At Miss Toya’s Creole House, a server pours a mixture of Casamigos Blanco tequila, blood orange juice and sour mix into a sleek, silver-lined, black cocktail coupe in front of a young woman dressed for a night on the town. The scarlet liquid, triggered by dry ice, bubbles like a witch’s brew and releases a billowy fog into the air that plants a message into my brain: I’ll have what she’s having! Soon I’m sipping on my own Lady Voodoo cocktail, created by Toya Miskiri, who, with her husband, chef Jeffeary Miskiri, opened the Silver Spring restaurant in August. I try to keep it company with an order of deviled eggs spiked with pickle relish and topped with giant lumps of Venezuelan crab meat, but the tasty bites vanish practically before my drink’s bubbles subside. Not to worry, oysters Rockefeller on the half shell—six plump bivalves loaded with garlicky creamed spinach and Parmesan and broiled to golden brown—are right behind them.
The Miskiris’ restaurant background is impressive. This is the couple’s sixth under their Miskiri Hospitality Group. Their other spots are two locations of Po Boy Jim, one in Washington, D.C., and one in Columbia, Maryland; Suga & Spice in Hyattsville; Creole on 14th in Washington; and House of Creole in Cleveland, Ohio. Three other concepts are in the works, including Miss Toya’s Southern Kitchen in Gaithersburg’s rio development. (Jeffeary’s uncle, Jason Miskiri, is a restaurateur, too; he owns The Angry Jerk in Silver Spring, and his new place, The Breakfast Club, is slated to open by the end of this year.)
Miss Toya’s replaces Eggspectation, which closed in September 2020. The 5,200-square-foot restaurant seats 204 inside and 16 outside. The 15-seat rectangular bar, decorated with boldly patterned gray and white Spanish tiles, divides the large space into two sections. The interior evokes the feeling of being in a spacious house. In the front windows are black hanging rattan chairs like you might find on a wide Southern porch. Some walls are brick, and others are covered with gray siding. Faux greenery abounds, either suspended from the ceiling or in white wooden planter boxes behind camel-colored tufted pleather banquettes. Small stage lights (which could stand to be dimmed to enhance the dinnertime atmosphere) beam from exposed ductwork.
A neon sign on the wall next to the open kitchen says, “Feed your soul,” which is an easy command to heed, thanks to Jeffeary Miskiri’s experience. He started learning the restaurant business at 17 by working in one of the eight McDonald’s franchises an aunt supervised in D.C. and Maryland. Born and raised in Takoma Park, Miskiri attended Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, graduated from Montgomery College and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in business management from, respectively, Prince George’s Community College and the University of Maryland University College.
“The food at Miss Toya’s represents my Southern roots and my mother’s Caribbean [Guyanese] heritage,” Miskiri says. “I was making gumbo and shrimp and grits at 8 years old. Cooking became my passion.” After graduate school, he spent two years with his great-grandfather Jimmy Franklin in New Orleans, immersing himself in the culture and refining his knowledge of the region’s cooking. Miskiri returned to D.C. to pursue his dream of building a restaurant there and opened his first Po Boy Jim, in the H Street corridor, in 2012.
In addition to deviled eggs and oysters Rockefeller at Miss Toya’s, barbecued shrimp is a good way to start. Don’t expect gooey, ketchup-y barbecue sauce—that’s not the NOLA way. These crustaceans—five large ones per order—are perched atop a rich butter sauce enhanced with a complex seafood stock, Worcestershire sauce, white wine and Miskiri’s housemade Cajun seasoning. (I detect onion, garlic and celery seed.) Fried green tomato slices, their flesh tangy and juicy within their crunchy breadcrumb coating, hit the spot, but be sure to request extra remoulade sauce.
Pass up the cup of gumbo starter and order the “loaded” gumbo entree instead. Its presentation alone—a majestic cluster of meaty snow crab legs resting atop a soup rife with andouille sausage, shrimp and chicken—warrants the upgrade, but the flavor seals the deal. Miskiri’s roux (flour cooked long and slow in oil) is a deep, rust color and imbues the dish with coffee-like notes, nuttiness and soul. Seafood stock adds to the gumbo’s complexity, and a hit of cayenne gives it a kick. Another notable entree—catfish and grits—is an enormous, moist fillet encrusted in cornmeal that is placed on a bed of white cheddar grits and sauced with rich crawfish cream. Plan to take half home, as you will if you order the two-per-serving, wonderfully tender, mammoth short ribs braised with celery, onions, garlic, bell peppers, bay leaves and thyme and served over sauteed spinach or chunky mashed potatoes (your choice).
There are kinks to be ironed out at Miss Toya’s—literally—such as wrinkled tablecloths. It’s a small detail, but details matter. Gumbo with crab legs should come with the necessary utensils for opening and eating them. (And wipes to clean your hands afterwards.) Oysters demand oyster forks. The service needs fine-tuning. It can take a while to order and receive drinks, so have your appetizer plan teed up when the server shows up.
For dessert at Miss Toya’s, you can’t go wrong with the cake-like white chocolate vanilla bean bread pudding. I’m thrilled to see beignets—puffy, airy yeast-dough fritters—among the sweet offerings, but mine are overfried, uninflated and left untouched.
Business is booming at Miss Toya’s, for many good reasons, so be sure to make a reservation and let Lady Voodoo help you do that voodoo that you do so well. (Sorry, Cole Porter.)
Miss Toya’s Creole House
Overall Rating: B
923 Ellsworth Drive, Silver Spring, 240-641-5925, misstoyascreolehouse.com
Favorite Dishes: Oysters Rockefeller, barbecued shrimp, deviled eggs with crab meat, loaded gumbo entree, catfish and grits, braised short ribs.
Prices: $13 to $24; Entrees: $25 to $55; Desserts: $8 to $12. (A 20% gratuity is automatically added to every check.)
Libations: It’s all about the cocktails ($18 to $22). Most are generous and eye-catching, such as Becky’s Sangria (red wine, Hennessey Cognac, pineapple juice), which is served in a large wine glass and topped with fresh blackberries and a strawberry popsicle. Colorful dried edible flowers adorn the side of the glass holding the Peach Please (Tito’s vodka, Champagne, peach nectar and orange juice). Wine is not a featured player at Miss Toya’s. Eleven wines are available by the glass ($9 to $11) or the bottle (most around $35).
Service: Eager but could be more attentive and organized.
David Hagedorn is the restaurant critic for Bethesda Magazine.
This story appears in the November/December 2022 issue of Bethesda Magazine.