In the heart of Foggy Bottom, a culinary revolution is brewing at the soon-to-open restaurant The Bussdown. Chef Solomon Johnson, a visionary with a passion for Pan-African cuisine, is set to take diners on an unforgettable journey through diverse flavors that define the African diaspora.
“I wanted to create a space that reflects the migratory path of slaves from Africa through the Caribbean and into the Edisto Islands,” said Johnson. “The Bussdown is a celebration of everything Black and Brown, an homage to the culinary traditions that have traveled through generations.”
The concept of The Bussdown, born in Oakland, California, centers around a Pan-African food program, paying tribute to the rich heritage of African, Caribbean and Southern influences.
The menu boasts tantalizing dishes such as jerk chicken and curry chicken, elevated by Chef Johnson’s personally crafted spice blends, in collaboration with Spice Tribe.
“Our goal is to evoke the essence of each region’s culinary traditions,” Johnson, who co-owns The Bussdown with Mike Woods, told the Informer. “We want to introduce our diners to flavors they may have never experienced before, but that are deeply rooted in history and culture.”
The Bussdown’s location in Western Market, on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, places it just around the corner from the White House, by the George Washington University’s (GW) campus, making it a strategic spot for both locals and tourists. The restaurant sits across from the student quad at GW, aiming to draw in a diverse clientele, including students, neighborhood residents, and the nearby business community.
“Our target market is the students, but we also want to be a place where people from all walks of life can come together to share a meal,” said Johnson.
The ambiance at The Bussdown is designed to foster a sense of togetherness. With seating for over 200 people, the Western Market food hall concept invites patrons to gather and experience a culinary adventure as a community.
“I love the idea of people from different backgrounds, sitting side by side, enjoying food that tells the story of our shared history,” Chef Johnson said with enthusiasm.
The path to The Bussdown’s opening has been both challenging and rewarding for Johnson.
While the pandemic initially presented obstacles, it also served as a catalyst for the birth of the concept in California.
“We started in a cloud kitchen during the pandemic, offering a to-go-only operation,” explained Johnson. “As things loosened up, we evolved into a fine dining concept, and that’s how Bussdown’s journey began.”
Returning to his home state of Maryland, after a decade in California, was a poignant decision for Chef Johnson. Bussdown represents a heartfelt connection to his roots and a chance to make a mark on the local culinary scene.
“I wanted to bring this concept back home, to share the flavors and traditions that shaped my upbringing,” he said. “D.C. has always been special to me, and I’m excited to contribute to its vibrant culinary landscape.”
As The Bussdown approaches its grand opening, anticipation is building among food enthusiasts, local residents, and the wider DMV community.
“We’ve had two successful pop-up events already, and the response has been fantastic,” Chef Johnson revealed. “I can’t wait for people to step into Bussdown and embark on this culinary journey with us,” Johnson said.
With a menu that showcases the diverse influences of the Pan-African diaspora, The Bussdown promises to be a melting pot of flavors, a celebration of cultural heritage, and a place where everyone is invited to experience a taste of history.
The Bussdown team is ready to serve up unforgettable dining experiences that combine flavors of the past with the vibrant spirit of the present, all under one roof.
“It’s been quite the journey and now we are almost at the opening,” said The Bussdown’s Chef de Cuisine Luis Gomez, the co-owner’s longtime, hometown friend. “I’m truly excited to be a part of this team and I believe everyone will enjoy what we have to offer.”