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

Updated: Aug 27

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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 I 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 food media sources.


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 Was This Guide Created?

For more than a year, I have been dining at as many Black-owned and led businesses as possible. I took notes on my visits, shared about them on social, and spent hours editing photos and videos.


Ultimately, I have been a customer at well over 100 such businesses (I stopped counting at 100 months ago). This research ensured that I had the necessary experience to write this guide before publishing it, sampling a diverse array of Black offerings in the area and spending time truly getting to know the space.


How And Why Are Certain 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 also a representation of my tastes, which may not align with others.


I tend to be very accommodating about service, for example, shrugging off minor mix-ups or delays (up to about 30 minutes). I understand that those issues can arise due to a variety of circumstances over which the restaurant may or may not have control. I also don't necessarily value fancy or sit-down restaurants over others. Instead, I seek out friendly staff and meals that are well-balanced in terms of flavors and textures.


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


Also, given that I was dining for most of this project during pandemic-related closures, I visited the majority of these businesses for takeout. I also dined on patios when available, and you'll see patio spaces noted in the descriptions.


I have deliberately included Black-led providers in this guide as well as Black-owned, as in the food and beverage space it remains a rarity for Black folks to occupy positions of leadership or management.


Finally, this guide focuses primarily on DC as the historic Chocolate City referenced in the title. I also deliberately include some businesses in MD and VA when possible, though I am only one person with limited time and budget. 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 communities.


As I continue to explore, I will keep this guide updated. Bookmark and check back when you need dining inspiration.


Note that I have a professional relationship with some of the businesses below given the nature of my work. I may have interviewed the owners or staff, highlighted them on my platform, etc... All businesses from which I have received some material benefit (aka free food) I have marked clearly with an *. There are no paid placements in this roundup. I enjoy and frequent every business listed below.


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 My "To Try" List


Want to explore area Black-owned restaurants beyond this guide? Check out this directory!

Burgers & Sandwiches

ABC Pony

ABC Pony serves creative burgers, sandwiches, and fries. Try their Paid Vacation, a fried calamari sandwich with preserved lemon remoulade, or create your own burger. Plant-based burger patties and gluten-free buns are available.

2 I St SE, Washington, DC 20003 | (202) 913-8155


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.

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.


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


*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

Sidamo

Sidamo serves excellent coffees as well as teas and food from their H Street coffee shop. The freshly made chai is a particular treat though it does take about ten minutes to brew. There is also a small outdoor seating area.

417 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002 | (202) 548-0081


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


Gangster Vegan

Gangster Vegan serves smoothies, juices, wellness shots, salads, burgers, bowls, and desserts. All items are 100% vegan, organic, gluten-free, soy-free, and refined sugar-free.

Check the website for details on multiple locations in Maryland.


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


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


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. Calabash is not currently open for dine-in so order for pick-up or delivery.

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


Turning Natural

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 bar with outstanding specialty cocktails. There is both indoor and outdoor seating.

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


Vigilante

Vigilante is a roastery and cafe in Hyattsville serving local baked goods, a simple but delicious food menu, specialty coffee drinks, teas, and more.

4327 Gallatin St, Hyattsville, MD 20781 | (301) 200-3110


Sandlot

Sandlot is an outdoor container bar concept in Georgetown and Southeast DC that also features an array of rotating Black-owned food vendors.

71 Potomac Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003

2715 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007


Spizzy

Spizzy serves smoothies, teas, and all-day vegetarian breakfast and treats. Don't miss the vegan waffles.

5830 Allentown Way, Camp Springs, MD 20748 | (301) 686-4093


Cork

Cork is a wine bar/market that offers wine, cheese and charcuterie, family meals, and more. Take your food and drinks to go, or make a reservation to dine-in and experience your meal on the patio.

1805 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 | (202) 265-2675


Augie's

Augie's Mussel House and Beer Garden offers wine, mussels, and a selection of other food choices on their expansive outdoor patio or for indoor dining. Reservations are needed for indoor dining only; outdoor seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

1106 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314 | (703) 721-3970


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

Anju is a 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


Das

Das is a Michelin Bib Gourmand winner serving Ethiopian fare in Georgetown. Reservations are recommended and there is an outdoor patio for dining.

1201 28th St NW, Washington, DC 20007 | (202) 333-4710


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


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


Cork

Cork is a wine bar/market that offers wine, cheese and charcuterie, family meals, and more. Take the food and drinks to go, or make a reservation to dine-in and experience your meal on the patio.

1805 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 | (202) 265-2675


*Pennyroyal Station

Pennyroyal Station offers a full menu of delicious comfort foods, including multiple vegan options, from its Mt. Rainier location. There is also a patio seating area.

3310 Rhode Island Ave, Mt Rainier, MD 20712 | (240) 770-8579


*Serenata/Zumo

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

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

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


Butter Me Up

Butter Me Up is a ghost kitchen out of Halfsmoke in DC serving popular breakfast sandwiches, including a fried chicken sandwich. A standalone location is currently in the works.

651 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001 | (202) 986-2127


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.

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


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


Macaron Delights

Macaron Delights is a Black-owned family bakery that specializes in unique, delicious French Macarons. They are currently operating out of Mess Hall culinary incubator and are open seven days a week for pickup! Check their Instagram out for more details.

703 Edgewood St NE, Washington, DC 20017 | (202) 964-0710


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


Cloudy Donuts

Cloudy Donuts is a 100% handmade and vegan donut shop in Baltimore only open on the weekend. Preorder when you can and grab one of their sweet, delicious donuts.

4311 Harford Rd, Baltimore, MD 21214 | (443) 885-9052


*Crust by Mack

Crust by Mack makes all its pastries from scratch daily and menu items change regularly. Outdoor seating is available at their location at Whitehall Mill in Baltimore.

3300 Clipper Mill Rd, Baltimore, MD 21211 | (443) 414-8048


Shortcake Bakery

Shortcake Bakery is a vibrant bakery that offers sweet and savory baked goods such as quiches and scones, which are all made on-site. Try their popular pound cake and fruit tarts.

4700 Rhode Island Ave, Hyattsville, MD 20781 | (301) 779-2836

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