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Oct 17, 2009 08:42 AM

Rum Buns

Three of us are returning to DC (from Atlanta) to again run the Marine Marathon this Oct 25th. One in our group is originally from Baltimore and has requested crab cakes - which, there are several excellent choices from Chowhound board comments to select from. It is Rum Buns I am seeking assistance on. In the 1960s and 70s rum buns where a steady item on many restaurants i enjoyed in DC. Is this still an item of enjoyment in the DC area, and if yes; where so?

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    This might help -- I knew I'd read something here about them.

    1. I have also been able to buy them at Chevy Chase Supermarket (a little south of the Connecticut Ave. exit of the Beltway) at Conn. and Manor Drive. They carry rum buns and pies from Clement's, an old school bakery that used to be downtown.

      1. It's not close but O'Donnell's (formerly in Bethesda and on PA Avenue in the '50's and early '60's) still has them. Unfortunately, the location today is in Kentlands, in Gaithersburg. I use to think that Bish Thompson's on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda were the best but this closed long ago. Crisfield's, mentioned on another thread, never had them.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Joe H

          O'Donnell Sea Grill and Hogate's both had rum buns. I had them at the O'D's in Kentlands and they didn't seem as exciting as the original at 13th and Penn. Then again, neither was the rest of the meal. I heard a rumor that Hogate's was going to re-open at the SW waterfront. Anything to that?

          1. re: flavrmeistr

            Don't you mean:

            "I heard a rumor that Hogate's was *threatening* to re-open at the SW waterfront."

            1. re: Steve

              Hogate's is open, in a way. I live near there and have been curiously monitoring its "progress."

              We stopped in for coffee at the "cafe" on Saturday morning and while we did not SEE rum buns, the barrista (who was mightily challenged to get the place up and running 20 minutes after posted opening time) said she could serve us rum buns. We declined, but I was curious.

              We got a tour of the place - it's several cavernous rooms that are planned to be used as meeting/event space, with a white-table cloth restaurant in one room, and the cafe/casual bar on the opposite side. Right now, it all seems a bit unready, and the woman who showed us around, a manager, said it is a work in progress. They are serving brunch on Sundays, though. Haven't tried that. I wish them all the best, as the SW needs more choices, but I can't IMAGINE how much revenue it will take to keep that huge space open.

              1. re: dcandohio

                The original Hogates was downtown, but it's been so long ago (40 years?) that I can't remember exactly where. I believe the big monster version was built on the SW waterfront some time in the mid-70's. The sheer size is probably what did it in. Hell, we might as well bring back Trader Vic's while we're at it, mostly for the Rum Cup instead of the rum bun. Now, THOSE were awesome!

                1. re: flavrmeistr

                  I don't remember Hogate's downtown. There was an O'Donnell's around what's now Penn Quarter, and they moved to Bethesda.

                  The earliest I remember Hogates, and this is from back in the '50's, was that they were on Maine Avenue, but on the opposite side of the road than the waterfront. They had a place in Arlington, near Ballston, in a retired school, for a while also. They moved to the new place across Maine Avenue in the '70s.

                  I stopped following Hogate's when it became too corporate and a regular tourist stop. I guess Phillips took it over, and I was unaware that there was a resurrection of sorts.

                2. re: dcandohio

                  My knowledge of Hogate's only goes back to 1976. they were at the SW Waterfront.

                  Of course, freshly baked rum buns are a real treat. But I can tell you from that time forward, no actual rum has ever been sacrificed in making the rum buns.

                  1. re: Steve

                    O'Donnell's, which dated back to Lincoln's time, was supposed to be the originator, but they caught on in a general sort of way at the many seafood places in DC. But, you're right, the ones I had at the fake O'Donnells (Faux'Donnell's?) would've shamed the worst grocery store bakery you can think of. I still dream about the first one I ever had at 13th and Penn, though.

                    1. re: Steve

                      During WWII, my mother came to DC for a year and worked for Hoover's FBI after she graduated from college in order to do her bit for the war effort and live the single life. After her stint there, she went back to Ohio where she got married, and gave birth to me and my brother. When we were kids, we all came to DC for a family vacation. My mother only had one request: that we eat dinner at Hogate's. She went on and on about the "rum buns" and about how it was the favorite spot for her and her friends. They had moved to a new location, which was huge and packed with people. As she had me and my little brother in tow, she made sure to ask if the rum buns had real rum in them. The waiter said they were made with rum extract, which meant my brother and I could have them. This was a grand occasion indeed! I thought the rum buns were magnificently special, and we had our basket replenished more than once. I wonder if they were really that good, or if they were great to a kid from a small town in Ohio with limited exposure to the culinary arts!? My mother felt a bit disappointed, and said that Hogate's wasn't quite as good as she remembered.

                      1. re: woodleyparkhound

                        I think your memories are correct, they were a very special treat. But not because you couldn't make them at home if you really wanted to. It's just that fresh rum buns are soooo good and nobody bothers to make them.

                        1. re: woodleyparkhound

                          Great post, woodleyparkhound, thank you for sharing!

                          I remember rum buns from the '50's. Unfortunately the mid '50's which makes me feel even older! I remember my mother taking me to O'Donnell's (she was a waittress at the time at the Hot Shoppe at 14th and Park road-she started there in the '30's) for what was a "big deal" meal. We also went to Hogate's and but O'Donnell's on Pennsylvania Avenue was the signature seafood restaurant in D. C. And, going downtown for dinner, was the definitive D. C. seafood dining experience. Especially for someone like myself, eight or nine years old. I should also note there that we would also go to the Maine Avenue waterfront on Saturdays (with dessert at Georgia and East West in Silver Spring at D. C.'s #2 Krispy Kreme (after Penn Daw) where the "hot light" came on around 9:00 at night-my parents timed it!).

                          Regardless of who might have had great rum buns in the '50's I remember my parent trekking to Bethesda (from Takoma Park) in the '60's for Bish Thompson's. Seafood was secondary. It was Bish Thompson's rum buns that motivated them. I remember apologies to the waittress for a second basket. One time, I swear I remember a third.

                          I also remember Busch's Chesapeake Inn on route 50 where they would serve you a WHOLE STICK of butter when you sat down. That was a real topic in our house. A WHOLE STICK of butter. We used to wonder if they would do that for a single diner until one night when I vaguely remember a solo man and a whole stick being served to him. He stared at it for what seemed like a minute then picked up his knife and began to slice and butter his roll.

                          Krispy Kreme
                          1350 Connecticut Ave NW Frnt 9, Washington, DC 20036

                          1. re: Joe H

                            Sorry for the gramatical errors above but, for whatever reason, I'm not allowed to edit my post.