22 Black-Owned Restaurants, Shops, and More to Discover in DC

MahoganyBooks is the place to go for books relating to the Black experience and culture.
MahoganyBooks is the place to go for books relating to the Black experience and culture.

February is Black History Month, which means there is no better time to get to know some of the many Black-owned businesses and African American cultural landmarks in the DC area. From Black-owned restaurants and retailers to African American historical sites and museums, you're sure to find plenty of places to wow and inspire your family on this list.

Here are 22 Black-owned restaurants, Black-owned shops and businesses, and African American cultural sites in and near DC to visit with kids all year long. Some of them also made our lists of free museums in DC and must-try ice cream shops near DC!


Visit the iconic Ben's Chili Bowl.

Black-Owned Restaurants in Washington, DC

1. Ben's Chili Bowl

Husband-and-wife duo Virginia and Ben Ali opened this famous DC institution on U Street in 1958, and it quickly became a pillar of the city. Ben's serves up half-smoke hot dogs, burgers, fries, and—of course—chili, along with healthier options like salads and veggie dogs. A favorite of President Barack Obama and countless celebrities, Ben's now has four other locations and ships nationwide.

Come hungry to Ben's Next Door!

2. Ben's Next Door

This U Street restaurant serves as an extension of its next-door neighbor, Ben's Chili Bowl, for those who want a sit-down meal. Dinner guests can order chicken, shrimp, salmon, or catfish (either fried, grilled, or blackened) with three-cheese grits, or choose from other favorites like fried chicken and waffles and jerk penne pasta. Ben's Next Door also offers a bottomless mimosa brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

3. Ooh's & Aah's

This no-frills restaurant serves up hearty soul food in both family-size and individual portions. Options include poultry, meats, seafood, and all of the traditional sides like collard greens, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and more. The restaurant has a great loyalty program for frequent customers.

Enjoy Southern cooking at Georgia Brown's.

4. Georgia Brown's

This elegant restaurant offers Southern favorites such as buttermilk fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and country fried steak with sides like mac and cheese, yams, and creamy grits. Live jazz is also available during non-COVID times.

5. Matchbox

Matchbox is a popular American restaurant with 11 locations throughout DC, Virginia, and Maryland (plus two in Florida). Known especially for its wood-fired pizzas, Matchbox is owned by Black-owned food-service management company Thompson Hospitality. The company also owns several other restaurants and chains throughout the DC area, including Milk & Honey, Hen Quarter, and more.

Special occasions call for Southwest Soda Pop Shop's Birthday Blast.

6. Southwest Soda Pop Shop

This family-owned ice cream parlor is one of the only Black-owned restaurants at DC's District Wharf. It serves up both hard and soft-serve ice cream with a variety of toppings, shakes and floats, smoothies, and other sweet treats, along with hot dogs and half-smokes for hungrier guests.

Scoop up some delicious ice cream at Here's the Scoop!

7. Here's the Scoop!

Here's the Scoop! opened in June 2019 in the lower Georgia Avenue corridor, serving a rotating menu of ice cream, cookies, and other sweets. The shop also offers small bites like Jamaican patties. In keeping with its motto, "Bringing the Community Together One Treat At a Time," Here's the Scoop! frequently gives back to the community.

8. Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats — Alexandria, VA

When owner Brandon Byrd opened this 1950s-inspired soda fountain in Old Town Alexandria in May 2021, it immediately began drawing large crowds. Goodies serves Wisconsin-style frozen custard and other tasty treats, like an Apple Cider Donutwich. The store is housed in Alexandria's historic Ice House, lending it old-school charm.

When these brothers needed money for video games, they started their own candle business.

Black-Owned Retailers in Washington, DC

9. Frères Branchiaux Candle Co. — White Plains, MD

Brothers Collin, Ryan, and Austin Gill—now ages 16, 13, and 11—created this vegan candle company in 2017 after their mom attended a candle-making workshop and taught them her new skills. Now their candles, linen sprays, and other home-fragrance items are sold in more than 50 stores throughout the country and internationally, including Macy's online. The brothers donate 10 percent of their profits to homeless shelters nationwide.

10. MahoganyBooks

This bookstore inside the Anacostia Arts Center houses one of the most impressive collections out there of books related to the Black experience and culture, including children's books. Founded by a Black husband-and-wife duo, the store also hosts virtual and in-person events and provides reading lists and book recommendations.

The most fashion-forward babes shop at Yinibini Baby.

11. Yinibini Baby

Yinibini Baby is the place to go if you're looking for unique handmade baby clothes. Its onesies, t-shirts, bibs, and other items—all made from domestically-sourced organic cotton and cotton fabrics—feature adorable graphics, patterns, and slogans. The store also sells books, toys, and other items.

Black-Owned Businesses Near DC for Kids

12. KidOvation Stage

Founded in 2014, KidOvation stage features educational programming for kids ages 3 to 8 in theater, dance, visual arts, music, and science. The organization offers summer camps, in-school residences, and even Kid-O Discovery Kits, which are mystery subscription boxes sent right to kids' homes.

13. Hyper Kidz! — Columbia, MD

This massive indoor playground includes three play areas for kids of all ages. The Big Kid Zone, a four-story play structure for children four feet tall and over, features slides, ramps, obstacles, and interactive play features. The Kid Zone, for ages 2 to 7, includes a two-story balloon house, motorized rides, a giant light-up wall, and more. And the Mini Zone, for babies and toddlers up to age 2, has soft play equipment. Hyper Kidz! also has locations in Ashburn, Virginia and Baltimore.

Treat your little ones to a spa day at Unique and Special Kids Spa

14. Unique and Special Kids Spa — Alexandria, VA

This spa for kids was founded by Martia Clark, a licensed childcare professional. It offers nail services, facials, hair styling, massages, and makeup application, as well as Mommy or Daddy and Mini-Me spa packages. The spa also offers birthday parties for up to eight children, ZUMBA, and a variety of STEAM classes like soap making, structural engineering, and more.

15. Elements Urban Arts Collective — Bethesda, MD

Elements Urban Arts Collective offers classes for kids and adults in hip-hop dance, MCing, DJing, and graffiti art, with the goal of making the DC arts scene an inclusive and compassionate community. The studio also offers summer camps and intensive workshops for ages 8 to 17.

National Museum of African American History & Culture
The National Museum of African American History & Culture is a must-visit in DC. Photo by Alan Karchmer

African American Historical Sites in DC

16. National Museum of African American History & Culture

This Smithsonian museum teachers visitors about the rich and fascinating history, community, and culture of African Americans. More than 3,000 objects are on display, including Michael Jackson's fedora, a lace shawl given to Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria, and Chuck Berry's red Cadillac convertible. Free programs for kids—currently being offered virtually—include educational talks, downloadable activity booklets, and more. Free timed-entry passes, available online, are currently required to enter.

17. National Museum of African Art

With over 11,000 pieces in its collection, the National Museum of African Art is the only national museum in the country dedicated to collecting, displaying, conserving, and studying the art of Africa. The museum offers several activities on its website that allow kids and their families to continue their exploration at home. And because it's a Smithsonian museum, it's free!

18. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

This massive, breathtaking sculpture in West Potomac Park honors Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy and the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice. Inspiring King quotes are etched throughout the memorial, including the line from his famous "I Have A Dream" speech that serves as the memorial's theme—"Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope." Walk over to the Lincoln Memorial after reading all the quotes.

Celebrate the African American community and history at the Anacostia Community Museum.

19. Anacostia Community Museum

This free Smithsonian museum, located in the historic Anacostia neighborhood southeast of the U.S. Capitol, houses an estimated 6,000 objects that date back to the early 1800s. Its mission is to serve as outreach to the local African American community through exhibits and programs focused on community history and issues. The neighborhood was the home of abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglass.

20. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

Families can visit the former home of Frederick Douglass, a 21-room Victorian mansion called Cedar Hill. There, they can learn about Douglass's life and work by touring the house and visitor center and enjoy gorgeous views from the grounds. Online reservations for the guided home tour are recommended and cost $1 each. (Note: The visitor center and house are currently closed due to COVID, but the grounds are open.)

Learn about Black troops who fought in the Civil War at the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum. Photo by Frances Chung

21. African American Civil War Memorial and Museum

This museum honors the 209,145 US Colored Troops who fought in the Civil War and had an important role in ending slavery and keeping America united under one flag. Exhibits include a rich collection of artifacts, documents, primary sources, and technology. Scavenger hunts are available at the front desk for kids. Admission is free.

22. Black Lives Matter Plaza

A two-block section of street along 16th Street NW across from the White House, was painted with "Black Lives Matter" in giant yellow letters in summer 2020 with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. It has since been repainted is now an important symbol of the fight for racial equality. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser officially renamed the area "Black Lives Matter Plaza NW."

All photos courtesy of the venues or companies

Places featured in this article:

Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats

National Museum of African American History and Culture

African American Civil War Memorial and Museum

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site