Fried chicken and oyster spot Roy Boys has gotten off to a controversial start for murals depicting famous rappers with chicken parts. The Shaw restaurant initially featured one image of Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and Suge Knight with beaks and another of the Notorious B.I.G. with a feathered head.
Co-owner Scott Parker of Virginia spots Don Tito’s, Barley Mac, and Taco says his business partner Marlon Marshall (perviously general manager of Ghibellina) is a big old-school hip-hop fan. The idea was to pay tribute to some music icons with artwork that would be thematic to the restaurant. But as soon as the images became public, Roy Boys was criticized for cultural appropriation, animalizing black men, and perpetuating negative stereotypes of fried chicken in black culture. As Eater previously reported, Rahman “Rock” Harper called out the restaurant—located blocks from Howard University—on his podcast, saying, “It seems like the gentrifiers just don’t get it.”
Parker, who’s white, and Marshall, who’s black, say they were surprised the backlash. “We’re not out to hurt anybody. We’re trying to serve fried chicken and oysters,” Parker says. “They’re certainly not worth fighting for if they are hurting somebody.”
In response, the owners have removed the murals and replaced them with images of the hip-hop artists minus any animal parts. They’re hoping to put the controversy behind them when they open on Feb. 15.
Roy Boys will offer a traditional fried chicken as well as a Nashville hot version. The birds come as part of a platter with sides of “drunken” mac-and-cheese and waffle fries or in one of five sandwiches. The sandwich names are riffs on hip-hop songs like “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (with Nashville hot chicken) or “In Da Club” (a fried chicken club).
The menu also includes four types of oysters on the half shell as well as barbecued oysters and oysters Rockefeller. Parker says the idea was to combine a “casual, get-your-hands-dirty” food like fried chicken with something “traditionally thought of as a delicacy” such as oysters.
Hushpuppies, a shrimp po’ boy, fried pickles and green tomatoes, plus a handful of salads round out the menu.
The only dessert? Homemade versions of Choco Tacos (ice cream filled dessert tacos). Look for three or four flavors at any given time with rotating toppings such as Lucky Charms, chocolate-covered bacon, or bits of fried chicken skin.
Bartender Frank Mills, an alum of Jack Rose Dining Saloon, is behind the cocktails, which include a martini with oyster brine and a beet-vodka drink called “Black Excellence” with activated charcoal. Red or green bloody Marys will be available all day with garnish options such as pickled okra or chicken wing skewers.
Eventually, Roy Boys will open a walk-up window that serves a limited menu of fried chicken buckets and sandwiches until 5 AM on weekends.
Roy Boys. 2108 8th St., NW. Open at 4 PM. Stay tuned for lunch and brunch.