Roving West African venture Hedzole will have its first-ever address to call its own in the new year.
Owner/chef Candice Mensah recently secured a 667-square-foot lease in D.C. (5505 Colorado Avenue NW). Look for a late January opening in the small space that formerly housed Social Kitchen.
A daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, Mensah was born in D.C. and grew up in Alexandria, Virginia. With the support of family and friends, she debuted Hedzole in 2019 and quickly amassed a loyal following at farmers markets in Northern Virginia and D.C. Hedzole also hosted months-long pop-up at Tysons Galleria earlier this year and wrapped up its run at FreshFarm in Fairfax’s Mosaic District last week.
Longtime favorites making their way to D.C. include her take on stewed oxtail over Ghanaian waakye and groundnut (peanut) soup. The spicy and well-balanced bowl features bobbing balls of steamed fufu for a nice textural contrast. She makes Ghana’s doughy starch staple with both mashed cassava and plantains.
She was originally looking for permanent digs in Northern Virginia, but she says the opportunity in D.C. was too good to pass up. The 12-seat space is relatively turnkey ready, aside from some equipment and design upgrades. Come spring, the setup will substantially grow with the addition of a 20-seat patio out front. Mensah calls her fast-casual menu a “‘create your meal’ approach to food from Ghana with influences from the wider African diaspora.”
“A lot of times folks get caught up with term ‘authentic’ in that it can only be one way. That has been a barrier for West African food to be not as well known locally or nationally,” she says.
She credits several area restaurants with putting the cuisine on diners’ radar in recent years. That includes Spice Kitchen West African Grill in Brentwood, Rockville’s new Eko House, and Shaw’s essential Ghanaian mainstay Appioo.
“I want to make the menu more inclusive in terms of being pan-African. Folks familiar with Caribbean cuisine see tie-ins to West Africa,” says Mensah, whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Accra, Ghana.
Her farmers market menu is expected to grow in D.C. with additions like goat curry and okra stews. For drinks, she plans to showcase South African wines and Black-owned labels in the U.S. Takeout and delivery will be available out of the gate.
“I can imagine people not wanting to come outside in January,” she says.