The “Black Panther” series is an international sensation, more than a commercial and critical success, it reconfigures the entire Black experience on film. Octavia Butler, arguably the mother of Afrofuturism, is having another moment in the spotlight with her prescient storytelling and her book “Kindred” turned into a TV show. This month, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will unveil an exhibit dedicated to Afrofuturism, what NPR calls an “open-ended genre combining science fiction, fantasy and history to imagine a liberated future through a Black lens.”
Bronze, a new restaurant in Washington, D.C., takes Afrofuturism beyond the screen and page and translates it into a culinary experience.
Bronze reimagines Afro-luxury dining with a menu driven by the rich histories of the African diaspora. With a global presence, the menu reflects cuisines from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Bronze brings guests into a serene, yet sexy, landscape where diners can leave the D.C.’s busy H Street, NE to enjoy a dining experience filled with rich history and inventive dishes paired with an extensive wine menu and vibrant cocktail list.
On his goals for the restaurant, owner Keem Hughley says, “my hope is that guests come in and feel fully immersed in this experience we’ve created. I want people to feel like they’re in the world of Bronze.”
Bronze is the brainchild of D.C. native and 15-year hospitality visionary, Hughley and Chef Toya Henry, who began her career in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York.
Henry started a supper club, Pimento in 2018 out of her Brooklyn brownstone, cooking and hosting events for those from James Beard Foundation and the contemporary museum MoMA PS1. In collaborating with Henry, Hughley encouraged the chef to tap into her Afro-Caribbean culture, inspiring dynamic pairings of unlikely ingredients. The menu features imaginative plates such as charred yuzu squid with herbed pesto and satsuma currant glaze and grilled aubergine and broccolini with couscous, kale, and Guinea sauce. Bush smoked snapper with snow pea shoots and callaloo relish is an inventive homage to both Hughley and Henry’s Caribbean roots.
The restaurant brings together an amalgamation of cuisines to develop something entirely new. Much like the philosophy of Afrofuturism itself, Bronze envisions a new world through food. “Afrofuturism means to create without limits and to create authentically,” says Hughley.
Each plate is a journey of discovery, titillating and invigorating the senses. The menu is family style and encourages sharing. Flavors from the Caribbean fuse with Asia, pastas native to Italy are paired with crowd pleasers such as braised oxtails.
“We wanted to make sure the menu was rooted in things we’re familiar with,” says Hughley. “Even though there’s a futuristic take, it’s still familiar to the palate of our people.”
Unlike heritage companies such as Louis Vuitton or Tiffany & Co. that have brand stories rooted in historical legacies, African people outside of the continent have a story that begins with bondage. To completely abolish the notion that this is the origin story, Hughley developed a fictional character whose legacy leads to the present day, exploring our world and its many cultures through cuisine.
Bronze is inspired by the fictional tale of Alonzo Bronze, a traveler born in Africa in the 1300s who roamed the world freely. On his expeditions, Alonzo met locals and foreigners alike as he traveled the globe, trading the spices of his native land and gaining knowledge of new cultures along the way before settling in the present-day Caribbean. This fictional tale predates modern times, imagining a world in which people of the African diaspora live free of limiting beliefs and pursue full autonomy.
As a philosophy, Afrofuturism allows us all to envision the world with new eyes. It creates the space for self-actualizing stories of Africa and its people. Bronze offers respite and refuge through a luxurious culinary experience taking diners out of the mundanity of the familiar and into a space where we can live out our wildest imaginations.
Nestled in the Atlas District on H Street NE—in the same neighborhood where Hughley grew up—the 150-seat Bronze encompasses 5,300-square-feet across three floors, each providing its own distinct guest experience. It features a 26-foot bar with a cocktail menu with spirits from all over the world, where guests can eat, drink, and celebrate the richness of the global African diasporic kitchen. Cocktails are inspired by Sun-Ra and John Coltrane with names such as “Third Planet” and “The Night has a Thousand Eyes.” The wine list showcases labels from North Africa, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, and the Americas, and the restaurant plans to highlight Black winemakers in the U.S. such as André Mack, the Brooklyn restaurateur and nationally recognized sommelier.
In a moment where our society is grappling with deep racial tensions and unrest, Bronze offers a haven to experience the richness and the breadth of cuisine of the global African diaspora. From virtually each corner of the world the menu reflects the dynamic, global, pan-African kitchen and reimagines the world anew.