Z Food Blog: Granddaddy Ledbetter Was “Born in a Fryin’ Pan”
Granddaddy’s Skillet at 6544 Little River Turnpike in Alexandria opened just a little over a month ago, but has roots dating back to 1921.
Alexandria, VA – Granddaddy’s Skillet at 6544 Little River Turnpike in Alexandria opened just a little over a month ago, but has roots dating back to 1921.
Owners Roxanne and Andre David opened this “down home, good eatin’ southern soul food” restaurant as an ode to Roxanne’s grandfather, Percy Ledbetter. “When my granddaddy was young, he moved from Alabama to Pennsylvania to work in the steel mills. He opened a small restaurant in a tiny storefront with an apartment above on Wylie Avenue in Pittsburgh,” says Roxanne. “He would come home from working at the steel mill and go right to ‘Percy’s’ where Miss Fanny held down the restaurant during the day. Granddaddy was famous for his 50 cent fried fish sandwich.”
Roxanne started there as a teen and was mentored by her mother and her Aunt Lillie.
“Eventually the entire property got sold and I decided to open another little restaurant in Pittsburgh,” says Roxanne, “but, I wasn’t ready and unfortunately, it failed.”
Roxanne came to Virginia and worked for Fairfax County’s Poe Middle School as a cafeteria manager. After 26 years, she retired and decided to pursue the restaurant idea again. “While looking at locations, I met a man named Mr. Chafik who informed me about a location in Pinecrest. He commented, as I was leaving ‘if you ever find a place and sell fried fish, I’ll come every day.’ I took this as a message from the Lord,” Roxanne explains.
When they finally settled on Little River Turnpike, it seemed perfect. “It had everything we needed. And with the Lord’s blessing, we overcame some unexpected hurdles and opened on February 3rd.”
When asked if she was concerned about opening in the middle of a pandemic, David said, “I wasn’t concerned at all. We were following the Lord’s lead.”
The restaurant is quite a family affair. The name “Granddaddy’s Skillet” is from Percy, but the Skillet part — “there is a saying that someone ‘born in a frying pan’ is a great cook,” says Roxanne. “So that’s how we got the skillet part of the name.”
According to Roxanne, her husband is a big help to her at the restaurant, working behind the scenes, and her mom prides herself in greeting people. “I am very proud of this place, and my mom and Aunt Lillie are elated.” In the heart of the restaurant hangs a large photograph of Roxanne’s grandfather, Percy. “Granddaddy would be so happy. When I walk past the big picture of him, I am looking at him smiling at me.” Roxanne has even hired some of the students she met during her days at Poe Middle School.
The food at Granddaddy’s is a nod to her grandfather’s restaurant. Just like at Percy’s, fried fish is the number one seller. “Granddaddy had very few sides with his fried fish, but we have collard greens, fried apples, and candied yams.” There is a special everyday ranging from chicken livers and onions, to salmon cakes and BBQ ribs on Saturdays. “My husband, Andre, is from British Guyana, so we are planning on incorporating some Guyanese specials such as Curried Chicken,” Roxanne affirms.
“From our opening, we struggled with time management and services. We were really able to rectify these issues and claim victory over these challenges. We have now put down our anchors to be a success and to continue Granddaddy’s legacy. We have not been perfect, and in a way, I’m glad. That’s how we’ve learned.” Roxanne firmly believes, “If you don’t have a test, you don’t have a testimony”. The Davids are doing their best to keep up the legacy of Percy Ledbetter.
Granddaddy’s Skillet has seating and takeout. They are open every day but Sunday. Check their Facebook page or call (703) 854-1921 for more information.
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I was born in Savannah, Ga. and reared in low state South Carolina.After I got out of the Air Force I settled in Northern California. I do miss the “soul food” although we just called it dinner.
I don’t know if I will make it to Virginia to try grand daddy’s as I am in my 70’s now. But your menu has me drooling. Do you ship food across country. And yes my real name is listed below.