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Sep 26, 2000 09:56 PM

Greasy Spoons (D.C. ed.): do they exist?

  • j

A very nice, very nostalgic thread is winding its way through the Manhattan board, discussing the classic, lamented greasy spoons that once dominated our fair city. (New York, that is, where most of us Dee Cee'ers are from.) My question: are there any jernts in the metro Wash area worthy of the golden spoon?
Here are my nominations for greasy spoons that are emphatically *not* worth visiting, not because they aren't dank and depressing (the sine qua non of spoon decor), but because the food stinks. (1) The place on the corner of 20th and N. (I forget the name, or maybe I'm blocking.) Truly one of the worst dining experiences in America; in business only because unsuspecting tourists from the mega-hotel next door don't (and can't be expected to) know better. Horrific food, and horrific service to match. (2) Calvert Grille, on Mt. Vernon in Del Ray. Not really greasy, but aspires to that status. Food is distinctly bad. (See an earlier post from me with details.) (3) The place on King St, which once upon a time had a Korean-born chef who'd supposedly cooked at the French embassy. (Forgetting the name, again!) I'd be surprised if he were still there; nothing remotely Korean or French about the soggy potato cubes served with limp sandwich meats in stale bread. Definitely dank, though. (4) Silver Diner, Bob & Edith's diner, and every other fausse retro diner in the metro area (Arlington, Chevy Chase Circle, etc.).
Here's my next question. Are there *any* greasy spoons, a la the place near the courthouse in the Bronx, in our adopted home? Help!

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  1. Ah, John, there you go again. Badmouthing DeeCee food. It is rare to find a greasy spoon that not only is open all hours, has that je ne sais quoi feel to it that just makes you feel comfortable like an old pair of sneakers AND serves great food. I wouod argue that it's asking a lot of a greasy spoon to have GREAT food. One signature dish, even scrambled eggs and home fries, is really all it takes.BUT, the Tastee Diners in Silver Spring and Bethesda (Is the one in Silver Spring closed because of the construction?), and those White Castle imitation Little Taverns certainly qualify. There's also a place on Penn. Ave near the Capitol that definitely qualifies but I can't remember the name. And up in Wheaton there's a place called Nick's Diner on University Blvd. between Veirs Mill Road and Georgia Ave. that you should check out. I never ate there but the place just says "Greasy Spoon."I'm with you, by the way, about those faux diners like the Silvers which just don't deliver the goods in any of the above categories.Also, for what it's worth, I always felt the Krispy Kreme on Route 1 in Alexandria had a pleasant, greasy spoon feel to it.And please tell us more about the food lessons you learned from those rebbes. I'll bet you have lots of great stories.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TBOO

      TBOO is right: I've been accentuating the negative, and I'm going to try to reform. (I guess I need to stay away from the New York board, which gives me a severe case of NY-envy. For food, that is; give me the C&O over the Gowanus any day, though not the overpriced, overhyped, underseasoned M Street corridor. Shoot - sorry.) I agree that the Tastees are tasty, especially sometime in the wee hours when the munchies strike hard. Are the Little Taverns still around? The one on 34th by the Key Bridge has its trademark green pitched roof, but it's been some sort of "Philadelphia Cheesesteak Factory" for a while. (A rule to live by: never eat at a place outside Philly called the Philadelphia anything; never eat at a place outside New York called the New York anything (e.g., "New York Deli," or "Wall Street Deli," etc.; exception to the rule-to-live-by, there used to be a superb and comfy place on McKinney in Dallas called . . . "The Bronx." Oh, and never eat at a place with the word "factory" in its name (cheesecake, spaghetti, etc.) I'll have to try the place in Wheaton asap.
      What about Bawlmer? Surely our blue-collar neighbor to the northeast has some undiscovered gems?

    2. The Tastee 29 in Fairfax certainly qualifies, but it ain't kosher, so don't waste a trip.

      1. not so sure you can say we're all from NY down here. The closest I've lived to NY is Rome, NY and that was when I was 13. Personally I claim Michigan which leads me to ask where are the true Coney Island hot dogs. Or better yet, real Chicago Style?

        As for a greasy spoon, how about the Tune Inn which is at about 4th and Pennsylvania and might be more accurately pegged as a "dive" since it has a bar attached to it. Another possibility is Pete's Diner which is what I think TBOO is referring too. Pete's is on 1st street 1/2 a block off Pennsylvania. Pete's, I think, truly qualifies and I frequently will go in there for a chili dog.

        Also, are we overlooking the obvious in Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street? Or do you think it's a little too bright in there?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Cap Hill

          Never tried Ben's Chili Bowl, is it's reputation deserved?And I believe the place I was thinking of was on the same block as the Tune Inn. Does anybody know the place?

          1. re: TBOO

            T-boo reminds me (my thanks for the memories) of the Tune Inn, a place I haven't been to in years (not since I lived on The Hill, in another life). It's classically greazy: bare, spare, formica-ed. Wonderful burgers and fries, just hot and juicy patties on soft buns with melted American and no other frills. Pass the French's! But I mostly remember the Tune for its hours (open till four on weekends, which in Dee Cee is astonishing) and its cheap pitchers. Well worth the trip. Methinks I'll head out there on . . . next Saturday (this weekend being reserved for an apple and honey and recommunion with the our forefathers and foremothers on the New Year). Chowhounds, join me! And Shanah Tovah!

            1. re: John

              Alas, I am being forced - :) - to take a business trip to Cape Cod that weekend. Perhaps some other time. Happy Holidays.

              1. re: Cap Hill

                Will miss Cap, but wish him well on his trip. Anyone else interested in a break-the-fast at the Tune? Can't think of a better place to repent for old sins and sin again all over . . . .

            2. re: TBOO

              I happen to think that Ben's is fabulous, but as for how great the food is, it's hard to say cause I always hit it at 1 a.m. and I only ever order the hot half smoke with chili or maybe chili fries. It's deeply satisfying, but you'll pay the next day.

              I'm trying to think of what place close to Tune Inn you might be thinking of. That block has Hawk N Dove, the Alley Bar, Thai Roma, Greek Tavern and Xando and I'm probably missing one or two. Sherrill's is in the next block, but I'm not sure if it's open anymore they appear to be doing serious work on the facade making it a little questionable to be walking under their. Capitol Lounge is next door to Sherrill's.