Experience History at The Florida Avenue Grill

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Imar Hutchins owns the historic Florida Avenue Grill. Photo: Alexander Padro, Courtesy Shaw Main Streets.

A visit to the Florida Avenue Grill (1100 Florida Ave NW) is like a trip in a time machine, with authentic soul food and a hands-on DC history lesson thrown in for good measure. Local artist Imar Hutchins has owned and operated the restaurant since 2005, but the establishment has been in the District since 1944. It remains the oldest surviving soul food restaurant in the country.

Hutchins described the restaurant as “a living museum” that provides the opportunity for visitors to experience history firsthand. The dining room is decorated with historic photographs and customers can sit at booths and an old fashioned lunch counter. Diners can even sit in the booth where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sat while planning the 1963 March on Washington.

“The grill is a very important piece of DC history, Black history and American history,” Hutchins said. “And it’s important to celebrate it and hopefully have it around for the next 80 years.”

The menu, Hutchins said, has maintained its soul food roots and original dishes, including all day breakfast, fish and grits, smothered pan fried pork chops and chitterlings, but has added some healthier vegan and vegetarian options. While the grill’s food has stood the test of time, Hutchins believes the culture is what makes the restaurant so special.

“The beautiful thing about the Grill is that you can see everyone, from Congress people to homeless people together eating,” Hutchins observed. “It’s like a slice of the real DC.”

Hutchins emphasized his gratitude for the community’s support, particularly throughout the pandemic.

“A lot of businesses have not survived the pandemic, especially restaurants, and we’ve had to make some adjustments, but we’re still here,” Hutchins said.

The Florida Avenue Grill is currently open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, visit floridaavenuegrill.com.

Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com.