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DC's Dead Restaurants


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I am really surprised that "Harveys" didn't make the list of the late lamented. Although the food was very much the "cigar smoke filled back room" type beloved by the movers and shakers, it was a classic eating establishment. The only place south of Baltimore to get a really good crab cake...and their She-crab soup was heaven with the tiny glass of sherry served alongside.

Ted Fairhead

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  • 1 month later...

i haven't lived in DC for years...but when i was a kid, i loved a (likely terrible) italian place in a silver spring basement. mama regina's. my dad used to get a sambuca and i was entranced with the 3 (always 3!) coffee beans floating in the cold syrupy liquid. one of the owners also cut hair. somehow this made the place even more appealing.

there was a little mediterranean place next to the dancing crab when i was in high school. (mediterranean cafe?) which simultaneously introduced me to the charms of schwarma and brooding men, who cradled tiny cups of strong coffee and smoked cigarettes with an air of practiced disgust.

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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there was a little mediterranean place next to the dancing crab when i was in high school. (mediterranean cafe?) which simultaneously introduced me to the charms of schwarma and brooding men, who cradled tiny cups of strong coffee and smoked cigarettes with an air of practiced disgust.

I used to love that place, which wasn't actually next to the Dancing Crab, but several doors to the north of it (the Dancing Crab has since moved one door closer to where the mediterranean place used to be). I used to work around the corner on Brandywine Street (the AU building that houses WAMU). I seem to recall that the place was called the Lebanese Cafe, but I could certainly be wrong. Their shawarma was terrific. And the turnip pickles.
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I have fond memories of a late-night quiche and ratatoullie at Au Pied de Cochon, which represented fine dining when I was in my late teens. The quiche was better than any I had eaten before, and that was my first ratattoullie. Ah, yes, the strange tale of Vitaly Yurchenko's defection and undefection, from Time.

Most of my other late, lamented restaurants were victims of Silver Spring’s rebirth. Jamaica Joe’s once brightened a strip mall at the intersection of Colesville and Georgia. I ate there any time I was nearby, hungry, and short on cash. Jamaica Joe’s was set up like an old diner, with a long counter on one side, small tables against the wall on the other side, and nonstop Bob Marley videos on the TV at the far end of the counter.

I remember sitting at the counter, probably enjoying a beef patty, jerk chicken, the everpresent bottles of Pickapeppa and Jamaican Hellfire sauce, dense sweet potato pie, and a bottle of nosehair-curling DG ginger beer. When concert footage of No Woman, No Cry played on the TV, all of the female servers quietly but sweetly contributed their voices to the chorus.

I deeply miss Siddhartha, an Indian vegetarian restaurant last seen at the corner of Thayer and Georgia. My then-vegetarian sister chose Siddhartha for her birthday dinner many years ago. I had never tried Indian food before, but I was in love after one spoonful of palak paneer. Eventually, I discovered Siddhartha’s Mysore masala dosa, slathered with orange-red spicy goodness and perfect for dipping in the equally spicy accompanying soup.

I surmise that Indian immigrants with American-born children ran Siddhartha. Waiting in line to order, I overheard this dialogue:

Anglo customer: “Is this dish made like it is in India?”

Teenaged offspring: “I have never been to India. Do you want me to ask my parents?”

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  • 1 month later...

Wonderful thread. Ah some of those old hs and college meal memories. Roma, Au Pied (much later in life) and one or two that are still here.

Billy Martin's - after a Guiness and oyster stew, my boyfriend proposed. I got the ring back in the car back in the days when parking was not much of an issue. (ok, 1965...) I had my first Zombie at some bar near the intersection of Georgia Ave and Military Road. My first and last.

But is there anyone old enough or who has done enough research to remember the seafood restaurants along the then un-gentrified Maine Avenue? One had rumbuns that you got while you waited, but one had a dining room upstairs that you reached by walking a long steep staircase. Well in my memory it was because I went there after my First Communion at Holy Comforter Church( now Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian) in SE. Hogates was one restaurant but I don't recall which.

And another memory that surprised me to still exist is Normadie Farm Normadie Farm. I won points with the aforementioned boyfriend who dropped his sugar packet into his coffe, and looked at it with horror. I didn't miss a beat in the conversation and picked it out with my dainty little fingers and handed him another. As the years went by, I became less forgiving and eventually he became the ex-husband. I do recall that driving to Potomac from Hyattsville/College Park felt like a trip to the back of beyond - or as my ex-mil used to say, "out where God don't know nobody". In Potomac, I doubt that was true...

And one that is kind of a precursor to current food, the old Alamo on Kenilworth Avenue. Who knew that years later it would be the grandmother of all the Hispanic eateries round there? A friend of a friend opened it, and it was just amazing to have Mexican food in those days. Again, who knew...

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  • 9 months later...

Drove through Georgetown and stopped at the Georgetown Bagel Bakery, pleased to see that it was still open, hoping against hope that maybe the financing for its replacement had fallen through or the historical commission had ordered it preserved or something. Ordered half a dozen bagels and asked the guy when they were closing.

"Tomorrow. Today is our last day."

Damn.

"Make it a dozen. And some bialys too, if you got any."

It's not just that they've made the best bagels in Washington, ever since they've been open.

It's not just that one of my favorite pieces of (decades-old) gossip is that the original owner was so frugal that even after a friend of mine spent a couple of nights with him, he made her pay for her bagels.

It's not just the grim charm of the place and its status as one of the few storefronts in Georgetown not yet chained to a national brand or upscaled to the point of affluent blandness.

Like so many of the places I really like, it offered a kind of funky excellence, inarguably "best in town," but framed by cracked wall tile and faded posters, accessible to Georgetowners -- residents and visitors -- of every stripe, from the virtually homeless to those who wouldn't leave the house at 8AM for coffee without cashmere and and linen. Despite bagels' proud ethnic heritage, I doubt any Jew ever worked in the place, although the original owner -- an Arab-American (Moroccan?) -- learned his trade in New York from a Jewish Bagel makers, according to framed, faded Post article behind the glass of the display case. As will happen with people who couple a commitment to quality with entrepreneurial spirit, he seems to have done well for himself since passing ownership on. And the string of Africans and Latins who seem have staffed and run the place continuously for many years have carried on the tradition of excellence.

Of course, it was my kids who lifted me from preferring the place, to loving it. First the boy, now in college, who would walk with me the two blocks with from his preschool to the Italian Deli (Prego) run by the two buff dudes that got a shipment in every morning, for an after school snack. We didn't have a car, then, so we'd walk home, munching bagels and hiding from the sphinxes that menaced 16th street from the steps of the Masonic Temple and exploring the alleys for treasure and trash.

And then, in the recent years, it's been a destination on Saturday mornings with my daughter, us being the only two up at eight on a Saturday morning, while mom and the boy slept in. Maybe a stop at the Starbucks for a Mocha, maybe a dash across the bridge the Arlington farmer's market, but always a stop for bagels. Summers we'd go in for breakfast once a week, before Arts Camp just up the road. As I saw her older brother drifting into the normal pursuits of a late teen, and striking out -- mentally and emotionally -- on his own, the weekly hour spent (I knew how to drag this out) with my other child on a project that was only ours was a rare delight.

Well, she's 15 now, so the trips have become less frequent. Fish gotta swim. But the bagels were still damn good, and I'm glad I have a few in the freezer.

The shop is slated to become a yuppie oyster shack -- as though I need someone shuck my oysters for me and sell me marked-up Muscadet. More oysters every day in washington. No place left that can make a bagel. I saw the offending chef out buying organic arugula at the market the other morning, and I thought about grabbing him by his hip little sideburns and giving him what for. But I hear he's a good cook and he's probably a nice guy and I guess it could be worse. It could be a Potbelly.

After I paid for the bagels I went across the street for some salmon, and rallied my car from its space a block away, and headed back past the Bagel Bakery, depressed and bitter. On a whim, double parked in front, there on M Street despite the cops and the traffic, and dashed in to throw a twenty into the tip bucket.

What else are you gonna do?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Last weekend in Roslyn we drove by Tom Sarris' - the fixtures were for sale. I know it wasn't all that great - especially the last few years, but I was sad. As a kid, I spent lots of dinners there with my Father. I'll miss knowing its there, even if I wouldn't have ever gone again.

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