My parents weren’t great ones for dining out (click here to see Part I of this series). Their favorite types of places to eat-out around D.C. included cafeterias and fast food places. After church on Sundays, we’d often lunch at a cafeteria and then visit an exhibit or two at one of the Smithsonian museums. Sometimes we’d go to a cafeteria in a high-rise building across the Potomac River in Rosslyn, VA, and sometimes we’d go to the cafeteria at what was then called the Museum of History and Technology, which today is known as the National Museum of American History. Both offered typical cafeteria fare, but the great thing was everybody got to choose there own dishes, so we weren’t all sitting down to the same meal.
Before there was McDonald’s in our area (yes, dearly beloved, I remember a time before the golden arches), there were small mom-and-pop take-out places for such things as sandwiches and fried chicken (I well-remember a fried chicken place that served little containers of honey with their biscuits instead of butter — what a concept!). One chain of sandwich shops my dad liked was called Eddie Leonard’s — they made subs and fries as I recall. The chain, as such, is gone now, but there are still vestiges of it around, as you’ll still see the occasional shop called Eddie Leonard’s (probably because it was cheaper to keep the name than change it). There’s one a few miles south of us in Waldorf, which features a combination of Chinese fare, soul food, and subs. I like their subs, my wife, Cindy, likes their Chinese, and they’ve currently got a 4.5 star rating on Yelp!
We probably got our first local McDonald’s around 1963 or so. That McDonald’s is still in its original location at 5501 Livingston Road, Oxon Hill, MD 20745, inside the Beltway just south of the D.C. line. Later, more McDonald’s appeared of course, along with other franchises: Red Barn, Arby’s, Jack-in-the-Box (for a short period), Kentucky Fried Chicken (before it was known as KFC), Jr. Hot Shoppes, Burger King (which became my dad’s favorite), Roy Rogers, etc.
A treat was to go to a steak, Chinese, or seafood restaurant. For our family, the place for steak was called Smitty’s in Bryans Road, MD, at the intersection of Livingston Rd. (Rte. 227) and Indian Head Highway (Rte. 210) in Charles County. I understand that the original building is still there, but it’s now a church. It not only had steaks, but also quite a few slot machines, which were legal in Charles County from 1949 until 1968. There was also a large painting of a tired Indian on his horse against a sunset, called End of the Trail (based on James Earle Fraser’s End of the Trail bronze statue), which my sister and I always liked.
For Chinese, my folks would take us into D.C.‘s Chinatown, which was much larger in the 1960s and ‘70s than today — at one point it covered the area between 9th and 5th Streets NW, between G Street and Massachusetts Avenue; today it’s down to the neighborhood between 5th and 8th streets, between H and I Streets. I don’t recall the names of the restaurants we went to, but there were two or three my parents preferred. I’m pretty sure we always had wonton soup and egg rolls; my favorite dish was probably sweet and sour pork. It was in those restaurants that I learned how to use chop-sticks, a skill that was remarked on with some surprise by folks I dined with on business in Hong Kong and Singapore in the 1990s (not that I’m any great shakes with chop-sticks, but at least I can get by with them).
For seafood, there were just two choices in our family, both in downtown DC: either Hogate’s or the Flagship restaurant, both gone now. Trying to do research on them today, I’ve found bits and pieces of their histories, but nothing I’d call terribly reliable. So, from my own memory: I remember getting complimentary hot rum buns with a sweet glaze on top before the meals were served and Shirley Temple cocktails for us kids (along with maraschino cherries speared on plastic swords, which we loved to collect and play with). I seem to recall that both places had locations in center city D.C. before they eventually relocated to the Southwest waterfront along Maine Avenue in the 1970s.
To be continued… ♦