Sunday, January 01, 2006

Florida Avenue Grill..

is the Mac Daddy.

I'll fill you in on a little secret. Chefs like mac and cheese. I'm talking heavy on the cheddar, bring on the noodles and about as far away from the foie gras as you can get. Or at least that's what the gang at 1789 taught me.

Before a Sunday shift, I was smashed into a booth at F.Scott's -- the space next to 1789, now exclusively used for private events-- enjoying a family dinner with the rest of the chefs before the evening rush. There were no hidden cameras or news reporters (or so they thought). Forget the frills on the other side of the kitchen doors.

It was time to pull up our sleeves and talk dirty. Mac and cheese dirty.

The majority of us (about six) revealed we had "a thing" for the less than gourmet boxed meal. Some made nauseous frowns. One even admitted she likes to lather hers with ketchup. A few more made nauseous frowns.

And then Scott, who was in charge of the hot entrees that night, shook his head with confidence. "If you really want good mac and cheese," he warned, "I'll have to fill you in...on a little secret."

The secret was Florida Avenue Grill. Scott claims it's the best in the District, let alone the best he's ever tasted. But if you're kicking off Oh-Six with a regimented resolution diet, stop reading right now. Seriously, this post is shamelessly bad for your health.

Epitomizing a Dirt Cheap Eat, Florida Ave. Grill is known for their red-topped bar stools, view into the kitchen and most importantly, no pretenses. Oil is sizzling and grease is a-flying. There's no hiding anything here. Like everything else on the menu, the mac and cheese is bad for your waistline but so good for the soul.

The Grill gives you a generous hunk of mac and cheese, and has been doing so for the last 61 years. Before gentrification was ever in U Street's vocabulary. It sits pretty next to fellow Dirt Cheap neighbors Ben's Chili Bowl.

And this is not the first time the modest Florida Ave. Grill has won over the likes of top DC chefs. Zola man Frank Morales also has "a thing" for the Grill. But along with the rest of Washington, he goes early for the breakfast. Lines have been known to trail out the door for the U Street neighborhood's friendliest breakfast fare. Morales is into the beef breakfast sausage with grits ($6.95), according to Washingtonian last year.

And it appears we're all into mac and cheese, at least a little. As reported in this week's Post, a "Macaroni & Cheese" cookbook was recently published by author Marlena Speiler. She shares fifty different recipes, along with some history on the dish's origins, which date back to 1769. Even Thomas Jefferson had a taste for it.

But if the cheese part does not coordinate with your vegan lifestyle, the Soul Vegetarian Restaurant serves their dairyless version. It seems for the first time in history, vegan and soul food have found themselves on the same plate. Order yours with a side of sweet potato pie. The small chain also whips together a Liberia Burger (made with black-eyed peas) and a BBQ Tofu Sub.

I'll take mine with real cheddar and extra carbs, thank you very much. Mmm, cows.

Please come forward and admit your dirtiest kitchen secrets. Scott of 1789 and Frank of Zola already have. Now add Kitchenette to the list. Viva le macaroni.


At 9:17 AM, Blogger culocho said...

Now we're talking girl! Florida Avenue Grill does have a certain smell though that I have a hard time with. Food is awesome though.

Next trip for mac and cheese, The Argonaut on H Street NE. Get that, the gravy fries and the BLT made with fried green tomatoes.

At 5:28 PM, Blogger the kitchenette said...

Eek, raunchy smell is no good. Conducting a sniff test would make for a good story...

And thanks for the tip on Argonaut!

Here's a post on them when they first opened this summer:

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Brunette said...

Vidalia serves an excellent mac and cheese with ham. To die for!

But here's my big confession: I really, really like Velveeta shells and cheese. Does this destroy my foodie credentials? (All of a sudden I'm really craving some processed cheese product...)

At 8:42 PM, Blogger austin lavin said...

did you copy the Times? or did they copy you?

At 5:22 PM, Blogger the kitchenette said...

Well done, Austin. Their article was actually published three days after mine, for the record:

They mention the new cookbook by Marlena Spieler as well, which is probably what spurred articles in both the Post and Times within the last week.

This was my fav bit from the article:

"An impromptu focus group of children living in my apartment building showed a strong preference for the cheddar family. Ultimately, I found, the dirty little secret of an honest macaroni and cheese is often American cheese."

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At 9:56 PM, Blogger Dskco said...

dude that mac and cheese looks insanely stomach is growling! i'll have to check that place out sometime cuz i am picky about my mac and cheese, but that looks like something i'd like


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