Kenyan restaurant in Swahili village opens for African food in downtown

By opening a location of Swahili village In the heart of DC’s electric food court at the end of last month, chef-owner Kevin Onyona answered calls from every African expat who complained about heading to suburban Maryland to try his grilled and stewed Kenyan cuisine .

The new downtown restaurant, nicknamed Swahili Village: the Consulate (1990 Rue M NO), Brings Customer Base Onyona has built a dining hall with a ton of history over the past 11 years. The multi-level space was home to Vidalia, Jeff Buben’s longtime southern eatery that won the James Beard Awards for Buben and RJ Cooper. More recently, it was the South-Nordic hybrid honeysuckle.

Onyona is convinced that if her first restaurant could thrive after an original stint in College Park, MD, and a move to a Beltsville mall, this one could be successful for lunch and dinner near the Bank building. World and DC Embassy Row.

“Last year we achieved $ 4 million in revenue in a small location [in Beltsville], “he says.” It shows that people are really, really curious and wanting more and more. “

Onyona’s menu is built around East African dishes influenced by the region’s historic ties to Arab traders, Portuguese explorers, British colonizers, and Indian immigrants. Onyona serves four different goat dishes ($ 13 to $ 29.95), including two different marinated and grilled preparations, a simmered stew and a soup, all made with meat from Australia and New Zealand. Another popular order is whole tilapia cooked in coconut or masala sauces. Lentil or red bean stews simmered in coconut milk are vegetarian options.

A group platter ($ 117) filled with grilled goat cheese, beef and chicken; collard greens, spinach cooked in coconut milk, cabbage, ugali (corn-based fufu), and wheat-based chapati flatbread encourage a common meal. A $ 40 brunch buffet with bottomless mimosas begins this weekend.

Stewed goat cheese from the Swahili village
Swahili village [official]

Stewed Chicken from Swahili Village

Stewed Chicken from the Swahili Village
Swahili village [official]

Onyona says he’s frustrated with the lack of African restaurants that offer a fancy atmosphere, and he’s worked to create an environment that can serve as both a hub of African culture and a meeting place for American leaders. He therefore presents utensils at the table for those who want to use them, although many of the dishes he serves are traditionally eaten by hand with bread and starches.

Onyona believes Americans automatically associate African food with casual, family-friendly shopping. The chic, refurbished setting and composed plates of the Swahili Village are meant to help it stand out.

“We want to completely change that narrative and bring African food into the mainstream so Americans can see the beauty of how we cook and how we love our food,” Onyona said.

The main dining room of the Swahili village

The main dining room of the Swahili village
Swahili village [official]

Onyona says the roadblocks he encountered while building the downtown area resulted in months of delays and budget overruns, but he’s banking on the restaurant’s potential. He’s already greeted one of the most prominent visitors he could ask for.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was in town to attend the national prayer breakfast and to announce the start of free trade agreement negotiations with President Donald Trump, attended the inauguration ceremony.

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