Standout Black-Owned DC Eateries the Whole Family Will Enjoy


DC’s rich and varied Black history has been intertwined into the fabric of our nation’s capital since the city’s inception. Food has remained a prominent driving force in how we memorialize and celebrate Black culture. While these deep-seeded roots have been planted for years, the illustrious individuals behind the bites and delights we’ve come to crave continue to make a lasting impression on DC’s flourishing and constantly evolving food scene.

In this inaugural “Unique Eats and Eateries of Washington, DC” guest blog post, local author JoAnn Hill leads you on a mouthwatering adventure throughout the Washington, DC, area to explore eats and eateries that are both familiar and exotic. In Unique Eats and Eateries of Washington, DC, you’ll discover an extraordinary collection of food and drink experts exquisitely seasoned by dashes of passion, sprinkles of grit, and pinches of ingenuity.

In honor of Black History Month, here is a sampling of the places and people covered in the book, highlighting some of DC’s Black-owned eateries that the whole family will enjoy.


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Bee J’s Cookies
Batches Made in Heaven

A variety of cookies at Bee J’s (Photo: SV Images)

Bee J’s Cookies was birthed out of a love for baking and a deep connection with family. Cofounder and baker Bryant Jones learned the art of baking by watching his grandmother, Sweetie, pick pears off her trees and bake them into scrumptious pies. Years later, he would bake cookies for his girlfriend Andrea O’Neal, prompting her to suggest that he begin selling his artisan cookies.

The couple launched their cookie business in April 2020, and as Bee J’s Cookies has expanded, they’ve introduced more personalized flavors that honor the family members who’ve supported them along the way. Sweetie’s Sweet Potato cookie, along with the Brown Sugar cookie, named after Andrea’s great-grandmother, Queen, serve as sweet reminders of those who always taste like home.

Read All About It: Read more about Bee J’s Cookies and their little batches of heaven on page 64 of Unique Eats and Eateries of Washington, DC.

Where To Dig In: Visit Bee J’s Cookies at Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE.


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Cast Your Net on Some of the District’s Most Flavorsome Fish

FishScale’s jerk salmon cheesesteak (Photo: Anela Malik)

Brandon Williams began dabbling in the kitchen at a young age and taught himself how to cook. After he went on a youth-group fishing trip to the Chesapeake Bay, his aunt cooked the fish he caught, and it was love at first bite. This indelible moment taught the budding chef that local and fresh is unequivocally better.

His parents recognized Brandon’s immense cooking talent and encouraged him to enroll at L’Academie de Cuisine Culinary School. Soon thereafter, Brandon went on to launch FishScale at the Farmers’ Market by the White House. Within a mere six weeks, the Washington Post published a rave review, prompting Brandon to take the plunge and open a brick-and-mortar spot in Shaw.

Each day, Brandon purchases his fresh fish, and a list of the daily catches is prominently displayed. Sandwich sensations include the True Blue Maryland crab burger, composed of succulent, pan-seared Maryland crab topped with a choice of house-made condiments. The Chesapeake Cheesesteak is an absolute knockout. The stellar sandwich bursts with seasoned, skillet-fired fish smothered in caramelized onions, green peppers, provolone cheese, and a dreamy drizzle of garlic aioli.

Read All About It: Read more about FishScale and its sustainable wild fish on pages 54-55 of Unique Eats and Eateries of Washington, DC.

Where To Dig In: Visit FishScale at 637 Florida Ave. NW.


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The Capital City’s Symbolic Sausage

Half smokes on the grill (Photo: Courtesy of Ben’s Chili Bowl)

Philadelphia has its cheesesteak, Chicago has its deep-dish pizza, and Washington, DC, has its half-smoke. Thankfully for us Washingtonians, our capital city offers many takes on the iconic staple. One scrumptious bite is enough to know this symbolic sausage goes beyond your run-of-the-mill hot dog.

One would be remiss not to mention legendary Ben’s Chili Bowl when listing DC’s best half-smokes. The renowned DC institution catapulted the half-smoke into notoriety. Hungry enthusiasts continue to flock to this venerable standby for over 60 years.

HalfSmoke adds a bit of panache to the DC classic. In addition to their hearty meat offerings, their U Street Hipster boasts a plant-based sausage with chimichurri and spiced avocado spread.

Barbecue joint DCity Smokehouse’s namesake half- smoke is blanketed in brisket chili, cheddar-jack cheese, red onions, and mustard. Don’t miss their smokehouse’s signature mac and cheese; it’s guaranteed to be both a kid and adult favorite!

Read All About It: Read more about DC’s signature sausage on pages 40-41 of Unique Eats and Eateries of Washington, DC.

Where To Dig In:
Ben’s Chili Bowl (multiple locations) – Flagship: 1213 U St. NW
HalfSmoke (multiple locations) – Flagship: 651 Florida Ave. NW
DCity Smokehouse – 203 Florida Ave. NW


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Divine Comfort Food

Puddin’s beautiful bowls of comfort (Photo: Courtesy of Puddin’)

Warm, buttery bourbon goodness soaked up by moist bread pudding might just be the impetus behind the saying, “Eat dessert first.” This is soul-satisfying comfort food at its best. It’s also owner Toyin Alli’s “happiest accident,” a one- off recipe mistake that produced a crowd-pleasing creation. The long- lasting result? Divinity spooned into a cup.

Toyin’s love for cooking is influenced by her father’s Nigerian heritage and her mother’s Southern roots. From the moment she moved from California to DC, she’s devoted every waking moment to cooking comfort food, building her brand, and earning her reputation across the region.

After fulfilling a longtime dream of becoming an Eastern Market vendor, Toyin launched a food truck. The DC area’s taste buds have been on a mouthwatering ride ever since.

Today, Toyin’s divine Southern comfort food has attracted a devout following. Patrons queue up for Toyin’s shrimp ’n grits, chicken ’n beef sausage gumbo, and of course, her establishment’s namesake, her famed brown butter bourbon bread puddin’—a delectable treat that will surely satiate all your comfort-loving dreams.

Read All About It: Read more about Puddin’ and its sustainable wild fish on pages 10-11 of Unique Eats and Eateries of Washington, DC.

Where To Dig In: Visit Puddin’ at Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE.


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Roaming Rooster
Fried Chicken You Can Feel Good About

Chicken piled high with a side of fries at Roaming Rooster (Photo: Laura Nockett)

In 2019, Roaming Rooster’s founders Michael and Biniyam Habtemariam and Hareg Mesfin watched their popularity soar after a local woman tweeted about their fried chicken amidst the contentious fried chicken war between heavy hitters Popeyes and KFC. In a blink of a tweet, the trajectory of Roaming Rooster had been forever changed.

Food has always been at the core of the Habtemariam family. Their father, an Ethiopian Air Force pilot, lost his left hand in a plane crash, causing much of the cooking responsibilities to fall on the two brothers. In 2015, they entered full speed into DC’s food truck scene, and today, they’ve built an impressive empire of nearly a dozen locations spanning across the region.

They are steadfast in serving fried chicken that individuals can feel good about. Their chickens are raised in a humane and natural manner, never given antibiotics or chemicals of any kind. They work exclusively with free-range chicken farms where birds have an abundance of sunshine, ample roaming space, and are never given antibiotics or chemicals of any kind. In addition to their revered fried chicken sandwiches, Roaming Rooster’s offerings include wings, tenders, and milkshakes.

Read All About It: Read more about Roaming Rooster and its feel-good chicken on pages 156-157 of Unique Eats and Eateries of Washington, DC.

Where To Dig In: Roaming Rooster (multiple locations) – Flagship: 3176 Bladensburg Rd. NE

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JoAnn Hill is the author of Unique Eats and Eateries of Washington, DC, Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, and DC Scavenger. JoAnn has spent more than 20 years exploring Washington, DC, and has written extensively about the region’s hidden histories and peculiarities, active pursuits, and vibrant food and drink scenes. Through her passion for food and adventure, she shares stories and tips that satiate the hungry enthusiast and inspire the curious traveler. When she’s not writing, you will find her teaching fitness classes, enjoying a night at the theater, and exploring as much of the world with her husband as she possibly can. JoAnn is the co-founder of Capitol Teachers, a full-service tutoring company servicing students in the greater Washington, DC, area as well as across the country.


Filed under 2024, DC, Eats

2 Responses to Standout Black-Owned DC Eateries the Whole Family Will Enjoy

  1. DT

    Thank you so much for sharing this awesome resource and these delicious-looking suggestions!

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