DC at Night

DC at Night

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dining in DC: 2 Soul Classics

Now here's some real food for your soul
If you think a city nicknamed Chocolate City for the size of its African-American population would have some good soul food, you'd be right. DC has many great southern soul restaurants. Some like Vidalia, which often appears on lists of the top 10 restaurants in Washington or Georgia Brown's, where the Obamas have dined, are upscale treasures. But the real barometer for soul cooking  is in the type of comfort food that Grandmom used to make. And 2 of the best in DC are The World Famous Florida Avenue Grill and Oohs & Ahhs.

The Florida Avenue Grill, located not surprisingly on Florida Avenue, is the older of the pair, having opened in 1944. Oohh's & Aahh's on historic U Street is the more junior, having been serving diners for only a decade.

Both offer great soul food staples. Like all iconic diners, both have counter seats where you can watch food being prepared before you. The conversations are always lively and both have vocal supporters that insist their favorite meal at their favorite eatery is the best.

And both have storied histories.

For the past 35 years, The Florida Avenue Grill has been owned by Lacey Wilson Jr., whose father Lacey Sr. founded the grill a year before World War II ended. When destructive riots destroyed much of the area in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King, the eatery survived. Asked why, Wilson has a quick response: "Because I stayed up at that front booth all night long with a shotgun!"

Today, the walls are covered with pictures, most signed, of the famous who have enjoyed the grill. There are movie stars, music stars, sports stars, political stars, and local celebrities. Many return again and again. For example, whenever social activist Dick Gregory is in DC, you will find him doing what he has been doing for 5 decades, stopping in for the mac and cheese at the eatery which once served as a setting in a John Grisham novel.

Oohh's & Aahh's is operated by executive chef/owner Oji Abbott, a native Washingtonian. The restaurant  has consistently received the “Cheap Eats Award “, and the “Best Macaroni and Cheese“ from The Washingtonian Magazine. In 2011, it was featured on The Food Network cable TV show, "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," hosted by Chef Guy Fiero.

As you might expect, the Hall of Fame patrons at Abbott's establishment skewer younger, with such noted diners as basketball superstar LeBron James or music megastar Jay-Z.

So what about the food - how good is it? We say really, really, really good. Both my wife and I find the fried  chicken at the Florida Avenue Grill the best we have ever tasted. I feel the same way about the fried whiting at Oohh's & Aahh's. Of course, both eateries have those wonderful southern sides - collard greens, potato salad, green beans, yams, and cornbread which you can wash down with large glasses of sweet tea, all brought to you by pleasant, outgoing servers.

So which one do you choose? The correct answer is you don't - you eat at both as often as you can.  At least that's how my wife and I handle the question. And we would suggest you follow our example if you truly want to satisfy the cravings in your soul.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
What Others Say:
The World Famous Florida Avenue Grill
Oohh's & Aahh's
What We Say:
The Prices Do Dc Rating - **** (4 very full plates out of 5)

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