After selling off her fast-growing soul food chain in 2020, Milk & Honey’s original owner Monique Rose preserves its legacy with what she’s calling a “last hurrah” in Maryland.
Rose’s new Prince George’s County flagship, dubbed The Real Milk and Honey Pancake Factory (4531 Telfair Boulevard, Suitland), opens Wednesday, June 1, with longtime hits like big, boozy milkshakes, jerk lamb lollipops, and of course, the all-time fan favorite: “Chef Mo’s” half-pound shrimp and grits.
“It’s still the No. 1 seller and makes up 20 percent of our revenue. We’ll never change that dish,” she tells Eater.
The all-day brunch addition to the growing Camp Springs neighborhood also opens with 20 types of sweet and savory pancakes, from chocolate-covered strawberry cakes to honey butter pancakes made with cornbread. The 150-seat location also brings breakfast birria tacos and vegan options to the table.
After its 2015 debut in Beltsville, Md., Milk & Honey Cafe embarked on a quick expansion streak across Maryland, D.C., and Atlanta. A 2020 acquisition of the popular brand by Thompson Hospitality (Matchbox, Austin Grill) spawned “Milk & Honey,” with which Rose is not associated.
Rose inked the 5,000-square-foot Camp Springs lease in 2019 before the sale, which meant the site was still fair game to become a Milk and Honey of her own.
“We’re going by the ‘The Real Milk and Honey Pancake Factory.’ Not that the others are fake — it’s to highlight that one of the original owners and founders is here at this location,” she says. “It makes it unique.”
The Real Milk and Honey in Atlanta, which opened in 2019, is the only other locale that’s still hers. Co-founder and Chopped-winning chef Sammy Davis has since split with the company, she says.
“So as far as Milk and Honey, this is the end of the road for me in regards to that brand. I can’t open another. This is cool to go all in on this one,” she says.
And she did; the catch-all setup sports an open kitchen, full bar, 75-seat dining room, and two Milk and Honey firsts: a 50-seat patio and private event space. There’s also a market selling goods from local, women, and BIPOC vendors.
“It was also important to me to support other entrepreneurs in the area, especially women and women of color such as myself,” she says.
All-day brunch and dinner is served Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with brunch-only Sunday service from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. During its pre-opening phase this week, there’s a limited menu served from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Milk & Honey on H Street, which replaced Smith Commons in early 2020, closed during the pandemic (the three-level space will welcome Afrofuturism-influenced restaurant Bronze this fall). There was also a Bar @ Milk & Honey on Georgia Avenue NW. The new flagship, about a 20-minute drive outside of D.C., offers easy access off the freeway.
“It keeps us in tune with [customers] who were coming to H street and Georgia Avenue,” she says. “I can’t think of a better place than D.C. I’ve never seen people appreciate a good brunch like Washingtonians.”
The Suitland developer approached Rose years ago to be the anchor tenant at the newly constructed Restaurant Row complex by the Branch Avenue Metro station, the last stop on the Green Line. Waiting for the pandemic to subside paid off. The shopping center, now home to Italian pinsa place Via Roma, also sits near a surge of new housing and the year-old headquarters of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
With just one local outpost left, Rose says she can devote more attention to the kitchen and ingredients (“instead of frozen, now there’s fresh spinach and avocados,” she says). Lowcountry seafood favorites now come in both regular or spicy Cajun varieties, she adds.
“It’s easier on me to be at one or two locations,” says Rose, who plans to split time between Camp Springs and Atlanta.
Thompson now runs five Milk & Honey locations across the DMV, with a sixth en route to Clinton, Md.