An app called EatOkra makes it easy to find and support black-owned restaurants in 35 cities across the U.S., including the District. New York newlyweds Anthony and Janique Edwards founded the app in Brooklyn in 2016. “We used the word Okra in the name because it was a seed brought over during the slave trade,” Edwards explains.
EatOkra, which others have referred to as a modern Green Book of sorts, is free and available to download on iPhone and Android. In D.C., restaurants are divided into four categories: Caribbean cuisine, breakfast & brunch, soul food, and the catch-all category “local eats.”
While the app features a solid number of black-owned restaurants from Smith Public Trust and Florida Avenue Grill to Mansa Kunda and FishScale, some restaurants are missing, such as Caribbean Citations and HalfSmoke. The app depends on crowdsourcing from its users.
“It’s mostly word of mouth,” Anthony says. “People are submitting restaurants to us within the app or direct messaging us on social media. Anyway they can tell us.” Toggle to the menu page and click on the “add business” tab.
Currently users can rate restaurants by hitting one of four emojis to demonstrate satisfaction. The next iteration of the app will allow for text reviews similar to Yelp.
Anthony, a Fordham University graduate who previously served in the U.S. Army, says he started the app when he was hungry one day and couldn’t find a single source to locate black-owned restaurants.
“We could look at articles and blogs but no app did all of that for me and let me press a button to take me there,” he says. The timing of the app launch wasn’t an accident. “There had been a lot of talk in 2016 that was heavily racial related. We wanted to do something to help black people.”
“We really wanted to create a platform that supported black-owned businesses and primarily black-owned restaurants specifically,” Janique adds. “We really focus on a lot of smaller, mom-and-pop restaurants that don’t get enough attention or exposure.”
Anthony says the long-term goal is to use the platform to pair restaurant owners and chefs with community organizations, especially ones that help families put food on the table.
There’s been a bigger push in recent years to find, highlight, and celebrate black-owned restaurants in D.C. with the creation of DMV Restaurant Week in 2018. The dates are already locked down for 2019. Mark your calendar for a full slate of events from Nov. 3-10.
*This story originally named Kith and Kin as a black-owned restaurant, but Kwame Onwuachi is the executive chef, not the owner. InterContinental Hotels Group owns the restaurant at The Wharf.