16 Black-Owned Restaurants You Should Know

Incredible Black-owned restaurants to fit every occasion.
16 Black-Owned Restaurants You Should Know image

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo

Chocolate City has a long history of Black folks in every quadrant—whether they’re from down the block, across the country, or around the world. And from the soul food to the Ethiopian, the rich flavors from across the diaspora show up and show out in the District. If you’re looking to mix up your usual rotation or just branching out into the greatest cuisines the city has to offer, here are our favorite Black-owned restaurants in DC.


photo credit: Nina Palazzolo



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The best barbecue doesn’t come out of swanky restaurants. DCity Smokehouse is a testament to the fact that sliding into the local spot to grab your smoked meat is the best way to go. The Bloomingdale restaurant serves up brisket, turkey, ribs, and more in a refurbished garage splattered in all things DC and HBCU. The smoked wings will burst in your mouth when you bite through the crispy skin—pair them with the tangy housemade barbecue sauce. Come here for a quick lunch or a fun group dinner where you share as much of the menu as your elastic pants will allow.

photo credit: The Park At 14th



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There are a number of spots that have taken the Black clubstaurant idea and run with it, but The Park on 14th paved the way and we like to give credit where credit is due. You aren’t going to get good food here (or at most clubstaurants), so put that out your mind. But you will have a good time, whether you show up for Happy Hour, brunch, or a late-night grinding session. The vibe is always different, depending on the time of day, day of the week, and which of the four floors you’re on. But if you and your people are looking for a fun time where you can soak up your alcohol with subpar soul food, you won’t miss at The Park.

Before setting up shop at Union Market, Puddin’ was a popular food stall on Capitol Hill where devout customers devoured things like chicken and beef sausage gumbo, oyster and catfish po’boys, and its signature dish, the Brown Butter Bourbon Bread Puddin’. The staff here will take the time to not only walk you through the menu, but also hand over free samples you’ll take a little too quickly. Regardless of what you order, you have to end your meal with the boozy bread pudding that (if requested) comes with a fat scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The most famous Black-owned restaurant in DC doesn’t make the best food in the city, but we never pass up the chance to grab a half-smoke at Ben's Chili Bowl anyways. Inside, you can scan through the photos of visitors from across the decades scattered around the restaurant that tell the history of both Ben's and "Black Broadway." Prepare to wait in line to get some food, which you can eat at the counter or, if you're lucky, at one of the few red booths. There are also some tables in the back that can seat bigger groups. Get the original chili half-smoke with all the fixings, and make sure you ask them to split it. It comes with ridged potato chips, but you can always swap for an order of fries instead.

Halfsmoke is a '90s DC kid’s dream, so take advantage of the opportunity to step back in time at this Shaw establishment with throwback board games, metal lunch boxes, and VHS tapes. Lounge on one of the futons as you dive into boozy milkshakes adorned with old favorites like candy necklaces. Try the Cinnamon Toast Crunch-coated french toast, which is the Saturday morning breakfast you didn’t know you were missing. While the all-day brunch is a fantastic touch, don’t skip the half-smokes. The Briggs & Co, which is covered in mustard slaw, crispy onions, and bacon bits, is the bougie little brother of the OG chili half smoke a few blocks away at Ben’s Chili Bowl. And we mean that in the best way.

Some nights at His & Hers in Woodridge, there’s a DJ spinning a set that will make you want to dance more than eat. Except the upscale American food is so damn good, you won’t be able to put it down. Everything on the menu is bomb, like the spinach and artichoke dip, fried cauliflower nuggets, and lamb chops. But if you’re really stuck, get the ragin’ cajun pasta and have them add all the proteins. Stay upstairs if you want a long bar and full fluorescents, or descend the staircase inscribed with “Da Butt” lyrics to find the second bar and some larger tables to post up.

Kitchen Cray on H Street is a multigenerational hot spot where you can woo your partner, get wild with your friends, or chill with momma—all in the same place, which makes up for the aight food. The American restaurant lives up to its name, so some of the menu items will have you tilting your head in both confusion and curiosity (like the burger topped with shrimp). Your eyes will follow every plate that passes the table and the buffalo sauce on the KC chicken sandwich assaults your nose in the best way. Unfortunately, the food doesn’t taste quite as good as it looks or smells, but it’s decent and the portions are huge. Quick warning: if the DJ is playing, be prepared to yell, but the jams are solid and everybody (including the DJ) is usually having a good time.

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo



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Ward 8 deserves all of the best things, and this restaurant is one of them. Kitchen Savages is all about the community, and brings a much-needed fancy spot east of the river, complete with black linen tablecloths, gold flatware, and comfortable blue velvet chairs. It’s a good pick for date night or just for a fun ‘round the way evening. From the signature Savage fries to the jerk lamb chops, you can taste the care that goes into every bite at this Anacostia soul food spot. We’re especially obsessed with the lobster mac and cheese that comes topped with a perfectly fried lobster tail. The drinks are simple, but we love that the Sweet Irene, a spin on the French martini, is an ode to the owner’s mother.

The Players Lounge in Congress Heights has been a community staple since the '70s and on any given night, you’ll find it packed with regulars enjoying the A1 soul food and family feel. It’s a step back in time, with stained-glass Michelob overhead lamps, wood paneled walls and an old-school cash register. You’ll find most folks packed into the bar area, but there’s also extra seating in the back. Wednesday night karaoke is a vibe, so be ready to chop it up, and if you know how to act, you’ll feel at home in no time. Grab some chicken wings with the greens and mac and cheese (and a strong-a*s drink that’ll have you under the table) and you’re in for a good time.

This upscale restaurant has been open since 1993 and combines luxury dining with classic southern cuisine. The restaurant aims to transport you to a New Orleans jazz club complete with a grand piano and arched windows. And although we’ve had better soul food, the meals here leave us satisfied. The catfish fingers, the fried green tomatoes, and the banana pudding are popular and worth the hype. If you’re looking for a classy night out and a classic meal to go with it, Georgia Brown’s is your spot.

With one of the largest Ethiopian communities in the country, great Ethiopian restaurants in the city are not in short supply. And some of the best DC has to offer can be found at Letena in Columbia Heights. When you order the vegetarian sampler, you get a beautifully plated meal full of vibrant vegetables that’ll have you thanking whatever higher power you believe in for bringing you this far. And it’s not just the food. The restaurant is painted in warm hues of orange with rustic lanterns and framed art pieces lining the walls. After a few cups of honey wine and an order of the silky tiramisu, you’ll leave feeling buzzed and blessed.

This West African take-out spot in Anacostia is run by a mother-and-son team who know their way around the kitchen. The jollof rice, which might be our favorite thing on the menu, is a perfect example. The rice is tender but still holds a bite thanks to the assortment of spices like red pepper, curry, and garlic powder. You can easily eat the jollof on its own, though we recommend the Ghanaian peanut soup made with peanut butter and a smoky tomato base that has us drooling just thinking about it. The service here is quick, though we recommend ordering ahead of time just in case. If you order ahead, you can go in and out in under 10 minutes flat.

Sometimes restaurants are time capsules that embody a city’s culture and legacy. Florida Avenue Grill is a DC institution that has served residents since 1944, and is also the city’s oldest Black-owned restaurant. It’s an old-school diner, so think tattered vinyl booths and bar seats that have withstood the test of time, and serves dishes like BBQ pork spare ribs and chitterlings to customers that range from longtime regulars to the occasional tourist. For breakfast, their world-famous hot cakes, served with butter, cinnamon, and powdered sugar, is the stuff of dreams. They're light and fluffy, buttery and sweet. Things take time here and the service can be slow, but like the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.

Swahili Village in Dupont Circle brings East and West Africa together over a scrumptious spread of food. The restaurant is a popular gathering spot for the who's who of Black DC. It's a great pick for birthday dinners and first dates since the restaurant boasts an assortment of seating options including spacious private rooms, and a roped-off balcony that works great for guests looking for something more intimate. The menu fuses classic African dishes and ingredients like jollof rice, sweet plantain, and goat stew to create a menu that’ll have you doing the Birdman hand rub while you wait. Our favorite dishes include the suya, grilled and charred beef cubes served with freshly diced onions and tomatoes. And the beef samosas come in a flaky filo dough with a sweet but fiery dipping sauce.

The first thing you see when you walk into Cane, a Trinidadian restaurant on H St., is a painting of President Obama eating some doubles. And the doubles at Cane, like the doubles in the painting are overflowing with curried chickpeas and spices. The menu, which pays homage to the island's Afro-Indian street food and other traditional Caribbean dishes, includes heavy hitters like oxtail and snapper escovitch. But if you’re going to try just one thing, get the jerk wings, which are smoked for three hours after sitting in a 24-hour marinade made with scotch bonnet peppers, cumin, and paprika. You'll eat them so fast, you’ll find yourself licking your fingers and wondering who ate the last one.

This take-out joint on H Street blends two of our favorite things: soul food and Ethiopian cuisine. The fried chicken is coated in a buttermilk marinade made with berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend that consists of chili peppers, coriander, garlic, and ginger. The result is crispy skin that turns this burgundy-caramel red and meat that’s packed with flavor. You can choose your spice level for most dishes, ranging from a mild “Naked” to “Burna Boy” hot. Weekends tend to get busy here and the restaurant doesn't offer indoor dining, so skip the long lines and order online beforehand.

Spicy Water African Grill brings Ivorian cuisine to DC in all its glory. The restaurant serves up peppery kebab sandwiches (chicken or beef), smoky charcoal-grilled chicken platters, and crispy fried red snapper with fresh onions and peppers. While you can get in and out in under 15 minutes for a quick dinner or lunch, the upstairs dining room is the best place to eat. There’s a hodgepodge of wooden tables and chairs occupied by mild-mannered uncles watching a 2022 Olympic basketball match between the USA and France on loop. It’s here, while cracking into sharply spiced crispy snapper tails and tearing into flaky pieces of chicken, that you’ll finally understand why your mama used to scold you for making it look like you weren’t being fed at home. Shoveling generous handfuls of fries drizzled with peppery tomato stew is worth every disapproving look. 

Make your mornings extra special with breakfast at Heat Da Spot. The Ethiopian cafe in Petworth serves up homemade iced cinnamon honey lattes and scrumptious BECs. But it's their Ethio-platters, eggs paired with chechebsa, fried flatbread soaked in spiced butter and berbere, that steal the show. Weekends at the cafe are bustling as weekday takeout regulars kick back with friends, sipping blood orange iced teas on well-worn stools and plush couches. The cafe is a go-to spot for just about everyone in the neighborhood, including Howard students a few blocks down the street.

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