If you don’t live in the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area, aka “the DMV”, it may seem like a boring, uneventful place (minus thrills like the Baltimore riots and the Inauguration of the alleged new President). As a long-time Maryland resident, I can attest to that sentiment. Unlike hubs in places like Texas or New York, the African community in the DMV isn’t necessarily catered to like the other plethora of cultures that you’ll discover in the area. While these spots may seem scattered all across states, if you look hard enough (and have enough gas in your tank) you’ll come across some of our hidden gems.
So, after a bit of researching and laborious taste testing, I’ve compiled a short list of some authentic African spots in the area. This list is full of great finds for whenever you’re feeling homesick or Afrocentric or whateva (as they say in D.C.) that are definitely worth a visit.
Keren Restaurant & Coffee Shop
Just imagine a mini Starbucks, but with an East African kick. Keren restaurant is a family owned Eritrean eatery located near the Adams Morgan area in the District and is one of the highest-rated African restaurants around there. If you’re anything like me and are iffy on trying new foods, you may not like it at first but the good food, combined with the affordable prices will help win you over. You can feed two people here for less than twenty dollars (so you don’t have to go on $250 dates). They also have a warm and welcoming staff that will make you want to come back again.
What to try: The Keren Special with fiery beef tibs (a vegan combo served with cubed beef paired with plenty of onions and jalapeños)
As THE resident African hot spot in the DMV area, Stonefish is home to many celebrity appearances, events, and concert after parties. When there’s nothing to do on the weekend, you can always count on Stonefish to be popping and provide you with events or appearances from some of your favorite African acts. Prices for tables can be kind of steep but it is worth the night you will have. Unlike most places in the area, they play more Afrobeats than any other type of music. Get your Shoki on.
National Museum of African Art
The National Museum of African Art was founded in 1964. Originally located in the home of Frederick Douglas, the museum was later handed over to the Smithsonian and relocated to the National Mall. The National Museum of African Art is also the largest publicly held collection of African arts in the United States, with over 9,000 artifacts. The museum is broken up by African regions: Western Sudan, Guinea Coast, Cameroon, Ogowe River Basin, the Congo Basin, and southern and eastern Africa–which surprisingly have different cultures organized around language and ethnic groups.
National Museum of African-American History & Culture
It’s no secret that the opening of this museum was one of the most anticipated openings of 2016, with tickets being sold out on the website until just last month. The museum was established by the Smithsonian Institution in December of 2003 but did not begin construction until 2012. The museum houses over 37,000 objects relevant to black history and culture including Mohammed Ali’s boxing gloves, a cape and gloves previously owned by James Brown, the casket used to display Emmett Till’s body, and items that belonged to Harriet Tubman. Now as a foodie, it would not be right if I did not mention the amazing food court located in the museum. Sweet Home Cafe seats over 300 people and has four different food stations based on the types of foods we eat such as Southern cuisine, Creole food, and foods from up north.
Golf Ultra Lounge
Silver Spring, MD
If you’re not feeling that hour long drive to Stonefish in D.C. Gulf Ultra Lounge is a great alternative. Located conveniently in Silver Spring, Golf provides the perfect atmosphere for a fun turn up with the homies. The resident DJ plays all of the current afrobeats hits along with hip-hop, dancehall and other African genres from around the continent.
One of Beltsville’s best kept secrets, Swahili Village is definitely the go to if you’re looking for some authentic Kenyan cuisine and a vibrant ambiance featuring music from all the different regions across Africa. Swahili Village also holds occasional karaoke nights during the week, making it the perfect place to go to with a group of friends and just have a grand time. So, if you’re ever in the mood to try something outside of the West African region and want some wonderful music and liquor as well, this is definitely a place worth checking out.
What to try: Nyama Choma with rice pilaf and plantains
If you’re looking for some authentic Nigerian cooking, Suya Spot in Randallstown is your go to. The decor is colorful, with walls decorated with ornaments, pictures, and sculptures from Nigeria. Flat screens feature upcoming Nigerian artists in movies and videos.
Besides Suya meat they sell other delicacies including jollof rice, moi moi, pepper soups, and many more dishes.
What to try: Beef Suya
You may be wondering how I did a list of DMV hotspots and didn’t include anything in Virginia, but if you’re really from here, then you already know what that’s about.
If we missed a spot, let us know! @onetribemag