Last night, sometime after midnight, the Capital City Diner went on a short joy ride on the streets of Washington and landed in the construction zone right next to the former, fire-ravaged D.C. Farmers Market, a mere 1.5 miles away. Some insomniac member of the media was there to film it.
You can probably guess where this is going: The historic diner’s new owner is the same company, South Carolina-based Edens, that is developing part of the Capital City/Florida Avenue Market into the forthcoming farm- and chef-driven Union Market.
A spokeswoman for Edens confirmed this afternoon that the developer has purchased the diner from Matt Ashburn, who was not at liberty to share the name of the new owner when he spoke to All We Can Eat earlier this month. Edens bought the diner from Ashburn on eBay, apparently for the $40,000 pricetag shown on the online auction page.
Edens is still not sure what it will do with the diner yet, but the spokeswoman said the developer plans to “preserve it and incorporate it somehow into the Union Market redevelopment.” Edens recently hired Richard Brandenburg , former chef for Cafe Atlantico, the Penn Quarter restaurant that morphed into America Eats Tavern last year. He will no doubt have some role in the future of the diner, which eases the mind of at least one person: Cap City’s former owner.
“It was a bit bittersweet,” Ashburn told me as the diner was set to move yesterday, “in that it is leaving [the Trinidad neighborhood], but it’s still staying in D.C.”
Ashburn, in fact, accepted considerably less money for the 1940s-era diner just to ensure the new owners would keep it in Washington. Ashburn didn’t know Edens’s plans for the property, either, but he thought that it would “remain a diner” in some form or another.
Whatever its future, the diner will soon start a new chapter in its long, colorful history. It first rolled off the production line at the Paterson Vehicle Co. in 1947 before moving to Avoca, N.Y., where the Goodrich Diner/Avoca Diner became a town institution for decades. Ashburn bought and relocated the diner to Washington in 2009.
Union Market, incidentally, will be unofficially revealed June 3, when the James Beard Foundation hosts a dinner at the former D.C. Farmers Market building. It will feature such chefs as Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola, Bryan Voltaggio of Volt, Mike Isabella of Graffiato and R.J. Cooper of Rogue 24. It’s not clear yet whether the diner would be open in time for the Beard dinner.