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Florida Avenue Grill

1100 Florida Ave., Washington, DC - (202) 265-1586
Posted By Michael Stern on 1/25/2007 4:02:00 PM
Now that Sholl’s cafeteria is closed, there are just two restaurants we consider absolutely essential in Washington, DC: Ben’s Chili Bowl, of course, and the Florida Avenue Grill.

We’ve been fans of the latter for some twenty years now, although it opened about two decades before that. In all that time, it’s virtually never changed. The only things different about it are the celebrity photos and endorsements on the wall. A lot of retired senators, congressmen, and members of the White House cabinet have been supplanted by current office holders. Curiously, though, the big name sports stars never seem to go out of style and their images remain long past their success.

If by our preceding description of its famous clientele, you’ve gotten the notion that The Florida Avenue Grill is in any way hifalutin or high-priced, please reconsider. It is anything but. A humble diner with a counter and booths, it serves meals that generally cost well under $10, mostly under $5. And as for being fancy, you’ll see taxicab drivers and blue collar workmen here shoulder to shoulder with the capital’s power players. Delicious cooking such as this knows no bounds of class or status.

We remember stopping by for lunch several years back and asking the waitress what was good that day. "Pig feets," she answered. Yes, you can come for seriously soulful soul food such as feets or chitterlings, but unless you are a feets aficionado already, we suggest you begin with more familiar things to eat. Spare ribs, for example, glazed with breathless hot sauce, rugged and satisfying: these are not yuppie baby back ribs; they are food that make you work, and when you do, they deliver tidal waves of flavor. Pork chops are like that, too: highly seasoned, meaty, and substantial. For a tender meal, how about meat loaf? This meat loaf, particularly with a side of mashed potatoes and a heap of pungent collard greens, is one of the kitchen's unexpected triumphs, its coarse-textured meat shot through with brilliant spices. True to southern custom, there are lots of vegetables to accompany the entrees: candied sweet potatoes, rich macaroni and cheese, lavish potato salad, rice, beans, peas, and always sweet cornbread for mopping up a plate.

For many fans of the Florida Avenue Grill, the best meal of the day is breakfast. That's when you can have stacks of pancakes, onion-laced corned beef hash, cornmeal muffins, squares of scrapple, corned beef hash, crusty fried potatoes, stewed spiced apples, buttermilk biscuits, grits and gravy.

If you value honest eats, this humble restaurant with its sprung-spring booths, pink counter, and red plastic stools is choice. It is cheap, fast, and the motherly waitresses make even us pale-faced strangers feel right at home.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
biscuits
pork chops
stewed apples
meat loaf
country ham
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Sliced in half and grilled, the half-smoke is juicy, with plenty of smoky flavor.  A wonderful breakfast side meat!
"Sliced in half and grilled, the half-smoke is juicy, with plenty of smoky flavor. A wonderful breakfast side meat!"
Cliff Strutz





Don't ignore the Florida Avenue Grill desserts.  The homey peach cobbler was the perfect way to end our meal.
"Don't ignore the Florida Avenue Grill desserts. The homey peach cobbler was the perfect way to end our meal."
Cliff Strutz


A superb combination plate ... for breakfast, lunch, or dinner: spiced stewed apples and a fried pork chop. In the background are over-easy eggs. Not shown: cornbread muffin.
"A superb combination plate ... for breakfast, lunch, or dinner: spiced stewed apples and a fried pork chop. In the background are over-easy eggs. Not shown: cornbread muffin."
Michael Stern


This is ham with character! A couple of biscuits on the side and a dish of red-eye gravy are its perfect complement.
"This is ham with character! A couple of biscuits on the side and a dish of red-eye gravy are its perfect complement."
Michael Stern


Florida Avenue Grill biscuits are a reminder that in some ways, at least culinarily, Washington, DC is very much part of the South. In the background is a bowl of spicy, soulful sausage gravy.
"Florida Avenue Grill biscuits are a reminder that in some ways, at least culinarily, Washington, DC is very much part of the South. In the background is a bowl of spicy, soulful sausage gravy."
Michael Stern


This photo was taken from a booth opposite the counter. Note the gallery of celebrity photos on the wall: they're all fans of the Florida Avenue Grill.
"This photo was taken from a booth opposite the counter. Note the gallery of celebrity photos on the wall: they're all fans of the Florida Avenue Grill."
Michael Stern


The cook and servers in a Christmas mood at the Florida Avenue Grill.
"The cook and servers in a Christmas mood at the Florida Avenue Grill."
Mike Spak


A counter-culture landmark in the nation's capital since FDR was president
"A counter-culture landmark in the nation's capital since FDR was president"
Michael Stern



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