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A mom and her three sons are behind Anacostia’s new restaurant Open Crumb, where the fried chicken sandwich, shrimp and grits, and jollof rice are the three most popular dishes. If jollof rice seems like the odd man out in a list of Southern staples, it’s not. Including the signature West African dish makes perfect sense—before opening Open Crumb, Abigail Opare and her family ran Ghana Cafe on 14th Street NW. It closed in 2014.
Abigail’s oldest son, Peter Opare, was a fixture in the kitchen there and has taken a leading role cooking and managing at Open Crumb. “The kitchen is the only place I’m not a klutz,” says the 31-year-old. He got a degree in biochemistry but prefers restaurants over the prospect of continuing on to medical school. “I like to say I’m a ballerina in the kitchen. I glide.”
Open Crumb opened in February in the former Capitol Hill Crab Cakes restaurant at 1243 Good Hope Road SE. Nothing on the menu costs more than $10. Other highlights include a shrimp po boy ($8), chicken stew with jollof rice ($8.95), chicken and waffles ($8), and a vegan burger ($5). In the morning there are breakfast sandwiches, waffles, house-ground chicken sausage, and other dishes.
“At the beginning we were a straight sandwich shop, but when people find out you’re African they’re like, ‘Where’s the African food? Where’s your culture?’” Peter says. “I was playing it a little too safe in the beginning, but now I’m branching out.”
Regular customers know they can ask for off-menu traditional West African dishes like egusi, which might be bubbling away in the back. Peter says he’s putting some twists on his mom’s recipes, “to her chagrin,” and hopes that African cuisine as a whole continues its ascent in the culinary world. “It’s the next big food scene coming up,” he says. “It’s starting to slowly creep into the conversation.”
What makes Open Crumb stand out is that the restaurant bakes all of its own bread. Peter started baking three years ago and can now deftly make loaves like ciabatta and buns. Next he’ll take on bagels and croissants. After all, the Anacostia eatery gets its name from a baking term used to describe bread with plenty of air pockets.
Peter says Open Crumb already has a contingent of regular customers, some of whom have lived in Anacostia all their lives.
“I pride myself on wanting people to be able to experience something that’s not fried food,” he says, despite that there are a few fried items on the menu. “I want to give people variety and something at a price that a lot of people can afford. I definitely want families to be able to come here and not blow their budget and still have something wholesome.”
Peter is becoming known for handing out free cookies to children. “It’s wonderful watching a kid bite into a good dessert.”
Open Crumb has a handful of tables for dining in. Visit Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Open Crumb, 1243 Good Hope Road SE; (202) 610-9979; facebook.com/opencrumb