Columbia, S.C. native, Walter Bowman, Sr. was looking for a place in Washington where he felt welcome, “most of the people here are not friendly,” said the Bannekar High School chemistry teacher who moved to the area in 2001.
With the help of his wife and Aunt Lorraine, Bowman is bringing southern hospitality to D.C. with “A Taste of Carolina,” the newest addition to the U St. corridor. At 9th and U St., a short walk behind the Howard Plaza Towers, a HowardUniversity dormitory, and across the street from popular clubs like 930 and Club 1919, this soul food restaurant hopes to thrive in a strip of mostly Ethiopian restaurants.
The menu includes southern food staples such as macaroni and cheese, collard greens fried chicken and ribs, all the recipes come from Bowman’s aunt, who took time off from her job as a legal aid in Fort Washington, Md. to teach the recipes to his cooks. “When I thought about the food, I though about the food I had when I was growing up in South Carolina,” Bowman said.
Although the restaurant opened earlier this month on the 17th, a grand opening has been planned for April 7th and 8th. Bowman’s wife, Cheyenne, who also works as manager when Walter can’t be around, says the event will include giveaways and an appearance by D.C. Mayor, Anthony Williams.
Cheyenne hopes that in the future, the restaurant can serve the community by being a place for local aspiring artists to display there work. Upstairs has an additional dining space which will be known as “the reception,” it will hold poetry ciphers and a display area for artwork. ” ‘The reception’ ” will open doors for new artists. Not just music but art and poetry. It will be a place for artists to display their work and maybe someone will come in and want to buy it,” she said.
Bowman, who has already made business endeavors in real estate says opening a restaurant is different than real estate because rather than pleasing one person, a buyer, there is a wide variety of people whom he must satisfy. “You have to cater to more people. In the restaurant business, there is nothing you can project,” he said.
Right now, the menu is exclusively soul food, but Bowman says he would like to expand the menu and ultimately become, “the #1 premier fine dining and wine restaurant.” Lead cook, Joe Penn, who learned Bowman’s aunt’s recipes, would like to help in the menu expansion by adding some of his dishes, such as stuffed chicken and pasta, to the menu. “I like to cook here. I get a chance to do what I do in the kitchen,” said the former KFC manager who also attended the Baltimore International Culinary Institute for a year.
Despite Bowman’s plans for the restaurant’s future, he says he sticks to one goal; making sure his customers feel the southern hospitality he was seeking when he opened the restaurant. “Every morning I taste all the food for the day. I wouldn’t dare sell my customers junk,” he said, adding that he also sticks to his motto for the restaurant, “Excellent southern hospitality with excellent southern food, always.”