Drive by too fast and you won’t notice it. Blink and you may miss it, as well. That’s just how the family-based owners of Horace & Dickie’s Seafood and Chicken prefer it to remain—a modest, unassuming location but able to provide a lasting impression.

Located at 12th and H Streets, N.E., Horace & Dickie’s has managed to maintain a strong clientele of predominantly African American neighborhood locals despite the H Street transformation from endless blocks of abandoned buildings to chic condo’s and late-night bars.

“I’ve been coming here for almost twenty years,” said Audrey Chambliss about Horace & Dickie’s. “The food is good and the family atmosphere is inviting. It feels good to support black owned business that care about the community they’re in,” Chambliss said.

At any given time, weekday or weekend, cars can be seen parked illegally and so can a line of people, sometimes spilling out of the door and onto the sidewalk, patiently waiting, many of them, for the signature fish sandwich order. It is simplicity itself: Four to six large pieces of fish sprawled over two slices of bread.

“They will not expand,” said Chambliss. “That’s not what the people want. We like Horace & Dickie’s just how it is,” said Chambliss who speaks of the carry-out only establishment only a single cash register.

Horace & Dickie’s may not have curb appeal and could possibly be considered a hole-in-the-wall to some, but the chatty customers and non-uniformed employees add to the comfortable, casual and even a little dated atmosphere that the repeat customers love so much.

“I appreciate the fact that the employees know me by name,” said Chambliss. “It’s like they know who the regulars are and talk with us while we wait on our food. Black-owned, Christian-based businesses that appreciate the customers are important for to have.”

First time patron Michael Fortson agrees.

“I would go back and try their food again,” said Fortson. “The chicken wings and whiting fish were pretty good. Although the side dishes left me a bit underwhelmed, the atmosphere felt like fast food but with a down -twist,” said Fortson. “Lots of conversation between the food preparers and customers as if they’d known these people for a while was interesting—and comforting.”

Horace & Dickie’s is D.C.’s best-kept secret for soul food and good home cooking. So good in fact that their motto is worth knowing: Simplicity. Great Food. Great experience.

Christopher Wall

Special to the AFRO