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Jan 12, 2014 07:29 PM

Old Style Family Restaurants?

As a kid growing up in the midwest, I remember visiting a fair number of "family" restaurants that served rather bland "American" food, emphasized lunch/dinner service, and lacked liquor licenses. I know of a few places in the D.C. area w/o liquor licenses that emphasize breakfast and/or lunch service and I've been to a few halal restaurants that do mostly lunch/dinner service and lack liquor licenses. But I can't think of a single old-style family restaurant. Can anyone else? (I'm not really itching to go to one, mostly just curious.)

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  1. I think the closest you'd come to what you're talking about would be a Greek diner like Anthony's or Atlantis or Amphora. Their "American" menu is usually pretty bland. The other option would be a regular, real diner like Tastee or Metro 29, or maybe the Royal in Old Town.

    1. The 'no liquor license' will be a sticking point. Drop that and there are many places that qualify.

        1. re: CDouglas

          where is cracker barrell in d.c. area? i'd like to know, to get their fried catfish breakfast. (and they have hands down the best tartar sauce i've ever eaten…and that is a lot).

          1. re: alkapal

            The easiest from Arlington is Manassas.

            You can find just about anything you want in Google Maps by typing (name or type of facility) near (name of city.) For example, Cracker Barrel near Washington, DC or Boulangeries near Paris, France.

            1. re: Steve

              yes, i know about google, steve, and store locator on the cracker barrel website. ;-) i was more making a point about there not being one nearby. i'm spoiled, as i live in arlington.

          2. re: CDouglas

            I would not call Cracker Barrel "an old style family restaurant". It's a chain made to look like one.

            1. re: BlueRidgePro

              I agree. And the food certainly doesn't taste anything like real 'home style' cooking. I made the mistake of ordering the Chicken & Dumplings once. It was pretty insipid...tasted like it was made with cheap, artificially flavored bouillon.
              Basically, it's bad "food service" fare.

          3. Mountain View and Mountain Gate are both pretty good. They are in Frederick County, MD.


            9 Replies
            1. re: Mister Big

              Mountain Gate is in Thurmont, as is the Cozy, which has a large buffet of the sort that would appeal to the OP. There is also the Barbara Fritchie in Frederick, which has decent plain local food and no liquor.

              1. re: flavrmeistr

                My father's family is from Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and they would occasionally meet DC area relatives at the Mountain Gate as it was approximately halfway between the two places.

                It is very much.... a plain restaurant serving.... ah.... uncomplicated food.

                If the OP is willing to venture a bit further from the DC area then Mrs. Gibbles in Greencastle, Pennsylvania is an excellent "traditional" American restaurant with a menu heavy on fried chicken (fantastic), hot roast beef, pork chops, stuffing, sauerkraut and lots of wonderful old fashioned pies and cakes. They even have ham loaf on the menu.


                Their homemade potato chips is even deep fried in lard. Can't get more traditional than 1950s country American food.

                1. re: Roland Parker

                  Been by there a few times. Next time, we'll check it out and report back.

                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                    If you make it to Mrs. Gibbles, get their fried chicken. It's absolutely superb. They serve it with bowls of hush puppies sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. One wouldn't expect the sweetness to go well with the chicken but it does. Their coleslaw is also wonderful.

                    Mrs. Gibbles is really a throwback to a different time.

                    1. re: Roland Parker

                      Sound more like corn fritters. I loooove corn fritters.

                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                        You're right, it is corn fritters as it has corn included in the batter. Delicious!

                        I don't know if you're inclined to try this but as it's great dairy country in the area, their glasses of milk (whole, of course) is fabulous.

                        Right up the same road just before you get to Chambersburg is Trickling Springs Creamery, a Mennonite run dairy and it has wonderful ice cream.

                        1. re: Roland Parker

                          if anyone wants some really good amish milk and butter, they can be found at the butcher's shop in del ray: "let's meat on the avenue."

                          1. re: Roland Parker

                            Indeed. I always make corn fritters when I fry chicken, which I only do outside in good weather. Now, I can get my chicken and fritters on without waiting for good weather. Awesome!

                2. re: Mister Big

                  Going a little farther than this is Gettysburg Family Restaurant. I think it's exactly what the OP is describing. In the DC metro area, there is 29 diner in Fairfax. It looks like nothing has changed since it opened.


                3. i have an idea for a family-friendly place (just occurred to me): silver diner!

                  their food is very good; service is very good; their places are clean -- it really is a nice local chain. it is mr. alka's newest favorite place for business breakfast meet-ups. (they serve breakfast all day, too).

                  the last time i had breakfast there, i had eggs benedict with a side of freshly sauteed spinach; before that, a friend and i both got the seasonal special, which was locally-sourced brined pork chops with a maple glaze, biscuits, a veggie and some cranberry something or another. (we both took home leftovers).

                  they have a newer emphasis (last couple of years) focusing on sourcing much of their food locally.

                  OP, i know the kind of place you speak of, but the days of those kinds of places -- at least here in close-in NOVA -- are long-gone. the rents and taxes got too high. BUT, having said that, there is a place whose name escapes me that some local chowhounds liked a lot for a family breakfast. it used to be a loehmann's plaza or was it pickett street? maybe it was old hickory grille? but i see that is closed.