Samantha’s parents hail from Sierra Leone and China’s parents hail from the Bahamas. They both grew up in households where meals were infused with spices and bold flavors, and sought to bring that same satisfying experience to D.C. diners. In January 2019 with a collection of delicious family recipes and a dream, they opened The Kitchen Jerk. “And we haven’t looked back yet,” China says.
There are three dishes customers should try on their first visit. The “Six-Cheese Jerk Mac and Cheese” is a customer favorite that combines six cheeses with jerk chicken to create a plate that defines the term comfort food. Seafood lovers can swap in jumbo lump crab and lobster with the same six cheeses. Also try “The Drip Too Hard Wings.” They’re double dripped (dunked), oven fried, and doused with sauces like Old Bay and honey or glazed Hennessy and barbecue. Don’t miss “The Big Red,” featuring fresh snapper—fried or broiled—and stuffed with crab meat.
Samantha and China got married two days before opening their restaurant. They say going into business as an Black lesbian couple has come with the typical challenges that minorities often face, but the slights only made them more determined to succeed. They worked even harder to establish their brand based on fresh, high quality food and great customer service
The COVID-19 pandemic also brought challenges. As a carry-out restaurant they didn’t have to make drastic adjustments to their service style, but they did see increased competition. “We view The Kitchen Jerk as the ‘Ruth’s Chris’ of take-out” says Samantha, “But now Ruth’s Chris is doing take-out too!”
An unintended but positive consequence of the pandemic came in the early days of the shutdown when their neighbors in the Edgewood community were searching for local food options and found The Kitchen Jerk to be just what they were looking for.
The Kitchen Jerk is ambitiously expanding its menu to the delight of old and new customers. Next month they will introduce conch fritters, with the conch imported directly from the Bahamas. Come September, Samantha and China say they’ll launch a subsidiary of The Kitchen Jerk specializing in vegan soul food.
Customers are encouraged to pre-order before picking up at Mess Hall or order The Kitchen Jerk via delivery apps. The hours have been fluctuating during the pandemic. Check their website for weekly updates.
The Kitchen Jerk, 703 Edgewood St. NE; orderthekitchenjerk.com