Swahili Village in DC (and also Newark NJ)

Years ago I very much loved the original Swahili Village in Beltsville and finally got to try the swank downtown DC outpost at a location where a lot of upscale places have come and gone.

The food is super delicious. I started off with the bhajia which is an appetizer of thinly sliced potato breaded (almost like the Spanish berenjenas) with a nice hit of garlic and accompanied by a sweet and tangy sauce that also had a nice garlicky component. These were superb.

I then went on to another starter, this one of grilled goat with a tangle of sauteed onions and a pile of diced fresh tomato and cilantro. The meat was deliciously grilled and both the onion and the tomato added just the right amount of zing.

This downstairs restaurant looks more like a supper club with some thumping music, but not so loud and assertive. Though no guarantees if you go later in the evening. Even if they didn’t have to, they take the food seriously.

I see they have added a location in Newark, and it looks like they also plan on a location in Tyson’s Corner and Manhattan (!)

Maybe Kenyan food will be the next big thing…


You had me at goat. Sounds delicious . Thanks for the write-up.

You had me at garlic

I’ve eaten at the downtown Swahili Village twice and can strongly second your recommendation, but I can’t contribute a whole lot of details about the meals.

Back in May 2021, my wife and I celebrated an anniversary dinner at the downtown location. This was one of our first indoor restaurant ventures as the Covid restrictions were beginning to lift, so our sense of liberation might have influenced us, but we both thought this was a spectacular meal in a beautifully stylish location. The people-watching was also spectacular, as the place was packed with wealthy people who looked like African ambassadors and their gorgeous (usually much younger) companions (no photos of that as I was worried about their security details).

Back in 2021, there was no thumping music and it was lively but quiet enough to have an easy conversation.

More recently, I had lunch there with a couple of friends. The food seemed excellent, but not quite spectacular, and the people watching was much more pedestrian.

Both times the highlights were the whole fish and the accompanying starch cake (I think kenke, but maybe fufu). The goat was very good too, but maybe too tender to be authentic.