Answer Man really has to stop writing about food. All it does is make him hungry. And it makes him hungry for things that are not good for him to eat.
Dozens of readers -- from as far away as Texas and Turkey -- wrote in after last week's column on the late, lamented Hot Shoppes restaurant chain.
Beth Lewis of Olney waxed poetic about going to the Langley Park Hot Shoppes, where drive-in customers would await a carhop while dine-in customers would write out their own meal order, using a short pencil -- "no eraser" -- and a yellow, lined pad. Beth would read Table Talk, the aphorism-filled newsletter positioned at every table, or watch as models from the nearby Ruth Rider women's clothing store went from table to table, describing their outfits.
Ann Graves Morrison of Harker Heights, Tex., grew up in McLean and frequented Tysons Corner when it was a one-story mall. She'd spend long afternoons shopping with her mother, then they'd meet her father for dinner at the Hot Shoppes cafeteria in the mall.
Wrote Ann: "I'll never forget the fried chicken, mashed potatoes, the Jell-O with the slightly hardened whipped cream on top. . . . "
Ann said the cafeteria must have been a favorite of former Washington Redskin Roy Jefferson, too. She remembers seeing him there several times on Sunday evenings.
In the early '60s, Barbara Videll was living in McLean Gardens on Wisconsin Avenue. In addition to operating Hot Shoppes, the Marriott Corp. maintained a cafeteria at the Gardens.
"All of us young residents gathered there for our meals," Barbara said. "The food was tasty and inexpensive -- about $1.20 for a complete dinner, which was advertised each weekday in The Washington Post. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have met her future husband at that cafeteria."
Barbara and her friends also spent time at the Hot Shoppes on Wisconsin Avenue north of the Gardens.
"We all thought the hostess there resembled Amelia Earhart and called her that among ourselves," she said.
Peggy Bell Kerr of Kent Island was one of many readers who said the perfect way to top off a Hot Shoppes Teen Twist was with the hot fudge ice cream cake. "Oh, one other thing," she pointed out, "once we entered the electronic age the drive-through service became known as 'tele-tray' service."
Michel Stevens of Harpers Ferry said she has the cookbook that has recipes for some of the Hot Shoppes classics: "At least twice a year, hubby and I gorge on homemade Moes and Teen Twists. Sadly, it is just not the same."
Nor does a nostalgic stroll down Hot Shoppes Lane bring warm memories to everyone. Potomac's Stewart Block worked as a carhop at the Bethesda Hot Shoppes in the summer of 1965, between his first and second years of college. He worked an eight-hour shift on Friday and Saturday nights: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., plus cleanup time after closing, for 50 cents per hour. "That is right," Stewart wrote, "a total of $4 plus tips (but who really tipped the carhop?)."
Stewart remembers having to pay for the meal he ate. It took about a half-hour after closing to clean up the parking lot, without pay.
"After three weekends, my dad made me quit because the pay was so awful and the hours were so long."
Readers said that our list of Hot Shoppes from the 1965 Yellow Pages left out some of their favorite locations -- Tysons Corner, Congressional Plaza, Montgomery Mall -- and that some locations were actually Mighty Mo's, Marriott-owned drive-ins that catered to a younger crowd.
Paul Zimmerli of Gambrills thinks that Marriott created Mighty Mo's to compete with a chain called Tops Drive-Inns, which in the 1950s and '60s catered to the "rock & roller" market.
Tops' "signature sandwich was the Sir Loiner," Paul wrote. "It also was a double decker burger like the Mighty Mo. . . . It was the 'cool thing' to cruise, dine or meet at Tops or the [Mighty Mo's] on date nights or after school events."
But what of the original question: Was there a Hot Shoppes at University and Piney Branch? No. What there was, many readers informed us, was a Burger King. It featured a striking neon sign of a crowned monarch sitting atop a giant burger and holding a drink.
Sometime during the 1960s, the Burger King closed and an auto repair shop called Al's Transmission opened in its place. Rather than put up a new sign, the old one was reworked: The king disappeared, the burger became a car and the straw became the car's antenna.
Harise Poland of Greenbelt worked at Al's Transmission in the early '70s, where he says he "spent way too much time gazing at that sign, imagining the old superimposed over the new."
Send a Kid to Camp
Want to participate in another Washington area tradition? Help us raise money for Camp Moss Hollow, a summer camp for at-risk kids. Here's how you can make a tax-deductible contribution:
Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to Family and Child Services, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/johnkelly. Click on the icon that says, "Make a Donation."
Julia Feldmeier helped research this column. Send your questions about the Washington area to email@example.com. Or write John Kelly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.