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The GW Hatchet

AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Dish of the Week: The Bussdown DC’s Jerk Yardbird

GW has a soul (food restaurant) now.
The+Bussdown+DC%E2%80%99s+staple+jerk+chicken%2C+paired+with+rice%2C+beans+and+a+side+of+the+signature+Gangsta+Mac.
An Ngo
The Bussdown DC’s staple jerk chicken, paired with rice, beans and a side of the signature Gangsta Mac.

Smack dab in the middle of Western Market, The Bussdown DC is cooking up classic comfort dishes with unexpected, flavorful twists.

The new restaurant counter is situated in the center of Western Market with a bold red roof and a black, corrugated metal counter. Head chef and owner Solomon Johnson, a winner of Chopped 420, is serving up pan-African eats influenced by Afro-Latino, Caribbean, Puerto Rican and Dominican dining. 

Johnson created the Bussdown concept in Oakland, CA, and said he always planned to return to the DMV area where he grew up to open a brick-and-mortar version. Citing the low concentration of Black-owned businesses in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, Johnson said he wanted to corner the market on pan-African food in the area.

Upon arriving at The Bussdown at about 1 p.m. on a Sunday, I was surprised there was no one in line. Even though it was a quieter day than usual at Western Market, I thought more people would be excited to try Western Market’s first pan-African restaurant.

When I first came to GW as a freshman, my roommate and I desperately searched for a place for jerk chicken — as a Chicago native, jerk chicken and other pan-African dishes were an easily available comfort food. Unfortunately, most, if not all, of D.C.’s Caribbean restaurants seemed far from campus. Until now.

Uncertain of what to order, I asked Johnson what he recommended. The menu has five main protein courses, one vegetarian main course and six vegetarian sides. He said their signature best sellers are the Jerk Yardbird ($13) and the Gangsta Mac ($7-$8). The drink selection at The Bussdown is currently limited to water ($2) and soda ($2), but Johnson said he hopes to add daiquiris to the menu in the future.

And unlike some other vendors in Western Market, the eatery does not take GWorld, but Johnson said they are working to adopt the school’s meal plan into their accepted payments.

The two dishes were prepared quickly, available at the counter in about five minutes. But, I could hardly wait as I watched them plate my long-awaited jerk chicken. Like many other vendors in Western Market, Bussdown serves their food in plastic to-go containers, ideal for students looking to grab a quick meal to-go. Despite the humble vessel, the plating of the Jerk Yardbird dish was delightfully artful, garnished with colorful fruits and vegetables. 

The signature jerk chicken is covered with house-pickled radish and green beans, grilled pineapple and orange, plantains fried in garlic oil and a variety of herbs. The chicken carries the slightest amount of heat after its marination in a jerk blend that includes warm spices and herbs, like green onions, thyme, soy sauce and scotch bonnets. The bowl also comes with a side of rice and beans cooked with confit garlic, bay leaves, thyme and other fresh herbs. The rice and beans were simple, carrying a slightly smoky, earthy taste.

The citrus and tart flavors from the vegetables that accompanied the savory chicken, transports eaters to a warm paradise vacation. The jerk chicken’s marinade has just enough heat to feel it while being mild enough for the spice-intolerant. The sweet grilled pineapple and pickled radish add both brightness in color and flavor through bursts of tangy, sweet and vinegary flavor. In addition to this smorgasbord of spiced veggies and fruits, Bussdown pickles its own green beans and radishes, as well as carrots, red onions and gooseberries.

The gangsta mac recipe was passed down to Johnson from his mother, who he says, grilled it into his memory before he left for college over a decade ago. It is a comforting but light dish in both a small ($7) and a large ($8) side. I ordered the small size, which was suitable for a snack or side to a main course.

Despite the rich combination of mild and sharp cheddar, colby, Monterey Jack and a secret mystery cheese, the classic dish doesn’t leave the diner feeling groggy or overstuffed. The buttery, soft macaroni noodles are expertly folded within the velvety cheese sauce, making each bite warm and soothing.

After long-held hopes of new vendors’​​ launching in Western Market, students’ and staff’s wishes have been granted. The Bussdown enhances comfort food with bold and colorful flavor combinations, while expanding on-campus offerings.

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