Mélange chef/owner Elias Taddesse shows off his Ethiopian-influenced fried chicken sandwich. Photograph courtesy Edens.
Creole on 14th
3345 14th St., NW
Po’ Boy Jim co-founder and chef Jeffeary Miskiri was looking to offer something slightly more refined at this New Orleans-inspired spot in Columbia Heights. The Southern and Creole menu features starters like oysters “Roc a Fella” or crab-topped deviled eggs and entrees such as panko-crusted spiced lamb chops or ribeyes with garlic butter. Brunch is also big, with shrimp and grits, jambalaya omelettes, and bottomless mimosas or Creole punch.
In A Minute Cafe
9244 East Hampton Dr., #203, Capitol Heights
Reginald Otis Mack—better known as Chef ROM (pronounced “Rome”)—started his cooking career by posting photos of his food on Facebook and Instagram and selling it out of his home. The business grew into a catering company and food truck, and as of July, a soul-food restaurant in Capitol Heights, which he operates with fellow chef Steven Wilson. The seafood-heavy menu is particularly indulgent when it comes to crab—dishes include crab mac and cheese, crab fries, and crab-stuffed salmon.
4601 Presidents Drive, Lanham; 1301 H St., NE
Chef James “JR” Robinson and his uncle/partner Sudon Williams built a massive social media following and celebrity clientele (Wale, Pusha T) at their Lanham comfort food restaurant. Last fall, they realized their longtime dream of expanding to DC. Robinson continues to offer brunch signatures like hot sauce-marinated fried chicken atop French toast with vanilla cream caramel. But he’s also attracting dinner crowds with braised oxtails, coconut curry lobster, and deep-fried spring rolls with mumbo sauce.
449 K St., NW
Chef Ellias Taddesse has a background working in Michelin-starred restaurants in New York, but he’s spent the last couple years perfecting his burger. At Melange, which debuted in Mount Vernon Triangle in September, he infuses his Ethiopian heritage and French culinary training into such casual fare as a doro wat-inspired fried chicken sandwich or ribeye French dip with kikil (lamb and potato stew). Eventually, he plans to introduce a tasting menu and East African-inspired cocktail bar.
Motown Square Pizza
703 Edgewood St., NE
Detroit-native Paulos Belay missed his hometown when he moved to DC after culinary school. He couldn’t afford a ticket home, but he could at least get a taste of it making his own Detroit-style pizza. He now bakes his thick, crispy edged pies with traditional Wisconsin brick cheese and crushed tomatoes out of culinary incubator Mess Hall. Toppings range from grilled chicken with barbecue sauce to Greek-inspired spinach, feta, and dill, but Belay also pays homage to his Ethiopian roots with a beef tibs pizza.
918 S. Lincoln St., Suite 2, Arlington
Industry vet and podcast host Rock Harper initially started selling fried-chicken sandwiches out of Glover Park ghost food hall Ghostline, but has since relocated to another incubator space in Arlington. Harper uses local birds and brines the breasts before they’re fried in duck fat and canola. His “classic” sandwich is topped simply with creamy “Mother Sauce” and dill pickles, but Nashville hot and honey butter versions are also available. On the side: waffle fries and slaw.
3176 Bladensburg Road, NE; 1301 U St., NW
This fried chicken purveyor started out as a food truck in 2015. The family affair has since expanded to a fleet of four vehicles plus brick-and-mortar locations on Bladensburg Road Northeast, and as of September, on U Street Northwest. (Another spot is coming soon to Tenleytown.) The buttermilk-fried-chicken sandwiches come several ways: with a vinaigrette slaw; blue cheese and buffalo sauce; honey butter and cheddar; and more. If you’d rather skip the bun, there are chicken tenders and wings too.
1990 M St., NW
When restaurateur Kevin Onyona opened the second location of his Kenyan restaurant in downtown DC (the original is in Beltsville), he envisioned it as an upscale cultural and culinary hub for African diplomats and expats and other internationally minded office workers. The pandemic hasn’t made his fine-dining aspirations easy, but he’s making the best of it with goat stews and deep-fried whole tilapia in coconut sauce (a staple of Lake Victoria, where Onyona grew up).