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Blue Fern’s 5 Favorites- Black-Owned Food and Drink Businesses

a store front at day

Black History Month is a time to reflect on the contributions African Americans have made to our past and the ongoing struggle for racial justice.  Carter G. Woodson is responsible for establishing this month as a time to correct the lack of knowledge about Black contributions to our nation’s development, but ultimately, he strove to develop an understanding of American history that integrated the roles that all people have played in charting the path that got us to where we are today.

One way that we contribute to developing an understanding of American History that Woodson argued for is through sharing the stories of our Black-owned restaurant partners and their communities year round. These local entrepreneurs are shaped by their past as they build the history of the future.

Please take the time to learn about and support these Black-owned businesses this February and throughout the year. These past 12 months have been a challenge for every local small business, including ours. You can do your part to support these businesses and enjoy a meal or a drink at the same time! 

Stay tuned to learn more about local food, drink, and history on our fork tours and fizz tours when they relaunch later this year. Keep up-to-date with our Covid friendly virtual offerings and private tour options on our website and check out our new DC Flavor Pass to get special deals across the city during this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival.

Here are 5 of Blue Fern’s Favorite Black-owned food and drink businesses.

1- Magnolia’s on King

Location: 703 King St, Alexandria, VA

Social Handle: @magnoliasonkingst

Our Must Try: shrimp and grits

Local sommelier and restaurateur Leonard Holton, owns and operates Magnolia’s on King in Old Town Alexandria. Located in a three-story historic building which used to be home of a former slave owner, Magnolias on King highlights the city’s past with a modern day boasting “Southern Immersion Cuisine.”

Want to try Magnolia’s on King for yourself? They’re one of the participating restaurants for our National Cherry Blossom Festival Flavor Pass! Our Flavor Pass gives you access to exclusive specials and discounts from our favorite restaurants around DC. Grab a Flavor Pass today and find a new favorite spot!

2- Ben’s Chili Bowl

Location: The Original Location- 1213 U St NW Washington, DC 

Social Handle: @benseverything

Our Must Try: the original chili half-smoke

Ben’s Chili Bowl opened their original location on U Street in 1958 by Ben and Virginia Ali. Ben’s has seen DC through some of its hardest points in history including the uprising of ‘68 and its aftermath. With many famous visitors including Martin Luther King Jr., Anthony Bordain, and former President Barack Obama, it’s no surprise that Ben’s is still one of the most iconic DC restaurants. 

Ben’s Chili Bowl is usually the crowd favorite on our U Street Fork Tour. Come learn more about the diverse history of the U Street and taste some of the best eats it has to offer.

3- Sankofa Beer

Location: The Midlands Beer Garden– 3333 Georgia Ave. NW, Washington, DC (On Tap) & Craft Beer Cellar– 301 H Street NE, Washington, DC (retail)

Social Handle: @sankofabeer 

Our Must Try: HYPEbiscus

Kofi Meroe and Amado Carsky created Sankofa Beer to bring their West African heritage to the DC area. Every beer is thoughtfully crafted with the concept of Sankofa guiding the way. Kofi and Amado translate it as “go back and get.” Understanding your past enables you to build a strong future. This is manifest in their beer recipes by going back to get the flavors of their childhood  to enable them to craft a delicious brew.

4- Calabash Tea and Tonic

Location: Shaw- 1847 7th Street NW, Washington, DC & Brookland- 2701 12th Street NE, Washington, DC 

Social Handle: @calabashtea

Our Must Try: Rescue Me tea

Sunyatta Amen opened her first location of Calabash in May of 2015 in DC’s Shaw neighborhood. Calabash is a tea house and vegetarian restaurant where every recipe has been developed through five generations of herbal practice. The success of the Shaw location inspired Sunyatta to open a second location in Brookland in 2019. She also curates an online shop, so you can enjoy the delicious healing power of these teas and tonics no matter where you reside.

5- Dukem

Location: 1114-1118 U St NW, Washington, DC 

Our Must Try: awaze beef tibs

On tour we often get asked “What is DC’s signature dish?” and the answer is always “Ethiopian.” The DMV has the largest population of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia and Dukem on U Street is a city favorite, with flavorful dishes that are best shared family style. This family-owned business is the oldest restaurant still open in the part of the city known for decades as “Little Ethiopia.” Check out our DC History Download- Ethiopian Food to dive deeper into “Little Ethiopia.”


We hope you take some time this month to learn more about the local Black-owned businesses who are doing amazing things in the DC area. And sign up for our email list for more ways to explore DC’s history and culture!