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DC's Dead Restaurants


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I don't think many other DC-area gourmands will note, much less lament, the passing of the Philadelphia Pizza Factory, late of the corner of 9th and O, just a block from the "Crack Giant." It came to my attention years ago through the pre-Internet marketing technology of a flyer slipped under my welcome mat. No Philadelphians were involved in the place, as far as I could tell; its pizza looked frankly so horrid that I never dared try it; and even my wife wouldn't eat my favorite Factory dish, their buffalo wings (she would, however, have an occasional go at their cheesesteaks and gyros).

But I loved those wings, and I loved the joint itself.

I was a delivery customer for years before I walked into the place, having bailed from a party full of well-scrubbed ex-Dukies who seemed determined to prove how shallow and white-bread such people can be (no offense to Dukies at large, just this gang). 9th and O was a grim corner back then, and both staff and customers clearly found my appearance -- fully yupped out for the party -- a little curious. No matter, we all bonded there in the flourescent light and the bullet-proof glass, with that bonhomie that springs from a few drinks and an unseasonably warm Saturday night. One of the delivery drivers chased me down as I was leaving: "what, my service isn't any good for you?" but he was smiling and we of course saw him again many times.

I never found wings that really did it for me when I moved to Denver -- wings are among the most subjective of gourmet treats, I believe -- and so we left the Mile High City for someplace within the Factoy's delivery zone (and closer to edible Thai food). The location of our new home, on the edge of the delivery zone, seemed to befuddle the drivers, though, and so I took to carrying out -- enjoying the chaotic views of a big kitchen seemingly run by -- and occasionally overrun with -- an extended African or Caribbean family who served interchangeably as cooks and drivers, it seemed.

One evening, after my order had been lost, I stood watching some callow son-of-the-lanlord (or whatever) smirk into his phone so long that I told him -- through the bulletproof glass -- that maybe if he'd get off the goddam cellphone long enough to do some fucking work, I could get my wings and get home in time for the game. After that, the lady who worked the register always smiled at me when I came in, and would pass the food through the glass on that little plexiglass merry-go-round thing before asking for my money. Her daughter used to do her homework in a corner of the kitchen; one day I got her to play "Good King Wencenslaus" on her clarinet for me.

Yesterday I couldn't get them on the phone. Not entirely surprising. Maybe they took the weekend off. Maybe there was another tussel with the health inspector. But I was worried -- full of existential dread. And when we drove by, the joint was gutted and there was a handlettered sign out front, reading "restaurant equipment sale."

A few months back they closed another one of my favorite dives, a sub-shop whose cheesesteaks I had loved for many years. It's now a well-regarded seafood place, I hear they do a pretty good job. But, there's a lot of places around town now where affluent Washingtonians can get sea-food from attractive and efficient servers, and drop sixty or seventy bucks on crabcakes and chardonnay. There aren't many places left, it seems, where a stoned college kid or a hungry cab driver or just a buzzed up yuppie trying to hold cash until payday can can get a cheesesteak or two dozen buffalo wings extra hot, please -- and where the staff isn't forced into marketing-friendly polyester uniforms and you aren't assaulted by the grim, forced cheer of chain fast food.

I hope the family found a place that they can work together. I hope the lady behind the register found another place where her daughter can learn math at the manager's table. I hope their wing recipe is finding an appreciative audience, and that I can find a new place of my own. And I hope to God that the place isn't becoming another Starbucks.

Philadelphia Pizza Factory: requiescat in pace

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Nicely said Charles.

I hasten to add though, that while you might be able to get "Buffalo Wings" outside of Buffalo, you can't get a real cheesesteak outside of Philadelphia, unless there are Philadelphians running the joint, like at the Tony Lukes outpost in Manhattan. And even there, it isn't quite the same as getting one from under the fluorescent lights in South Philly, served up with appropriate atty-tood. :biggrin:

Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
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Nicely said Charles.

I hasten to add though, that while you might be able to get "Buffalo Wings" outside of Buffalo, you can't get a real cheesesteak outside of Philadelphia, unless there are Philadelphians running the joint, like at the Tony Lukes outpost in Manhattan.  And even there, it isn't quite the same as getting one from under the fluorescent lights in South Philly, served up with appropriate atty-tood.  :biggrin:

I would never enter the quasi-religious battle around the nature of the True Cheesesteake, particularly not with a Philadelphian :biggrin: . The "cheesesteaks" at the Factory were actually very similar to Pat's, though I won't claim that they were nearly as good. No Cheez Whiz, for examle. The sandwiches at Trio's Subs (which likely employed no Philadelphians either, unless that was a way station between Camaroon and DC) were certainly a different kind of thing than what you buy on South Street. You'd be apalled if I went into detail. Whatever they were, however, they were lovely things.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Great post Charles.

We breathed a sigh of relief a year ago when our favorite mom-and pop pizza joint in Rockville, Giuseppe's (actually it's a mom-and-son, both as nice as can be) was able to relocate after being forced out of it's location for the fabulous new Rockville town center construction. They have a spiffy new space, but the same menu and personnel as before. I hope the Factory family has similar good fortune.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Ehhhhxcellent post.

I'm not sure if you inteded for other restaurants to be posted, and if not, feel free to delete this, but I miss the original Whitlow's (11th and E or so, the weird green facade and the miniature only liquor bottles, along with the daily roast turkey) as well as Fio's up 16th street in the basement of whatever apartment building that is.

Roma, we hardly knew ye.

Thanks,

Kevin

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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i miss the pommes souffle at the jockey club. where does one even get pommes souffle anymore? it was also the first place i had foie gras, a seared little slab on top of a filet that probably cost more than i made in a week back then. i don't really miss the jockey club. but i miss the pommes souffle.

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Just curious what Le Lion D'Or was like.  I remember hearing my father mention that he used to go there.

You went down the stairs and it was like eating under a huge, gilded tent with golden draperies and big, overstuffed chairs. I went there in the late 70s with the father of a then-girlfriend and had my first lobster bisque and a great deal of St. Emilion, as he had worked there at one point. It smelt of old money and French food and, as a 19-year-old in my only suit, I was blown away by the sheer elegance of joint -- in my mind the room is always magically luminous.

Years later, with my then-girlfriend-but-now-wife, we went a few months before the birth of our first child, at the end of a long political campaign. As I wasn't in the habit of taking notes at dinner then, I don't remember much except that it still seemed the quintessence of elegance -- in a way rarely seen any more -- and had excellent food.

By my last visit in the early 90's, with my now-wife, its day had clearly passed and the food had grown tired. It was a little sad. Not that we'd ever been able to eat there on a regular basis, but it had been a legend and it hurt a bit to see the legend on the verge of embarrassing itself -- like when Willie Mays played that last season with the Mets.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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i miss the pommes souffle at the jockey club.  where does one even get pommes souffle anymore?  it was also the first place i had foie gras, a seared little slab on top of a filet that probably cost more than i made in a week back then.  i don't really miss the jockey club.  but i miss the pommes souffle.

My mom loved those and asked for them once at the Sans Souci -- long after its heyday. They're actually not hard to make, though I don't think they taste quite the same unless eaten in a French restaurant of a certain age.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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The problem with pommes souffle is that even somebody who is really experienced at making them only gets about 80% of the potatoes to puff up. This is really one of those Ye Olde dishes and I would love to hear if somebody in town is actually making the effort to produce them.

Restaurants I miss: when I first moved to Dupont Circle, I lived at Blue Plate, which occupied the P Street space where Johnny's Half Shell is right now. I almost always got the macaroni and cheese--a generous ramekin of penne cloaked with a just-rich-enough mornay sauce, with browned spots on top from a pass under the salamander. It came with green beans but I usually subbed in sauteed spinach. It was such a simple, inocuous meal but I adored it, and it was not expensive. I think they had real Southern sweet tea on the menu, too. I still swoon remembering that place, years after I moved out of the city.

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  • 1 month later...

Blackie Auger died earlier this year, his namesake steakhouse hosted its final service last night, in Washington's West End.[Post article here] You probably didn't notice Blackie or his restaurants' passing if you moved to Washington after the early 80's. But, if you went out for beef and martinis here between the Eisenhower and the Reagan Administrations -- before the Great Steakhouse Wave began to wash over DC -- or tried to get laid here between the time bell-bottoms went out of style and the time men's suspenders did, Blackie may have touched your life.

A couple stand out for me:

When Dad would pop around to visit me here at college, I'd get him to take me to the flagship Blackie's house of beef, an old-school power meal kind of place, where you could spot Senators and lobbyists and the like. When he didn't, friends and I would sometimes go to Blackie's Jr., near the OEOB, which offered an inexpensive midweek steak/potato/salad/beer special if you you could produce a college ID.

I spent more than a couple of nights at Deja Vu, allegedly the birthing ground of many a late-'70s tryst but for me the place I learned just how hard it is to talk to pretty girls in bars and how easy it is for them to look right through you, especially when you're 18 and broke. Others had a better time than I did, evidently, the place was routinely packed.

And it always struck me that the Ha'Penny Lion was ground zero for yuppie lust about the time that the term "yuppie" was created. But by then I was happily out of circulation and was able to enjoy the energy crrated by beer, loud music and hormone-laced 20-somethings with good clothes and the confident smiles the easy-money Reagan era seemed to rain down on so many.

None of Blackie's restaurants and bars will be missed for their food, but Blackie himself -- the millionaire with a ninth-grade education and someone who put money into Washington when the smart money was running away -- will be.

More on his life and business holdings here.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Blackie Auger died earlier this year, his namesake steakhouse hosted its final service last night, in Washington's West End.[Post article here]  You probably didn't notice Blackie or his restaurants' passing if you moved to Washington after the early 80's.  But, if you went out for beef and martinis here between the Eisenhower and the Reagan Administrations -- before the Great Steakhouse Wave began to wash over DC -- or tried to get laid here between the time bell-bottoms went out of style and the time men's suspenders did, Blackie may have touched your life.

What an interesting man.

My one and only meal at Blackie's was also the occasion of my one and only offer to be a kept woman We had (I think) prime rib and red wine and I stormed out in a huff before dessert. And I was not aware that they owned Lulu's.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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None of Blackie's restaurants and bars will be missed for their food . . .

Happy New Year, Charles, and thanks for another thoughtful post.

I worked near the corner of 21st and M Streets back in 1975 and, because I was the new and enthusiastic member of the company, I foolishly took on the task of organizing the company's Christmas party. We went to Blackie's for steaks and wine. I just remember thinking that all my hard work was for really unmemorable (but expensive) food and drink. :hmmm:

Speaking of late, lamented restaurants . . . San Marco isn't gone yet, but DH and I went there for NYE dinner last night, just in case the owners make good on their threat to retire this year. :unsure:

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Blackie Auger died earlier this year, his namesake steakhouse hosted its final service last night, in Washington's West End.[Post article here]  You probably didn't notice Blackie or his restaurants' passing if you moved to Washington after the early 80's.  But, if you went out for beef and martinis here between the Eisenhower and the Reagan Administrations -- before the Great Steakhouse Wave began to wash over DC -- or tried to get laid here between the time bell-bottoms went out of style and the time men's suspenders did, Blackie may have touched your life.

What an interesting man.

My one and only meal at Blackie's was also the occasion of my one and only offer to be a kept woman We had (I think) prime rib and red wine and I stormed out in a huff before dessert. And I was not aware that they owned Lulu's.

Oh c'mon, I've apologized for that night a hundred times. No need to keep beating me over the head publicly with it. :wink:

I kind of knew that he owned LuLu's because it was on the site of the old Deja Vu, but didn't realize it was named for his wife -- I kept looking for a New Orleans connection.

Blackie and LuLu -- they just don't name 'em like that any more.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I miss Dixie Pig in Alexandria (Rt 1) terribly...also well as the nearby Ernie's crab and the drive-in movie theater (now a Multiplex)

and the original Frozen Dairy Bar

and of course, and always, Nectar.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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  • 1 month later...
Cantina di Italia, very good Northern Italian food.

There's a chain by that name in northern virginia. Reliable but unspectacular italian food. I have to try not to get excited that it is, in fact, possible to get pasta at a regular stripmall restaurant and have it be cooked properly. I do love their veal piccata though. Slurp!

My contribution: Dominique's

Edited by pork (log)
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This wasn't a chain.  It was tuxedo service, northern Italian, veal chops, gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce.  Nothing ground breaking, but all well executed.

What an interesting screen name for someone posting in the "Dead and Lamented" thread. Is there someting more we should know?

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Just curious what Le Lion D'Or was like.   I remember hearing my father mention that he used to go there.

You went down the stairs and it was like eating under a huge, gilded tent with golden draperies and big, overstuffed chairs.

I don't remember much except that it still seemed the quintessence of elegance -- in a way rarely seen any more -- and had excellent food.

It was quite swank and had equally good food for its era. A sad demise, indeed.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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