Small Business Story: Florida Ave. Grill Maintains 1944 Ambiance Despite Facing Risks

The CoverWallet Small Business Scholarship encourages entrepreneurship in students by asking them to take on the perspective of a local small business owner. Students share their perspective on the opportunities and challenges faced by a business in their community.

Student: Breanna Lipsey,  Howard University

Small Business: Florida Avenue Grill

I’m still trying to figure out what reminds each customer of home. Is it the varying shades of chipped white china the food is served on? Are there particular ingredients that are used in every household across America? Does the 90’s R&B take them back to a time of free-spirited love and unity? Whatever it is, Florida Avenue Grill is able to deliver that “mama’s cooking” every time. People from all across the country claim The Grill must have their kin in the kitchen. Locals sometimes wait an hour just to sit next to a total stranger and eat breakfast at 3:00 PM. Whatever the circumstance, customers come expecting a soulfully cooked meal and end up leaving with a therapeutic reminder of the beauty of a home-cooked meal. I adore Florida Avenue Grill for providing that home feeling for each and every one of its guests but also fear that it may be its greatest risk factor. The demands of its surrounding community has changed; once coined as The Chocolate City, Washington, D.C. is now experiencing gentrification. The neighborhoods around Florida Avenue Grill, which were once filled with college students, families, and the “Go-Getters” of the time, are now filled with young professionals who live fast-paced lives. Florida Avenue Grill offers a full dine-in experience, catered to each of its customers. This means longer wait times for food, which is time these young professionals do not have.

Another risk is the size of the restaurant. The Grill desires to stay true to its origins, offering dine in space for roughly 60-70 guests at a time, with 18 of those seats being stools at the bar. This allows for each guest to actually see the grill their food is being cooked on, servers to cater to each guest, and provide an overall ambiance of a kitchen back at home. However, customers usually come in parties of 6 or more. Guests sometimes need special accommodations (for children, wheel-chair accessibility, weather, etc.). Due to the small size of the restaurant, they have limited options when it comes to seating arrangements and times.

This brings me to the overall risk Florida Avenue Grill faces- their loyalty to remain original. You can surely walk into The Grill and be taken back to the 70’s. The pictures of legends that adorn the walls, still in their original frames and places, tell a story of trials and tribulations The Grill has faced. You can see some of the same stools you may sit on in pictures that are now discolored from age. With current health crazes, the menu has altered to serve vegetarians. But other than that, the menu too has seen little alterations. Maybe that is the answer. Maybe The Grill’s dedication to what it started as in 1944 is the reason why patrons from all across the country can come in and feel as if they’re in their mother’s kitchen. Maybe the community will see The Grill as the place where you need to slow down and remain patient as you would in your own kitchen at home. After all, the kitchen doesn’t grow when the family does. And even when you’re far away from the comforting arms of home, there is nothing that brings you back like the familiar smells whipping from the corner of 11th and Florida Avenue.