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Rum Buns

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Tonight, I am going to O'Donnell's (my wife's birthday). What is this thing about Washington seafood restaurants and rum buns? I remember that Kushner's always had rum buns as well. (I think Bish Thompsons had a mini-bread loaf instead, and I have not been to Crisfields in so long I can't remember what they have). Mind you, I like rum buns, and I like O'Donnell's. I just have never heard of anyplace outside of the DC area where seafood restaurants serve them. Does anyone know the story behind this peculiar local quirk (or am I mistaken about it being a local thing)?

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  1. It's a local thing - used to be the Flagship was the only one famous for them (and they always came first, before any other food) - The Flagship is no more, taken over by Phillips, and maybe the rum buns migrated farther down the dockside.

    Note: in checking Google for the existence of the Flagship (I haven't been to or paid attention to the DC waterfront in years) the response was headed with dozens of recipes for Flagship Rum Buns - and I'm sure they originally all came from Washington's Flagship Restaurant.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wayne keyser

      God, I loved those rums from Flagship. I remember as a kid (mid 60's to early 70's) going there for special occasions. Would love to find that recipe. Didn't they give it out to customers? Not sure I could find it in my mom's collection of cookbooks....

    2. When I arrived in Washington in 1976, Hogate's was famous for their rum buns. They had a bakery apart from the restaurant that sold just the rum buns if you like. AFAIK, it's still there.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        O'Donnell's served them at their original location at 13th and F for nearly 150 years. They were so popular that all the other seafood places in town followed suit. This was back in the days when DC was famous for it's seafood and was actually a port town. Gone are the days--and the rum buns, raw bars on every corner, The Wilson Line, the working waterfront of Georgetown--the whole schmeer.

        1. re: flavrmeistr

          You are correct about O'Donnell's being the orgininator of rum buns in DC. I grew up next to the owners and worked there in highschool and college. Their original location in Bethesda started the rum bun trend over a century ago.

        2. re: Steve

          I also arrived in Washington in 1976 and promptly got a waitressing job at the Flagship for lunches and the Kennedy Center Lounge for nighttime. I remember the tour buses pulling up all day long and people streaming in....all those rum buns. We had to wear hairnets, and since I was in my twenties and terribly vain, I HATED WEARING THOSE NETS! I think I quit because of them! Oh, youth.....

        3. I was wrong about Flagship being the only original rum-bun server.

          1. Interesting--and I forgot all about Hogates. The strange thing is that I have only the vaguest recollection of Flagship. I do recall traveling the Wilson line, however.

            1 Reply
            1. re: pgreen

              I grew up in Baltimore. Our family often ate at the Hecht Co. restaurant. They served rum buns too. I would love to have the recipe.

            2. I went on line today to see if I could find the same recipe for the famous "Flagship Rum Buns" so far I have not. My mother cut out the recipe that was written in the Washington Post in the early 70's. I still have the original recipe she cut from the paper. Never made them but have always planned to. It is quite a lot of preperation but perhaps for this Valentines Day I will make them for my family.

              If anyone is interested in a copy of the recipe write and let me know!

              I too remember these incredible Hot sticky buns as the before dinner delight. As a little girl growing up in the Wash DC area and eating at Hogates, Flagship and O'Donald's (where you could pick a toy prize from their famous Treasure Chest as you walked in the door!) Anyone remember that??

              25 Replies
              1. re: califkitten

                I remember! I grew up in Rockville in the late 60's and early 70's

                1. re: califkitten

                  Califkitten,

                  I would love to have the recipe for the "flagship rum buns"....Thanks!

                  usskygal

                  1. re: usskygal

                    I have it from a very old Washington Post. It was in Gourmet magazine in October 1967. (Good luck finding that.) If you still want it (it has been six years since you asked) I can type it up and e-mail it to you.

                    1. re: toomuchmusic

                      Oh, please post it here! Thank you!

                      1. re: Terrie H.

                        Flagship Rum Buns

                        I have a very old, yellowed, disintegrating copy of this recipe that I cut out of the Washington Post many years ago in a column called “Anne’s Reader Exchange.” Here’s what it says:

                        The rum buns served at one of our waterfront restaurants have gained national as well as local fame. The October, 1967, issue of Gourmet magazine carried the recipe for this specialty of the house. A reader repeats it here for Mr. I. L. of Woodbridge, who requested the recipe after tasting the buns at the Flagship.

                        Happy Baking to Mrs. I. L. I think this is the recipe for rum buns she wants.

                        In a bowl, combine 1 cup milk scalded with ¼ cup each of sugar and shortening and 1 ¼ teaspoons salt. Let mixture cool to lukewarm and stir in 1 envelope or cake of yeast. Beat the batter with a rotary beater until it is smooth and stir in 1 egg, well beaten, and 1 ½ teaspoons rum extract. Add 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted flour and beat the mixture with a rotary beater until it is smooth. Add 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons additional flour and mix the dough until it is smooth and light. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise in a warm place (80 to 85 degrees F.) for about three hours or until it is double in bulk.

                        On a lightly floured board roll out the dough into two strips, each about 12 inches long, 4 inches wide, and ½ inch thick. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle each strip with ¼ cup each of sugar and chopped raisins. Rolls out the strips into jelly roll shapes about 15 inches long, pulling out the edges, if necessary, to keep them uniform. Cut the rolls into crosswise slices about ¾ inch thick.

                        Place the slices in well-buttered muffin tins, cover them with a towel, and let them rise in a warm place until they are double in bulk. Bake the buns in a hot oven (400 degrees) for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the buns from the oven and brush the tops immediately with an icing made by blending 1 cup confectioner’s sugar with 2 tablespoons rum extract. This makes about 18 buns.”

                        Signed by Johanna

                        1. re: toomuchmusic

                          Thank you so much for taking the time. It will be fun trying this recipe and the others posted on this thread.

                          1. re: toomuchmusic

                            Thank you

                    2. re: califkitten

                      I'd also appreciate a copy of the recipe.
                      Another memory of Hogate's we'd go to the one in ?Arlington near the top floor of an ?old school and the children's menu was taped to the front of a comic book.
                      (Childhood being 1950's, memories of rum buns, timeless.)

                      1. re: califkitten

                        My mother and I have been looking for the Washington DC Flagship Restaurant Rum Bun recipe for years. My brothers and I have fond memories of slathering them in butter and scarfing them down while washing them down with Shirley Temples. I'd appreciate it if you would send me a copy of the recipe. Thanks!

                        1. re: califkitten

                          I would like to have a copy of the Flagship "Rum Buns" Recipe printed in the Washington Post in the 1970's.

                          I have fond memories as a child of visiting the Flagship and enjoying the rumbuns.

                          Thanks so much.

                          1. re: califkitten

                            I have that same recipe clipping from the Post!

                            1. re: anni

                              Would you mind sharing it. I would really appreciate it. My family and I visited the Flagship many times when I was a child and I remember my favorite part was the rum buns. Thank you.

                              1. re: tabbycat17

                                The MoCo library website has free access to the Post archives, so I did a quick search for you, and the recipe comes up on March 3, 1977 in Anne's Reader Exchange. Anyway, this version on cooks.com is completely identical (even the wording of the instructions) except that it replaces "compressed yeast cake" with dry yeast and it includes a teaspoon more of rum extract (the recipe in the newspaper called for 1 1/2 tsp rum extract). Hope this helps!

                                http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,184,1...

                                1. re: wookyluvr

                                  Thank you.

                            2. re: califkitten

                              My husband - who grew up in VA - talks about going to the Flagship in DC and eating those rum buns ALL THE TIME. I would love to get a copy of the recipe you have and maybe surprise him with them at christmas. Also, we are going to the Baltimore/DC/Richmond area over the holidays - does anyone know of a restaurant there that still serves them???

                              1. re: fransilver

                                O'Donnell's still serves them. Enjoy!

                                1. re: fransilver

                                  Sure. O'Donnells in the Kentlands (in the Gaithersburg/Darnestown area) is the only place I know of that still serves them. Of the original Washington area seafood restaurants that used to serve them, only O'Donnells is left. For whatever reason, I don't think Crisfields ever had them.

                                  They even sell them separately to take home.

                                2. re: califkitten

                                  Hi Califkitten:

                                  I would love to have your Flagship Rum Bun recipe. Thanks and Happy Holiday.

                                  1. re: gigi47

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/322322

                                  2. re: califkitten

                                    Califkitten,

                                    If you still have the Flagship Rum Bun recipe your Mom cut out of the Washington Post, I would really like to have a copy.

                                    I know your posting to Chowhound was over a year ago, but I if you could I would really appreciate your efforts.

                                    Thanks,
                                    Ryun

                                    1. re: traveler10

                                      http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,184,1... is suppose to be the Flagship rum bun recipe. But the better question is why does anyone believe the Flagship had the best rum buns? I was born here, at the old Sibley Hospital on North Capitol street in 1947 and we always believed that the original O'Donnell's on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Warner theater (Ben Hur!) started the D. C. tradition of rum buns at a seafood restaurant. (Flavormeister mentioned this earlier...) The Flagship and Hogate's in the '50's were touristy places and not known for great seafood. O'Donnell's on Pennsylvania Avenue was.

                                      Having said this I always thought that Bethesda's Bish Thompson's (not Bethesda's O'Donnell's) had the best rum buns. In the late '60's O'Donnell's was considered better than Bish Thompson's. But Bish Thompson's rum buns were legendary. Anyway, I've linked what is suppose to be the original recipe. I believe that the Flagship was never considered to be a good seafood restaurant. Only a touristy one.

                                      For me this is an interesting thread since one of the very first threads that I ever responded to on Chowhound was in '99 and was about Kushner's, Crisfield's and Bish Thompson's. It's interesting the perspective that history lends to several of these. If the Flagship had good rum buns it was only to fill people up before they tasted the seafood.

                                      O'Donnell's on Pennsylvania Avenue and Busch's Chesapeake Inn on route 50 in Annapolis (before the fire) along with the Chesapeake Restaurant in Baltimore set the standard back then. In the '50's we would go to Silver Spring's Crisfield's when we couldn't afford to go downtown to the original O'Donnell's. At some point Calvin Trilling and Julia Child discovered Crisfield's (and Phyllis Richman promoted it) and the world changed. But "in the day" Crisfield was an excellent but lesser expensive alternative...without rum buns.

                                      1. re: Joe H

                                        I took my wife to O'Donnell's in Kentlands a few years back after regaling her with tales of the original. It was sad. Watery bisque, frozen pre-fried stuff. The fabled rum buns were pasty, under-baked Hostess-quality things such as you might find at a Seven-Eleven. A travesty.

                                        1. re: Joe H

                                          Boy, I just don't remember the rum buns at Bish Thompson's. All I recall are those bread mini-loaves.

                                      2. re: califkitten

                                        Good afternoon - I am from South Dakota but used to visit DC a lot for work - I always went to Hogates over Phillips Landing because of the rum buns. I have tried to perfect the recipe over the years and have come close but would love to have your recipe. My email is rski37@gmail.com - Thanks for the opportunity to get this. Maybe I can start something in South Dakota.

                                        1. re: rikkota2

                                          You are replying to someone who has only posted once ever on Chowhond in 2007. If you do a search in the Washington Post archives, you could probably find the recipe. They do charge a small fee for every article you print from the archives.

                                      3. califkitten, I would appreciate you sharing that recipe that your Mom cut from the Post. I was just talking with my son about those rum buns and how delicious they were!

                                        1. A search for " rum bun recipe" on the web brought this up immediately:

                                          Found this "Flagship Rum Bun Recipe" on the web. As always, beware of internet recipes.

                                          http://www.recipelink.com/mf/14/27148

                                          1. Mmmm...love those rum buns. I grew up going to Anchor Inn in Wheaton.

                                            My father's friend is a chef who trained in this area and went on to own restaurants in Richmond. He told me that you can use any sweet roll recipe that you like. The secret is to use Myers Rum in the glaze. You pour the glaze over the hot rolls and the rum and glaze just soaks into the rolls.

                                            1. I grew up in the Chillum/Takoma Park area. We frequented Kushners, Hogates, Flagship, Bish Thompsons and O'Donnells, all known for excellent food. Especially like the Norfolk recipes at O'Donnels! Rum buns are a DC area specialty. Every now and then Giant Food stores will have them in their bakery department. They aren't nearly as fresh or as good, but they do help one remember!

                                              Conrad

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: cwjudyjr

                                                Great memories that I share. But to reiterate the OP's question:

                                                "I just have never heard of anyplace outside of the DC area where seafood restaurants serve them. Does anyone know the story behind this peculiar local quirk (or am I mistaken about it being a local thing)?"

                                              2. A few years back the City Paper did an interesting piece that looked at the connection between rum buns and seafood places. My elderly inlaws looooove O' Donnells and the buns in particular and I had always thought it was sort of weird to have them before the meal.
                                                Here's the link. http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/di...
                                                Scroll all the way down the page--their site is looking strange these days.

                                                1. I never understood the whole rum bun thing. Who wants to preface a seafood dinner with a horridly sweet pastry?

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                    The key is to wrap them in a napkin and put them in your purse and have them for breakfast the next morning ;o))

                                                    1. re: Terrie H.

                                                      Only sensible thing to do.

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        I'm turning into my mother....

                                                  2. I think they started at the Flagship in DC.

                                                    1. You can add Hogate's and Kushner's to the list of area seafood joints that offered rum buns.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Mister Big

                                                        Prette sure you're right about the Flagship being the first with rum buns. Hogates followed soon thereafter. Flagship and Hogates initially were in the same building on the water side of Maine Ave, approx where the current fish market is now. The Jimmy Stewart movie "The FBI Story" featured a dining scene in that original building.

                                                      2. So is anyone still baking them now. I called Crisfield's and they said no.
                                                        I knew those ladies at the Flagship and I wonder how they could ever stop making them! It was in the air when you walked in...And there they were, just cutting out six or 12 for you...How could they just disappear?
                                                        My parents are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary and I thought it would be great to find those bakers... Rum Buns and great crabcakes! no better meal!
                                                        And it is all local.
                                                        If you find the bakery or restaurant please tell me.

                                                        1. I just found some pretty good rum buns at Martins, a giant food store, I think.