Try Jollof Risotto and Fried Catfish With Spaghetti at DC’s New Afro-Fusion Restaurant

Almeda takes over the former Petworth home of Little Vietnam and Himitsu.

Almeda's 18 seat dining room in Petworth was previously home to Little Vietnam, Himitsu, and others. Photograph courtesy Danielle Harris.

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Almeda. 828 Upshur St., NW. 

Over the past decade, a tiny Petworth dining room has been home to a long list of highly ambitious yet short-lived restaurants, including Crane & Turtle, Himitsu, Pom Pom, Magpie and the Tiger, and most recently, Little Vietnam. The latest occupant: an Afro-fusion restaurant called Almeda. It comes from chef Danielle Harris, who’s expanding from her takeout cafe Little Food Studio across the street.

“It’s a celebration and exploration of the diaspora for me, and what it means as a Black woman to cook Black food,” says Harris, who started her culinary career as a dishwasher at 15 and has worked every hospitality job from server to chef. She previously ran a catering and personal chef business before opening Little Food Studio with pastry chef Chinnell Watson in 2021. Harris says the seed for Almeda was planted at an event she cooked at Fort Monroe, Virginia—one of the first points of entry for enslaved Africans in the early 1600s and one of the first places they were freed during the Civil War.

“It took me down the rabbit hole following the diaspora, culinarily speaking. Who were the first chefs of this country [post-colonization]? Enslaved African folks. Who developed the rice crop and developed wealth for this country? Enslaved African people,” Harris says. Almeda is named after a song celebrating Black culture and identity by Solange Knowles—”she was kind of the soundtrack to my life growing up.”

Old Bay shrimp aguachile. Photograph courtesy Almeda.
Jollof-inspired risotto. Photograph courtesy Almeda.

The menu features no more than 10 dishes “based on what I want to eat every day,” Harris says. She translates a celebratory seafood boil into an Old Bay shrimp aguachile and adds Peruvian flavors to a classic fried chicken dinner. One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes so far is a vegan jollof rice-inspired risotto topped with crispy shallots and garlic, pickled onions and plantains, and charred savoy cabbage with jollof spices. But Harris says her “flagship” meal is fried catfish and spaghetti: “It sounds weird, but if you go to church in the Midwest— Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit—and there’s a fish fry, there’s spaghetti on the side. I grew up eating that very often.” For dessert, find coconut crunch cake with a chocolate raspberry bark and coconut fudge sauce, paying homage to pastry chef Watson’s Trinidadian roots.

A concise drink menu includes a trio of  cocktails (like a passionfruit rum punch) and a half dozen wines by the glass meant to match the spice and heat of the food—ranging from a fruity-jammy lambrusco to an “orange wine for beginners.” In the new year, Harris says she plans to add a tasting menu at the two-seat counter on Fridays and Saturdays. Then, 10 courses will give a sample of the entire menu for around $125 per person.

Meanwhile, Little Food Studio has moved into Almeda’s 18-seat space, where it now operates as LFS Cafe at Almeda during the day. The menu of coffee, pastries, and sandwiches is largely unchanged, though one recent is a collard-green-and-feta pastry. Down the line, Almeda is looking to add a weekend brunch as well. Little Food Studio’s previous space across the street is now used as a production kitchen.

Harris hopes the all-day concept will help her business succeed in a space where others have not. “I think it’s hard to pay your rent when you’re only open four hours a day,” she says. “Unless you’re doing a crazy $200 tasting menu or something, I don’t know how you can cover your costs. So that’s why we’re doing both concepts out of that space.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.