Image: Suya/Nyama Choma (Beef cubes with Swahili spice mix)
Last Updated: September 2021
Current Status: Open for indoor and outdoor dining, take-out and delivery.
Overview: For years the original Swahili Village built up a base of fans in Maryland. A couple years ago, owner/chef Kevin Onyona decided to take over the old Vidalia/Honeysuckle space, thinking the proximity to Embassy Row and the World Bank would provide a steady stream of customers who might want a taste of home. It was all on track until the pandemic hit. They hung on and are now starting to realize the potential Onyona saw. Many of the dishes suggest comfort food (stews, grilled meats, beans, mashed potatoes), but have a special touch due to the confluence of cultures that passed through Kenya over the last couple centuries. Tom’s review describes the signature spice mix used for the meats as “coriander, turmeric, ginger, cumin, paprika, methi seeds (fenugreek) but also cornstarch, sugar and MSG. It’s a mouthful. Also wonderful and wicked.” We had a similar thought trying to figure out the flavors, which required just one more bite after one more bite. As the months turn colder, the heartier parts of the menu seem particularly apropos – don’t sleep on the goat with onions and tomatoes. There is also chicken and fish and lots of veggie options for summer dining.
They took advantage of the large dining room from previous occupants with lots of tables decked out for fine dining. The bar area has multiple high-top tables. The beer and wine lists are pretty standard, though there are a few respected South African wines and, of course, Tusker beer filling it out. The cocktail list, untried by us, looks interesting.
Hopefully, in the coming months it will pull in both those it hoped to feed and many others. There is also a chance a new location may be opening near you. In addition to the flagship location in Beltsville and D.C. they recently added a location in Newark, New Jersey. Locations in Tysons Corner and Manhattan are planned.
Cuisine: East African
Address: 1990 M St NW, Washington, DC 20036
Reservations: Call: 202.758.3384
Washington Post: Tom is impressed. It also made his Spring Dining Guide. Tim did a piece in 2013 on the Beltsville location.
Washingtonian: 2020 profile in the middle of the pandemic from Jessica Sidman.
DonRockwell.com – Brief mention on a general Beltsville thread, where a longtime contributor says it is good and suggests going with a group to sample the full menu.
Anela Malik (Feed the Malik) – This video on IG gives a pretty good sense of the place. Also be sure to check out her guide to DMV Black-owned restaurants.