Savor flavors created by the hardworking women who make DC’s food and drink scene sparkle.
The nation’s capital has ascended to a world-class dining destination rife with crowded food halls and buzzing pop-ups thanks to enterprising women restaurateurs, chefs and café owners. Going beyond sugar and spice and everything nice, women-owned bakeries, cafes, distilleries, restaurants and bars feature innovative flavors and empowering stories.
From the oak-fired hearth at Michelin-starred restaurant Maydan to a towering cone of banana bourbon caramel from Ice Cream Jubilee, the landscape of epicurean adventure couldn’t be more intoxicating. Celebrate women in DC by bringing a hearty appetite and unquenchable thirst to the city, where there’s lots to enjoy any time of day.
Bakeries and Cafes
Ice Cream Jubilee
We promise you’ll crave the homespun frozen confections at Victoria Lai’s Ice Cream Jubilee. Although Lai began making ice cream in her apartment, it was an apprenticeship at a pie shop that pulled her aside from her law career to advance her baking skills. Lai then spent late nights crafting new flavors while working at the Department of Homeland Security, and eventually attended Penn State’s renowned ice cream seminar – the rest is history, as they say. You can find flavors like banana bourbon caramel and cherries jubilee (in honor of DC's famous cherry blossoms) at various locations around the District.
Tiffany MacIsaac’s Buttercream Bakeshop features imaginative treats like Cinnascones and a sprinkle-studded blondie dubbed the Unicorn Bar. After migrating from Maui to New York City, MacIsaac found a passion for pastry. She graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education and went on to become the pastry chef at multiple Michelin-starred restaurants before landing in DC to open Birch & Barley with her husband. MacIsaac then fulfilled a dream of hers and opened the Bakeshop after discovering the missing ingredients – her partner Alexandra Mudry-Till and general manager Emma Shaver.
Vegan bakery Sticky Fingers in Columbia Heights was founded by Doron Petersan, whose dietetics degree aligns with a determination to create treats free of animal products for everyone. That personal passion carried her from her kitchen in 1999 to being a two-time Food Network Cupcake Wars champion. Whether you’re vegan or not, it really doesn’t matter; the café simply deals in deliciousness.
Sunyatta Amen learned the medicinal value of teas, foods and spices from all over the world while growing up and working at her parents’ health food shop and juice bar in New York City. Now Amen, who has stated a commitment to creating jobs and encouraging wellness in her community, offers 100 tea and coffee blends across her Brookland storefront and online marketplace. You can also purchase aromatic tonics, baked vegan treats, kombucha and much more.
Culture Coffee Too.
At age 13, ever-energetic Veronica Cooper, also known as Ms. V, had her own business as a seamstress, and nearly 50 years later opened Culture Coffee Too. Ms. V is a matriarch among DC’s Black-owned restaurant community, offering comforts that go beyond what you can sip, eat and enjoy. She mentored budding entrepreneur Sophia, of Little Miss Sophia’s Sweets and Treats, and continues to showcase local artists and small businesses, host food giveaways and pop-ups and always offer a safe space.
Baked by Yael
Yael Krigman’s career path did not begin on the trajectory of opening DC’s first “cakepoppery.” The owner of Baked by Yael began baking to distract herself from the bar exam and after eight years at a corporate law firm, Krigman decided to leave and pursue baking full-time. Baked by Yael is a nut-free and kosher bakery, which not only serves show-stopping cakepops, but also has some of DC’s best bagels. The café regularly contributes to various causes and donates unsold bagels and other baked goods to Food Rescue USA.
RAKO Coffee Roasters
Prevent the sugar crash with coffee from RAKO Coffee Roasters by sisters Lisa and Melissa Gerben. The Gerbens had to shift their business plan to an online marketplace once the coronavirus crisis affected their plan to open two DC shops. Lisa’s background in international trade and a trip to Guatemala inspired the sisters’ holistic approach to providing sustainably sourced coffee. RAKO donates a portion of its proceeds to International Women’s Coffee Alliance chapters, and 10 percent of every sale currently goes to Erik Bruner-Yang’s Power of 10 initiative, which goes back to members of the local DC restaurant community.
Michelle Brown and Linda Neuman opened the first Teaism location in Dupont Circle in 1996 with the goal of creating a new appreciation for the diversity of delicate tea leaves. Teaism’s expansive drinks menu – with fragrant black, white and green teas, oolongs, chai and tisanes – is available for carryout or delivery from the Penn Quarter and Dupont Circle locations. An Asian-inspired food menu (think: bento boxes with grilled salmon, Korean brisket sandwiches, udon noodle soup) also attracts long lines during the lunch rush.
Jamie Leeds Restaurant Group oversees the three Hank’s Oyster Bar locations, as well as the newest concept of Hank & Mitzi’s, and is led by none other than Jamie Leeds. A self-taught chef, Leeds began her career in 1980, opened the first Hank’s – named after her father – in 2005 and formed her Restaurant Group in 2015. Leeds kicked off DC’s bivalve bonanza and serves as a mentor to other female business owners. She is also a supporter of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s “Save the Bay” efforts.
Three-time James Beard Award nominee Amy Brandwein has been presenting authentic and elevated Italian cuisine to the DC area for six years through her flagship Centrolina and fast-casual Piccolina. As a female chef and owner, Brandwein has used her experience to inspire other women chefs and accepted the James Beard Foundation's Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership Program fellowship in 2017. Brandwein advocates for healthy eating and ending hunger through charitable efforts and has partnered with DC Urban Greens, a nonprofit urban farm located in Wards 7 and 8. The farm provides fresh and affordable produce to the local community.
After moving to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was just a baby, Patrice Cleary connects with her heritage through her Filipino-American restaurant, Purple Patch. Cleary spent eight years in the Marine Corps and worked for a Venture Capital firm before she gained restaurant experience by bartending and helping other restaurants open for another eight years. Cleary then opened Purple Patch, which features her mother’s recipes and has been recognized as one of the first Filipino restaurants in DC. The restaurant has provided food for children in need during the pandemic.
On top of working for her mother’s catering business and restaurant, Rose Previte was able to immerse herself in the diverse and rich world of food when she and her husband traveled to more than 30 countries over the course of three years. Previte wanted the community to experience the same food journey and thus Compass Rose was born. Within a year of opening its doors, Compass Rose was on every "Best Restaurant in DC" list and Previte was named one of DC’s “40 Under 40” top professionals to watch in 2017. Later that year, she opened Maydan, which quickly garnered accolades of its own and landed Previte on the coveted list of Michelin-starred restaurants.
Pia Carusone and Rachel Gardner
Opening Republic Restoratives may have seemed like a risky move for Pia Carusone and Rachel Gardner, as the female duo had no prior distillery experience and were taking a shot at a male-led industry. However, Republic has been nothing short of a spirited success. Offering distilled spirits that range from rye to vodka to apple brandy, the DC company is both women-owned and LGBTQ+-owned, as both Causone and Gardner live in DC with their same-sex partners. Republic is also the largest crowdfunded distillery in America and continues to promote community outreach and inclusivity while also offering up hand sanitizer in times of need.
Although originally from California, Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s culinary journey has taken her from Pennsylvania to New York to Florida, and she eventually landed in DC, where she has been the Executive Chef at St. Anselm since 2017. Meek-Bradley’s portfolio is decorated with accolades from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and the James Beard Foundation, along with a top-three finish on Bravo’s 'Top Chef', but the early exposure to her parents’ non-profit community dining hall is what inspires her sustainability and charitable efforts. Meek-Bradley shows off her grilling chops at St. Anselm, which evokes hunting cabin vibes with deer busts and bearskin, plus perfectly cooked ax-handle rib-eyes.
Chef Rose Noel, a New York native of Haitian background, grew up cooking but only pursued a career as a chef after earning her undergraduate degree and attending the Institute of Culinary Education. During her schooling, Noel worked part-time and fulfilled an externship at New York restaurants. She later joined the original New York Maialano in 2014 and was able to work her way into the pasta room, where the delicate craft taught her patience and perseverance. Noel is now the executive chef at DC’s Maialano Mare at the Thompson Hotel.