FishScale's Chef Henry Williams cooks on a grill fired with oak wood and hardwood charcoal in preparing a tasty, healthy, quarter-pound "fishburger" featuring a wide array of wild-caught fish without fillers or breadcrumbs in the restaurant's flagship location on Florida Avenue in northwest D.C. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

A popular American Express commercial conveys the false notion that 90 percent of new restaurants fail within their first year. And while the failure rate, according to a recent Forbes report, actually hovers between 17 and 19 percent, it’s still not an easy venture — particularly for those with 20 or fewer employees.

But that hasn’t stopped one fledgling eatery located in D.C.’s Shaw community that merits both our closer attention and patronage — one which offers a unique, health-focused menu that takes fish to a whole new plain with taste-sensations that’ll tickle your taste buds.

Chef Henry Williams, a co-owner who mans the grill with creative swerve, along with co-owner and his sister, Kristal Williams, a board-certified ambulatory care pharmacist, a diabetes educator and the recipient of a Doctor of Pharmacy, remember when the idea for the business first took shape. But even then, they found it necessary to turn to their family for input and support.

Chef Henry and Kristal Williams are the co-owners of FishScale, a new, Black- and family-owned fine casual eatery in the District’s Shaw community where fresh fish and other healthy options dominate the menu. (Courtesy of India Kea Diakea Photography)

“This is a real family operation in which we’re all involved, just at different levels but with everyone recognizing the passion and the vision — doing all we can do to make this work,” the Williams siblings said as they reflected on the first anniversary of their flagship location [637 Florida Ave. NW] which opened for business in September 2017.

Chef Henry attributes divine inspiration as the impetus for his seeking greater knowledge about the benefits of eating organic and wild foods and then following the advice of his mother to attend culinary school so he could hone his cooking skills and learn the rubrics of the restaurant business.

“We were at a family cookout and to placate my mother who was then a pescatarian, I came up with the idea of making a wild-caught fishburger,” he said.

“To my surprise, the hamburger connoisseurs piled their plates so high with my fishburgers that my mom barely had time to get one for herself. I discovered that a lot of people like my mother were frustrated over the difficulty of finding places that served freshly-prepared fish when they were out and on the go,” said the chef, who did an externship with the District’s BlackSalt Restaurant while matriculating at the Maryland-based L’Academie de Cuisine, one of the country’s top cooking schools [alums include Carla Hall of “The Chew”] that ended its 41-year history of supplying chefs to the D.C. restaurant community in December 2017.

And while FishScale offers a menu with various price levels and a rotating array of wild caught fish — from Sockeye Salmon and Speckled Sea Trout to Golden Tile and John Dory — they also include local options from area fishermen and farmers.

After a long day on the reporter’s beat, this writer stopped by FishScale and filled up on a pan-seared Maryland Blue lump crab burger, topping it off with fresh organic condiments created by Chef Henry: sunflower-yogurt coleslaw, Japanese sweet potatoes and dinosaur kale kimchi. I was hooked.

Kristal says taking the leap of faith to start the business came easily. The nuts and bolts needed to establish a firm foundation and a business plan, including the financing, to realize a profit-making enterprise, came with greater difficulty.

“We were running errands, taking our idea to the City Center Farmer’s Market, meeting other vendors, stepping in as office managers and accountants — even serving meals to customers,” said the licensed clinical pharmacist who took a leave of absence from her job in order to take over as general manager for the restaurant.

“Whenever we faced a roadblock, we would go back to the original plan, take hold again of that passion that we all shared, reenergize and keep it moving forward,” she said. “Our overall mission has always been to keep with our Christian beliefs and respect the fact that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit which we want to help keep as healthy as possible.”

“Fish shouldn’t be reserved just for Fridays anymore — it should be enjoyed several times a weeks,” Chef Henry added. “FishScale also helps individuals meet the American Heart Association’s recommendation of non-fried fish consumption at least three times a week. And we have a great atmosphere — perfect for either ‘me time’ or for that first date.”

One caveat: with fish that’s cooked to order, patrons should be prepared to be patient as they await their meal. But the wait’s worth it.

“Good food takes time,” Kristal said. “That said, we believe that if you have to eat, let the food taste good and be good for your health and our environment. We take great pride in knowing what we serve you. Honestly, it’s just the way [our family] eats.”

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Editor’s Note: Dr. Kristal Williams will join The Washington Informer in October with a bimonthly column addressing nutrition and health that will target the needs of and challenges faced by the Black community. Stay tuned!

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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