Florida Avenue Grill

The Place: Florida Avenue Grill

Where: 11th Street NW and Florida Avenue NW

Why Live Near Here:  Imagine waking up every day (or maybe just every weekend for you health conscious eaters) and being able to quickly pop into and eat at the restaurant Tasting Table claimed is D.C.’s Best Classic Diner in 2017. You’re a no frills kind of person and while you love your U Street hometown area, maybe you fondly remember a former version of the neighborhood that quickly became one of the busiest areas to live and play.

Things to Know: The Grill boasts that it is the oldest soul food restaurant in the world and the oldest continuously operated black owned restaurant In U.S. It opened in 1944 by Lacey and Bertha Wilson and the staff told me the story of how the restaurant was financed “two chickens at a time”: money was so tight that Lacey would fry up two chickens to sell then use the proceeds from those to buy two more.

As one of the few black-owned restaurants in a racially segregated city, the Grill attracted (and continues to attract) patrons from various parts of Washington’s African American community. In 1968, after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated and the neighborhood erupted in riots, The Grill was 1 of only 4 black owned businesses in DC that survived  (the others were Lee’s Florist, Ben’s Chili Bowl, and Industrial Bank). It wasn’t spared attack but was saved thanks to Lacey Jr’s 3 day and night occupation of the restaurant with a shot gun (and more specifically, in Booth 1 known in house as the Shot Gun Booth).

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