Brightwood Park might be DC’s most underrated food neighborhood. Sure, its main commercial arteries on Georgia Avenue and Kennedy Street haven’t taken off yet like other parts of NW have in recent years, but what the neighborhood lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. While I still have places in the neighborhood that I want to try, I can add Sunrise Caribbean Restaurant to a list of excellent local spots that includes Culture Coffee and Tony’s Place. Sunrise Caribbean Restaurant is one of a handful of Trinidadian restaurants in DC, and I’m surprised, given this place’s quality and authenticity, that it has so few reviews online. I’ll chalk that up to its location in
Massive curry goat roti.
a neighborhood that is overlooked by most people with poor public transportation access, aside from the #70 Georgia Avenue buses. This small, friendly hole in the wall serves up delicious home-cooked Trini food, such as rotis, doubles, and aloo pies. If foods like roti and aloo sound Indian/Pakistani to you, that’s because over 35% of Trinidad and Tobago’s population is of South Asian origin. Eighteen percent of the population is Hindu, while five percent is Muslim. Lovers of Indian and Pakistani food will find that they love Trini food too. I started off with doubles, which is fried bread filled with curried chickpeas. As you can imagine, it’s
The whole meal, including Sorrel.
absolutely delicious and pleasantly spicy. I also ordered the curry goat roti. The roti was made fresh on the grill and was wonderfully moist and savory. The curry goat was flavorful and tender- be aware that it is served on the bone in the traditional way. If you are afraid of meat on the bone, this is not the dish for you. Never fear, the menu is full of options and I want to go back to try the bake and shark- fried bread and fried shark. I also had Sorrel, a Trini hibiscus-flavored soda. It tasted too artificial to me, but it was interesting to try. This place is a wonderful hidden gem, and a must-try in DC’s ethnic food scene.
Ahhh Wah Gwaan is a Jamaican food truck. You can find their location on their website. I may be a bit jaded because I have been to Pimento Grill out in Southeast, which is another level of Jamaican food from what I’ve had anywhere else, including at Ahhh Wah Gwaan. I also was a bit bothered by the fact that they describe themselves as “The Reeaal Jamaican Patty Shop on Wheels,” despite the fact that all of their patties are prepackaged. Granted, they do have a wide selection of patties and most places use prepackaged patties. That said, I was hoping that these “reeaal” patties would be different. I ended up going for the brown stew chicken, which was good but nothing too special, and pretty steep at $12. If you’re craving Jamaican food, Ahhh Wah Gwaan will do, but it’s nothing extraordinary.
Jerks of the Carribbean is a Jamaican food truck. You can find their location on their Twitter. The name is fantastic, and I enjoyed the food too. I ordered jerk chicken, calalloo greens and calypso rice with a sweet potato pie for dessert. The jerk chicken was tasty but could have been a bit spicier. I enjoyed the calalloo, while the calypso rice was just ok. I do wish they had ackee and saltfish, but that’s a tricky thing to find at most places. The sweet potato pie, on the other hand, was absolutely delicious.
Ackee and saltfish.
Pimento Grill is a Jamaican carryout located at the far Eastern edge of the District at 4405 Bowen Rd SE, just a block from the Maryland border. For many, Jamaican food is limited to beef patties and jerk chicken. This is understandable given the fact that it’s rare to find places that venture into some of Jamaica’s more complex culinary territory. For example, Ackee and Saltfish (cod) is the national dish of Jamaica, but it’s much harder to find in the US than jerk chicken. Ackee is a fruit that was originally indigenous to Ghana but was imported to Jamaica sometime in the 18th Century. It is a very interesting, savory food that looks almost like eggs when cooked. The fact that you can’t buy ackee in your average supermarket might well explain why most places don’t have it. Pimento Grill’s rendition of ackee and saltfish was absolutely delicious; my friend whose grandma is Jamaican told me it reminded him of her cooking. It was served over rice and beans with collard greens on the side. Other authentic dishes offered at Pimento Grill include ackee and callaloo (cod and stewed greens) as well as brown stew cow foot. Another friend ordered their jerk chicken and loved it and I sampled my friend’s curry goat which was flavorful and delicious. Pimento Grill is a busy, popular spot and it is a bit hard to reach so here’s how to best enjoy it:
- Go with a few friends and split and Uber to and from (it’s well worth the trip).
- Be prepared to wait a bit for your food (it’s well worth the wait).
- There are a handful of seats there but space is really tight so I suggest picking a nice warm evening and Ubering to somewhere nice for a picnic. We went to Yards Park at sat right on the water at a table. I felt like we were at Montego Bay and it was a beautiful al fresco dining experience with delicious food at a low price.
Chik’s Chik’n is a Trinidadian food truck serving up dishes such as curry chicken rotis. You can find their location on their Twitter. I ordered the curry chicken roti and thought the filling was flavorful and hearty. You can’t really eat it like a sandwich since that would be far too messy given the quantity of filling but that doesn’t affect the taste at all. The roti itself was less rich than an Indian roti, but from what I can tell that’s the authentic Trinidadian way.
Calabash Tea & Tonic is a friendly, funky, and awesome tea shop located at 1847 7th St NW in Shaw. Calabash Tea & Tonic boasts a colorfully decorated interior and, more importantly delicous and creatively-named teas. Names of teas include “Teayoncé,” “Nefer-Tea Tea,” and “Kiss Me Guido,” among many others. The teas are a bit pricey, but this place is a unique gem so it’s worth paying to drop in here from time to time. The owner is a fifth-generation Jamaican herbalist, so you know she knows what’s she’s doing!
Caribbean Citations is a Jamaican restaurant located at 1208 Maple View Pl SE though it’s located right on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in the center of Historic Anacostia. I happen to love Historic Anacostia and really wanted to like Carribean Citations. The tagline of the place is “turn a parking ticket into a meal ticket,” since they offer discounts to those who bring in parking tickets and you can enter into a raffle for the restaurant to pay your parking ticket (one lucky winner is chosen each month). This is a fun idea, plus I went on a beautiful warm day and sat outside with old friends. The food, however, left a bit to be desired. I ordered jerk chicken with plantains and coco bread. We all agreed that the coco bread basically tasted like a large dinner roll. The plantains were good, but the jerk chicken wasn’t as flavorful as it could have been. Nonetheless, this place would have gotten three stars, but for the fact that part of my chicken was blatantly undercooked. Fortunately, I didn’t end up with food poisoning, but I was less than pleased. The rum cake for dessert was very tasty though. My experience with undercooked chicken might well have been a fluke, but I can’t in good conscience let that slide.
“Fried” plantains (top left), curry cabbage (right) and coconut “crab” cake (bottom left).
Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar is located at 402 H St NE. It is a combination of a vegan raw food eatery, a juice bar, and a shop selling an eclectic mix of African products and books, some of which include books about Islam, Christianity, Judaism and … Scientology?? There is also a book that claims that vaccines are dangerous. As you can already tell, this is a really quirky place. Ok, I’m being diplomatic; this is a downright strange place. But the food really is delicious, which is what matters most. I was pretty unacquainted with the concept of raw food, other than the fact that it was the sort of thing that people like my health-obsessed mother were into. I had assumed that eating raw food meant all of the food had to be cold; apparently
Berry cashew “cheese”cake
some heating is allowed. The food at Khepra’s is influenced by soul food and Carribean cooking. I had the coconut crab cake for my entree, which (while obviously not containing any crab) was really tasty and was reminiscent of a crab cake. they were out of some of the sides that I wanted, but I ordered the curry cabbage with was very flavorful (with a significant kick) as well as the “fried” plantains (obviously not actually fried) which were great as well. For dessert, I had a cashew berry “cheese”cake, which was delicious if a bit over-chilled. Be aware that the food is a bit pricey considering there’s no meat or dairy; that said, the flavor development in the dishes really is great. This is a spot that caters to hippie and Rastafari types- maybe not a place to bring a date, unless you’re both hippie and/or Rastafari types, in which case, go for it! This is definitely a place worth checking out for a unique, delicious, and healthy meal in DC, if you’re adventurous (or wear hemp clothing).