RAWish co-owner James Yarborough rings up customers at Western Market located in the Foggy Bottom area in Northwest. The vegan eatery is one of four restaurants now open in phase one of the new food hall. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
RAWish co-owner James Yarborough rings up customers at Western Market located in the Foggy Bottom area in Northwest. The vegan eatery is one of four restaurants now open in phase one of the new food hall. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

While delayed by the pandemic, Foggy Bottom’s Western Market (2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) has finally opened its first phase.

Located in the middle of the George Washington University campus and hospital, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund Western Market plays out its vision of delivering global cuisine.

“There was a desire to create a local neighborhood hub for locals and tourists,” said Mercedes Cowper with CANA Development, who’s also marketplace manager at Western Market. “The research into what this market would look like and the fact that D.C. is such a huge melting pot are factors that make this a good decision.”

Phase One of Western Market includes four merchants: Capo Italian Deli, a popular Italian sub shop that originated in the Shaw community; Mason’s Famous Lobster Roll, with its flagship in Annapolis; and two Black-owned restaurants, RAWish and Roaming Rooster.

RAWish is a new vegan concept conceived by husband and wife James and Taneea Yarborough. The couple owns two Gangster Vegan restaurants in Baltimore and Riverdale Park, Md. The staff at RAWish represents every type of dietary choice.

The Roaming Rooster team at Western Market, a new food hall in Foggy Bot- tom, is ready for customers. (From left): Beilul Zewongiel, cashier; Hannah Reda, general manager; Lupe Chicas, fry cook; and Maria Lopez, prep crew. (Robert R. Roberts/ The Washington Informer)

The menu is plant-based and mostly raw with no additives or preservatives. Dining choices include toasts with various toppings, juices, smoothies, smoothie bowls with granola and fruit and desserts like the peanut, cacao and banana pie which looks a lot like cheesecake. The only item that’s not raw is the toast that a local baker makes.

“We try to help people understand that RAWish is for everyone; whether you are vegan or taking a stab at this for the first time, we have something for you to eat wherever you are in your plant journey,” Taneea.

“It’s designed to be the healthiest food on the market and also the most flavorful. We aren’t sacrificing the taste,” said James. “Like people think kale is bland. We marinade ours and season everything with other plants and herbs to unlock the true potential of the food.”

Roaming Rooster has been a fan favorite for many years through their food truck business. The free-range, grain-fed spicy chicken sandwiches have won a few local dining polls. The Western Market opening of Roaming Rooster is timely. Last month, the eatery won a 2021 RAMMY award in the “Hottest Sandwich” category.

The menu at Roaming Rooster includes five types of chicken sandwiches. Diners can select a crispy fried chicken, Honey Butter Fried, Nashville Hot Fried or The Club, a fried chicken sandwich prepared like a club sandwich. There are also wings, tenders and a good selection of sides. Condiments include an assortment of in-house-made sauces.

A family-owned business, Roaming Rooster has benefitted from solid social media marketing. At the beginning of the pandemic, co-owners Biniyam Habtemariam, brother Biniam and his sister-in-law Haregewein Mesfin quickly switched the Bladensburg location, formerly their prep space for the food trucks, into a takeout and delivery setup. Social media brought customers to the location. Giving back to the community also raised visibility. The restaurant used social media to announce providing free meals to hospital workers.

“Social media got us here,” Habtemariam said. “We have an amazing marketing team that includes Jerusalem, my best friend from Canada.”

In addition to Western Market, other Roaming Rooster locations in the District are on Bladensburg Road, U Street and Wisconsin Avenue. Soon to come will be locations in Rockville, Skyland Town Center in Southeast, Chantilly and Burke.

As Ethiopian immigrants, Habtemariam and his family know they are living the American Dream.

“It’s the land of opportunity and I believe in that 100 percent,” Habtemariam said. “You just have to put in the work. You can’t cut corners.”

Keep up with new openings at Western Market on their website westernmarketdc.com

SOCIAL MEDIA

Brenda C. Siler:

Instagram and Twitter: bcscomm

Western Market:

Instagram and Twitter: @westernmarketdc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/westernmarketdc

RAWish:

Instagram and Twitter: @RawishDC

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RAWishDC

Roaming Rooster:

Instagram and Twitter: @roamingrooster1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/roamingrooster1

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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