Some of the country’s coolest places to eat were born of the humblest, scrappiest beginnings. Get, for illustration, Richmond’s JewFro. What began in the slide of 2020 as a vacation pop-up named Jingle Belle at downtown’s Hampton Inn & Suites – the name shifted to JewFro this past spring – emerged as a brick-and-mortar cafe in Shockoe Bottom a pair months ago.
Co-owned by Trey Owens, Ari Augenbaum, and Narine Hovnanian – they’re also driving the pretty preferred Soul Taco – the cafe marries African and Jewish delicacies with initial dishes like the greatest-selling Ghanaian Peanut Soup with Morrocan lamb kreplach (Jewish dumplings) in a colorful, ’70s-encouraged setting. “We preferred to reintroduce African and Jewish meals to our neighborhood culinary scene because it is been largely neglected,” suggests Owens. “We also want to alter how persons view Africa, simply because it’s not just a continent. It is a spot designed up 54 distinct identities, cultures, and cuisines.”
Yet another issue that tends to make JewFro stand out? Its refusal to serve French solutions of any variety. Owens clarifies, “People really don’t know there are at this time 14 nations around the world that even now fork out a colonization tax to France. I’m component-French, but we’re not glorifying the state in any way.”
Below, Owens discusses the inspiration behind JewFro’s cheeky title, the vibrant decor, and how the menu is designed.
Initially items 1st: how did you appear up with the name? It’s surely provocative.
Owens: I contact it a “That’s so Raven” second. It popped in my head, and I believed it was ideal. It’s edgy sufficient to get people’s notice, while bridging African and Jewish cultures. JewFro is my time to check out all the cultures of Africa, for the reason that a single of them could be mine. For now, I can only trace my historical past to a ship.
And how did you choose on the locale?
Owens: There is a plaque on the aspect of the constructing, noting it is the oldest business house in Richmond. There is so much historical past in Shockoe Base. It’s dwelling to one of the oldest farmer’s makests in the state, but it also utilized to be a slave market place. I know my ancestors had something to do with this developing, for the reason that of its place. Each cobblestone right here was laid by a slave, and I think of the sacrifices my ancestors had to make. Also, there’s usually been a sturdy African and Jewish existence right here. There is a Jewish burial floor close by.
Can you notify me who’s powering the vibrant style?
Owens: Sugar Taylor is an artiste, and comprehended the method of ‘70s as an African American. She was in a position to take important elements of the decade, and reinterpret them in a modern way. I was not so certain about the mustard colour at very first, but now I like it. And, it was seriously popular in the ‘70s. The tiles on major of the two-tone blue bar also add to the classic vibe. For the upstairs, which is pink and white, we experienced Jocelyn Ryan, an staff from Soul Taco, do the funky wall accent art.
How do you develop dishes for the menu?
Owens: Ari, who cooked beneath African chef Morou Ouattara, is the driver of our dishes. Only, we feel of a common dish and plug in Jewish and African things. Peanut soup jumped out at us, since it’s well known in West Africa and Virginia is renowned for its peanuts. The kreplach is the Jewish factor that provides all the things together. It’s some thing you do not assume. We also have a glossary on our menu, breaking down the conditions and exactly where everything is from.
Could you converse our readers by way of a preferred dish?
Owens: The lamb tagine is Moroccan, but we’re pushing it. Ours is not served in a classic tagine. The lamb is seasoned with za’atar then braised in the oven until eventually the meat falls off the bone. Our model of tzimmes is manufactured with chickpeas and currants – it is a sweet element that complements the savory lamb – and stuffed in a gourd. Gourds arrived from Africa, and there’s continue to a ton utilised in African cooking today. It’s 1 of my favored dishes, and a visitor most loved, too.
The discussion has been edited and condensed for clarity.