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LuvPlates Soul & Grill is a Black-owned carryout restaurant that serves soul food with a Caribbean influence. Owners Jamar Johnson and Jacob Vcelik started booking catering events and serving lunch from a food truck in downtown D.C. in 2016. Their first food stand opened at the Savor Food Hall (now miXt Food Hall) in Brentwood in October 2019. They relocated and opened their first storefront in July 2021, nestled in a tiny strip mall in District Heights.
Walking into LuvPlates, you’ll find a colorful hand-painted mural featuring women eating in front of the Maryland state flag. A cake stand with portions of sweet cornbread sits on the countertop in front of a spacious open kitchen, where you can watch the chefs prepare your meals. A warming table holds the ready-made items, while other items are cooked to order.
LuvPlates’ selling point is the build-your-own platter. Mix and match two or three of their proteins, veggies, and grains in any combination that suits your appetite. You are not limited to ordering one protein with a side or two, for example. “We believe our food should be enjoyed buffet style,” Johnson says. Order a plate full of chicken if you want!
On my first trip to LuvPlates, regulars insisted I order the jerk chicken. It’s the first time I can recall that many people recommending a single menu item. Totally worth it. Chicken wings chill for two days in a spicy house-made jerk marinade, which brings some heat from Scotch bonnet peppers, before roasting in the oven. Pair the super tender chicken with a heaping serving of their World Famous Mac & Cheese to help tame the spiciness of the jerk seasoning.
The Fall Off the Bone Ribs are true to their name. The spare pork ribs marinate for two to three days before cooks sprinkle a house dry rub, wrap them in aluminum foil, and roast them for 90 minutes before slathering them with barbecue sauce. One hungry customer purchased six full slabs before I arrived, so I missed out on these on my initial trip and had to swing by for another visit. That succulent rib meat pulls right off the bone on the first bite. I don’t blame that customer for his enormous order, but save some for me next time!
The halal chicken is another barbecue option. Cooks grill the chicken thighs and slather them with a slightly sweet barbecue sauce. The final product is a nice, juicy bite of chicken, served on your choice of fluffy jasmine rice or turmeric-seasoned red beans and rice.
Pan-seared or grilled salmon fillets are available for an upcharge, cooked to order. All their proteins are available as sandwiches served on a buttered and toasted potato bun. Other mix-and-match options include melt-in-your-mouth collard greens slow cooked with smoked turkey, and LuvPlates keeps a veggie dish of the day on rotation such as spicy yellow steamed cabbage and sautéed corn.
LuvPlates also features a rotating list of specials. Every Tuesday, they serve their DC Gumbo with halal chicken and a spicy turkey sausage that simmers low and slow for about four hours. The all-beef “Luvsagna” is their version of lasagna. It’s made with a creamy béchamel sauce instead of the traditional ricotta cheese, and saucy ragu is mixed with small diced zucchini, broccoli florets, peppers, and onions. It’s available on Fridays and Saturdays, and it sells out pretty quickly. It is so popular, one customer tried it once and then ordered three full pans for a work event.
LuvPlates is a great spot to visit if you’re looking for comfort food in a hurry, and don’t forget to grab something sweet! Individual servings of the chef’s daily dessert are on display by the pickup window. Red velvet cake slices are usually available. Scoops of peach cobbler and chocolate chip blondie squares are part of their rotation.
The fusion takeout spot is also veteran-owned. Vcelik retired from the Air Force after serving for nine years. The restaurant honors a 15 percent discount for all veterans.
LuvPlates is also available on third-party delivery apps. Orders can be placed in person or over the phone for pickup. Call the store directly for catering events or to book their food truck. Store hours are noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Prices range from $6 to $21.
LuvPlates Soul & Grill, 6120 Marlboro Pk., District Heights. (301) 420-1119. luvplates.com.