Inside JewFro, Richmond’s Progressive New Cafe Marrying Jewish And African Cuisines

Some of the country’s coolest eating places ended up born of the humblest, scrappiest beginnings. Get, for example, Richmond’s JewFro. What commenced in the tumble of 2020 as a holiday break pop-up called Jingle Belle at downtown’s Hampton Inn & Suites – the name shifted to JewFro this previous spring – emerged as a brick-and-mortar cafe in Shockoe Base a few months ago.

Co-owned by Trey Owens, Ari Augenbaum, and Narine Hovnanian – they’re also driving the incredibly common Soul Taco – the restaurant marries African and Jewish cuisine with unique dishes like the very best-providing Ghanaian Peanut Soup with Morrocan lamb kreplach (Jewish dumplings) in a vibrant, ’70s-inspired placing. “We wanted to reintroduce African and Jewish food items to our community culinary scene since it is been mainly forgotten,” states Owens. “We also want to change how people today perspective Africa, for the reason that it’s not just a continent. It is a put manufactured up 54 distinctive identities, cultures, and cuisines.”

One more thing that makes JewFro stand out? Its refusal to provide French products and solutions of any variety. Owens clarifies, “People really don’t know there are at this time 14 nations around the world that even now shell out a colonization tax to France. I’m section-French, but we’re not glorifying the place in any way.”

Underneath, Owens discusses the inspiration driving JewFro’s cheeky name, the lively decor, and how the menu is formulated.

1st issues initial: how did you arrive up with the title? It’s unquestionably provocative.

Owens: I call it a “That’s so Raven” second. It popped in my head, and I believed it was excellent. It’s edgy sufficient to get people’s consideration, although bridging African and Jewish cultures. JewFro is my time to check out all the cultures of Africa, since 1 of them could be mine. For now, I can only trace my record to a ship.

And how did you make a decision on the location?

Owens: There’s a plaque on the facet of the creating, noting it’s the oldest industrial area in Richmond. There is so a lot record in Shockoe Base. It’s house to a single of the oldest farmer’s makests in the region, but it also utilised to be a slave market. I know my ancestors experienced anything to do with this constructing, because of its locale. Just about every cobblestone here was laid by a slave, and I imagine of the sacrifices my ancestors had to make. Also, there’s usually been a strong African and Jewish presence below. There’s a Jewish burial ground nearby.

Can you tell me who’s powering the vibrant design and style?

Owens: Sugar Taylor is an artiste, and comprehended the strategy of ‘70s as an African American. She was ready to acquire critical factors of the decade, and reinterpret them in a present day way. I wasn’t so confident about the mustard color at 1st, but now I adore it. And, it was seriously well-liked in the ‘70s. The tiles on top rated of the two-tone blue bar also incorporate to the vintage vibe. For the upstairs, which is pink and white, we had Jocelyn Ryan, an worker from Soul Taco, do the funky wall accent art.

How do you create dishes for the menu?

Owens: Ari, who cooked underneath African chef Morou Ouattara, is the driver of our dishes. Simply just, we think of a common dish and plug in Jewish and African components. Peanut soup jumped out at us, since it’s well known in West Africa and Virginia is renowned for its peanuts. The kreplach is the Jewish component that provides everything with each other. It’s one thing you never be expecting. We also have a glossary on our menu, breaking down the terms and in which almost everything is from.

Could you speak our readers as a result of a favored dish?

Owens: The lamb tagine is Moroccan, but we’re pushing it. Ours isn’t served in a classic tagine. The lamb is seasoned with za’atar then braised in the oven right up until the meat falls off the bone. Our edition of tzimmes is produced with chickpeas and currants – it is a sweet component that enhances the savory lamb – and stuffed in a gourd. Gourds came from Africa, and there’s nevertheless a ton used in African cooking now. It is just one of my beloved dishes, and a guest preferred, far too.

The dialogue has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Trisha Anderson

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