The Metropolist

Remembering a Spectacular Salad, Tennis Shoe Louie and a Meal With a View

By The Metropolist
Friday, July 31, 2009

This week, the memories of bygone places all are restaurants that graced this area 30 or more years ago.


The eatery I enjoyed the very most was the hole in the wall called VitaFoods on F Street between 10th and 11th. They had a salad made of grated carrots and cottage cheese with a yogurt dressing and Wheat Thins that I still long for 30 years later. People lined up to take out or grab a stool to eat in. It was always worth the wait and the walk.

-- Jan Hamlin, Alexandria

The Waffle Shops

There were six or seven in the District: two on Pennsylvania Avenue, one on 10th Street and one on Park Road. The one I always patronized was on Wisconsin Avenue across from Sears in Tenleytown.

All the seating was shoulder to shoulder at the counter. The countermen and short-order cooks were a sight to behold. I think a minimum number of tattoos plus a prison record were needed to get hired. They had monikers like Tennis Shoe Louie and Snapdragon. They had their own code that they used to process orders. "Give me one" meant one burger, or "Give me two" for two burgers. "97" meant "to go." I never could figure out the origin of that one.

The name Waffle Shop was a little misleading. They were open 24/7, and I ate dinner there a lot more than breakfast. As late as 1968, the Wednesday special was spaghetti with two pieces of bread and butter for 35 cents. Being a creature of habit, I favored the chopped steak plate: a hamburger patty, long french fries, a paper cup of cole slaw, and bread and butter. All for about a buck.

-- Tom Hoffman, Pearisburg, Va.

The Water Gate Inn

As a native Washingtonian, I had many occasions to dine at the Water Gate Inn, Marjory Hendricks's Pennsylvania Dutch-themed restaurant on the Potomac. The inn was all sparkling brass and polished wood -- and awesome popovers! Diners looked out on the river, as taken by the view as the food. The inn, opened in 1942, was demolished in 1966 to make way for the Watergate complex.

One memory of the Water Gate stands out. On Jan. 19, 1961, a co-worker and I treated ourselves to lunch at the Water Gate Inn in celebration of John F. Kennedy's inauguration the next day. As we left the restaurant, a few very fine flakes were starting to fall. Neither one of us knew the forecast, but we both agreed that it probably wouldn't amount to much. But by the time I drove from my office in Rosslyn to the intersection of 33rd Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, the streets were slick. I slid up 33rd's slope, and some kind soul let me on to Wisconsin. When I reached Tenley Circle, snow was coming down hard and traffic had stalled.

It was to be one of Washington's most spectacular snow "events," with high-profile visitors as well as the local hoi polloi inching along for hours after dark toward hotels and homes. There were tales of derring-do: people rushing from their immobilized cars to buy a sandwich; someone said he had a bottle of something in his car and got out to share with a nearby driver and passenger, who turned out to be Adlai Stevenson. The National Guard -- a military unit, in any case -- was called out to clear the inaugural route.

-- Mary Ellen McMillen, Washington

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