BLM by the Forward

Richmond’s JewFro restaurant, which fuses African and Jewish cuisines, was inspired by the George Floyd protest movement

Image by Getty Images

(JTA) — Like many Americans, Ari Augenbaum, Trey Owens and Narine Hovnanian closely watched the protest movement that followed the death of George Floyd during the summer of 2020. Floyd’s death sparked familiar discussions among the friends about the history of race and oppression in the United States.

The three restaurateurs, who run a popular Virginia eatery called Soul Taco, figured they would use food to serve up healing, history and, they hope, a unique dining experience.

During a late-night conversation at their Richmond restaurant, they decided to launch JewFro, a pop-up-style spot that fuses Jewish and African cuisines. (Richmond restaurants are open for in-person dining, although JewFro offers takeout service as well.)

“JewFro,” Augenbaum said, “was born out of a conversation that I’m sure many Americans were having about the Black Lives Matter protests.”

Augenbaum, Owens and Hovnanian already had experience melding cuisines: Soul Taco combines Latin American flavors and Southern food. Since its October 2018 opening, Soul Taco has enjoyed a meteoric rise, including being featured on a January 2020 episode of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”

JewFro by day is a Jewish deli that specializes in house-cured meats and artisanal sandwiches with African spices. By night, the eatery offers up classic Jewish and Israeli dishes with African flair, as well as modern takes on African dishes with Jewish flavors: grilled chicken marinated in South African Peri-Peri sauce over Israeli couscous, or Zigni (an Eritrean beef stew) brisket over matzah polenta with braised kale and stewed tomatoes.

A recent Sunday brunch featured fresh baked challah with house cured gravlax and Dukkah, the Egyptian nut and space blend. Diners could wash it down with a harissa mimosa, flavored with the Tunisian hot chile pepper paste.

While creating the menu, the three friends made an interesting discovery.

“When we started researching some of the dishes for this concept, we realized that a lot of the ingredients and cooking methods were almost identical,” Augenbaum said. In fact, “the similarities were more prominent than the differences.”

Augenbaum, a Jew from Maryland, credits Owens, an African-American from Richmond, with the idea that eventually gave birth to JewFro.


New Afro-Jewish restaurant inspired by protest movement

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Richmond’s JewFro restaurant, which fuses African and Jewish cuisines, was inspired by the George Floyd protest movement

Thank you!

This article has been sent!