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Old Style Family Restaurants?

dr3rdeye Jan 12, 2014 07:29 PM

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.)

  1. monkeyrotica Jan 13, 2014 03:28 AM

    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. s
      Steve Jan 13, 2014 05:12 AM

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

      1. c
        CDouglas Jan 16, 2014 07:50 AM

        Cracker Barrel.

        5 Replies
        1. re: CDouglas
          alkapal Jan 22, 2014 06:42 AM

          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
            Steve Jan 22, 2014 06:56 AM

            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
              alkapal Jan 22, 2014 02:09 PM

              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
            BlueRidgePro Jan 22, 2014 11:57 AM

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

            1. re: BlueRidgePro
              The Professor Jan 22, 2014 03:28 PM

              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. Mister Big Jan 16, 2014 05:11 PM

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


            9 Replies
            1. re: Mister Big
              flavrmeistr Jan 21, 2014 01:05 AM

              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
                Roland Parker Jan 21, 2014 07:57 AM

                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
                  flavrmeistr Jan 24, 2014 06:39 PM

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

                  1. re: flavrmeistr
                    Roland Parker Jan 25, 2014 10:53 PM

                    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
                      flavrmeistr Jan 26, 2014 04:13 PM

                      Sound more like corn fritters. I loooove corn fritters.

                      1. re: flavrmeistr
                        Roland Parker Jan 26, 2014 09:30 PM

                        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
                          alkapal Jan 27, 2014 06:08 AM

                          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
                            flavrmeistr Jan 27, 2014 06:22 PM

                            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
                  chowser Mar 10, 2014 05:27 PM

                  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. alkapal Jan 22, 2014 02:16 PM

                  i have an idea for a family-friendly place (just occurred to me): silver diner! http://www.silverdiner.com/

                  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. http://www.silverdiner.com/localfarms
                  menu: http://www.silverdiner.com/menu

                  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.

                  1. Mister Big Jan 22, 2014 03:55 PM

                    How about the Florida Avenue Grill?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Mister Big
                      monkeyrotica Jan 22, 2014 05:21 PM

                      It's hit or miss. Most of the breakfast items are good, but lunches and dinners can be a mess. I've had better luck at Torrie's, but that's more of a soul food joint. Good fried fish tho.


                    2. s
                      Sal Gee Jan 27, 2014 10:45 AM

                      Great question. For my mom and dad, a "family restaurant" meant value, close to home, and it had to please both kids and adults. Today, that usually equals a chain restaurant unfortunately. Lately I've been taking my family to explore a bit, displaying my own enthusiasm for adventure (while watching the pennies, of course), and family dining couldn't be better. Rte One in Beltsville is a gold mine. I don't mean to suggest that I've "discovered" these, but find Sardi's (Peruvian), Yia-Yia's Kitchen (Greek), Pho 88, and Curry Leaf (Indian). Swahili Village (Kenyan) is next. These are "family restaurants" that the kids will remember always - partly because they're fun, mainly because they're run by families, but mostly because you took them there. Good luck!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Sal Gee
                        Clatterbuck Feb 28, 2014 09:10 AM

                        Thank you for recommending a couple of my favorite local restaurants. We LOVE the Curry Leaf. I'm kind of embarrassed by how often we go there. Yia-Yia's Kitchen is offering their delicious beef/lamb gyros on Tuesdays for only $5.00 each. One Gyro is a full meal by itself, but I can't resist their french fries. I don't know what kind of cheese they put on top of them, but they are quite addictive.

                      2. p
                        poncedeleroy Jan 27, 2014 02:08 PM

                        Tom & Ray's in Damascus?

                        1. 4
                          4X4 Jan 28, 2014 06:13 AM

                          I would say Hershey's in Gaithersburg, but they have a liquor license.

                          1. JoanArkham Jan 28, 2014 09:43 AM

                            If you *were* itching to go to one, and wanted to take a 2-hour road trip, that describes pretty much every restaurant in York, PA. I refer to them as "places where applesauce is considered a vegetable." :)

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