advance for this popular spot and don't miss out on the brunch offerings.

1805 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 | (202) 845-8935


Bronze

Bronze is a buzzy, afro-futurist restaurant concept on H street, great for date night or drinks with friends. The menu explores diasporic influences in this multi-level restaurant and the concept challenges us to reimagine what Black identity can be.

1245 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002 | (202) 478-6833


Maydan

Chef Darnell Thomas leads the kitchen at this award-winning Middle Eastern restaurant. A Michelin star winner, Maydan wows with fabulous cooking, an open fire hearth in the center of the restaurant, and a gorgeous space.

1346 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009


Cane

Cane, Michelin Bib Gourmand winner and neighborhood favorite, serves Caribbean street food favorites and a selection of rum-inspired cocktails. Don't miss their doubles.

403 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002 | (202) 675-2011


St. James

From the team behind popular DC restaurant Cane, St. James is a modern Caribbean restaurant and rum bar on 14th street is a great spot for drinks, a date night, or a meetup with friends. Don't skip the crab and dumplings!

2017 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 | (202) 627-2981


Swahili Village - The Consulate

The Consulate, the DC outpost of local restaurant Swahili Village, serves great East-African dishes from its location near Dupont Circle. Indoor and patio dining is available.

1990 M St NW, Washington, DC 20036 | (202) 758-3384

Swahili Village also operates a more casual restaurant in Beltsville, MD

 

Breakfast Or Brunch

Florida Avenue Grill

Florida Avenue Grill, open since 1944, serves soul food classics. Currently, hours are limited due to the pandemic. Enjoy their breakfast menu or a limited dinner menu on the patio or for carryout from 9 am to 2 pm Friday through Sunday.

1100 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009 | (202) 265-1586


Heat Da Spot

Heat Da Spot is a family-owned coffee shop in Park View known for its breakfast. It is open seven days a week and patio seating is available.

3213 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20010 | (202) 836-4719


Keren

Keren offers Eritrean cuisine and breakfast all day in Adams Morgan! Don't miss the ful on the breakfast menu.

1780 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009 | (202) 265-5764


Buna

Buna is an Ethiopian coffeehouse that offers coffee, sandwiches, and more. Don't miss out on their Ethiopian breakfast items.

4400 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20011 | (202) 882-2223

 

Sweets & Desserts

*Souk

Souk is a Capitol Hill bakery/market that offers sweet and savory treats in addition to exotic spices and oils. Also try out The Sweet Lobby nearby, a cupcake shop from the same owner!

705 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003 | (202) 547-7685


*My Cake Theory

My Cake Theory is a new cupcake shop in Capitol Hill where you can select your own cupcake flavor, fillings, and toppings.

325 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003 | (202) 544-8000


Southwest Soda Pop Shop

Southwest Soda Pop Shop is family-owned ice cream and sweets shop on The Wharf serving dipped varieties and soft serves, shakes, and floats.

1142 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024 | (202) 981-6999


Goodies

Goodies serves gourmet frozen custard, donuts, and other creative treats from the Alexandria location at The Ice House.

200 Commerce St, Alexandria, VA 22314


 

Vegan Or Vegetarian

Senbeb Cafe

Senbeb Cafe is a vegan cafe in Brightwood that serves all vegan/vegetarian soul food and sweets. Don't miss the "cheesesteak."

6224 3rd St NW, Washington, DC 20011 | (202) 249-0917


Habesha Market

Habesha Market is an eatery and market that carries various Ethiopian grocery staples. They are open seven days a week serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don't miss the Deluxe Veggie Combo with ten items for a fabulous vegetarian spread.

1919 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001 | (202) 232-1919


RAWish

RAWish is a vegan vendor from the owners of Gangster Vegan, located in the Western Market food hall. Smoothies, cold-press juices, and salads are all made from fresh, raw ingredients.

2000 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006


Dodah’s Kitchen

Dodah’s Kitchen is a vegan restaurant with multiple Maryland locations that serves soul food and desserts. Order for take-out or simply dine in to indulge in their all-day brunch, lunch, or dinner.

Check website for location information


Greens N Teff

Greens N Teff is an entirely vegetarian Ethiopian cafe in Arlington! This gem is perfect for a quick lunch or dinner. The family-owned restaurant is carryout only and serves a variety of options thoughtfully packaged to travel well.

3203 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204 | (571) 510-4063


Ethiopian Restaurants

The Washington region is home to the largest concentration of Ethiopians outside of Africa." The region's Ethiopian restaurants are outstanding and many of them offer a wide variety of outstanding vegetarian and vegan menu items (check with individual restaurants to confirm whether their vegetarian options are also vegan). Check out more Ethiopian restaurants in the District.

 

Casual Or Carryout

*Doro Soul Food

Doro Soul Food, a concept from James Beard Award semifinalist Elias Taddesse, blends Ethiopian flavors with American Soul Food to fabulous effect. Try to berbere spiced fried chicken and don't skip the greens!

1819 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001


Chercher

Chercher is a low-key eatery offering Ethiopian dishes, including vegetarian options, in addition to wine and beer. It is located in a townhouse near Logan Circle.

1334 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001 | (202) 299-9703


Ben's Chili Bowl

Since 1958 Ben's Chili Bowl, a historic family-owned restaurant, has been serving up halfsmokes and comfort food. Ben's has remained a staple of the community through decades of historic changes and upheaval. At the original location on U Street you'll find the walls lined with photos of many of the famed visitors including Barack Obama. Ben's Chili Bowl also operates a casual restaurant and bar called Ben's Next Door, connected to their U Street location.

Check website for location information


Motown Square

Motown Square serves Detroit-style pizza Thursday through Sunday. They are now offering vegan cheese as well as a delicious tibs pizza. Order in advance as they tend to sell out.

1819 7th St NW, Washington DC 20001


Pimento Grill SE

Pimento Grill SE is a compact counter-service spot offering a variety of classic Jamaican plates.

4405 Bowen Rd SE, Washington, DC 20019 | (202) 582-6595


*MLK Deli

MLK Deli is a staple in the SE DC community, known for its crabcake sandwiches. You'll find deli classics with fun names that pay homage to DC icons and landmarks.

3113 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE, Washington, DC 20032 | (202) 597-5897

*Open Crumb

Open Crumb fuses Ghanaian cuisine with American soul food in their scratch-made kitchen. Their fried chicken sandwiches should be in the running for one of the best in the city, and the mac n cheese is baked to order!

1243 Good Hope Rd SE, Washington, DC 20020 | (202) 610-9979


*Spice Kitchen West African Grill

Spice Kitchen West African Grill serves West African cuisine such as jollof rice, plantains, rice and stew, and many more options. Order online for carryout or delivery.

3809 Rhode Island Ave, Brentwood, MD 20722 | ( (202) 280-1491

 

Map

 

Still On Our "To Try" List

Jam Doung Style

Jam Doung is one of the more popular Jamaican eateries in the region, where you’ll find a wide selection of Jamaican and American dishes.

1726 N Capitol St NW, Washington, DC 20002 | (202) 483-2445


Causa/Bar Amazonia

Causa/Bar Amazonia is a Peruvian restaurant with a two-level concept from the team behind Service Bar. Causa is their fine dining concept with a 6-course menu, while Bar Amazonia is more casual with a la carte dining.

920 Blagden Alley NW, Washington, DC 20001 | (202) 629-3942


The Bussdown

The Bussodwn, a "pan-African soul food concept encompassing traditional flavors in non-traditional ways" is coming to Western Market in DC in fall 2022!


Preservation Biscuit

Preservation Biscuit is a Latina-owned spot with a Black executive chef that serves sweet and savory biscuits. Grab an old-fashioned biscuit or a biscuit filled with slow-roasted pulled pork or sausage and gravy.

102 E Fairfax St, Falls Church, VA 22046 | (571) 378-1757


DC and the surrounding areas have a wealth of food and beverage options to explore. From fine dining to pop-ups and carryout, the local scene is one of the most dynamic in the country. Don't miss out on the incredible array of Black-owned and Black-led options in the area! If you have any questions about this guide or suggestions for new spots to try, drop them in the comments below.


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