The Iranian revolution, the brothers figured, would end in a matter of months. Already in Maryland for high school and college, Fariborz and Fereydoun Salimi decided they would stay and work as waiters and cooks until things quieted down in Iran.
That was 1979. The revolution never quite ended, and the Salimis, who never did much like working for others, in 1982 became owners of the Calvert House Inn, on Route 1 in Riverdale.
"We started a business and got deeper and deeper and deeper involved," said Fereydoun, 44, who thought after graduating with a mathematics degree from Towson State University that he would be an architect in Iran. Fariborz, 49, studied computer sciences at Bowie State University, and a third brother now owns the Calvert House Inn in Annapolis, which Fereydoun and Fariborz originally bought for themselves in 1986.
When they started Calvert House Inn they reasoned that broiled, baked or sauteed seafood was how they would distinguish themselves. Aiming for a home-like environment in their Riverdale restaurant, they created a main dining room that is relaxed, nothing fancy. The brothers have renovated their place slowly but have more than doubled the size of the business during the last decade. There are now 250 seats, including seats for 60 smokers in a separate room.
Their clientele is often university faculty and administrators as well as courthouse personnel from Hyattsville.
With a menu spearheaded by combination platters of crab cakes, shrimp and scallops, dinner prices range from $15 to $20, with the exception of a $23.95 surf-and-turf entree. Pasta items and salads are under $11. Appetizers range from $4 (ground beef with onion, cilantro and jalapeno in a flour tortilla) to $9 (shrimp cocktail). A bowl of crab soup is $3.25.
The pastry desserts come from Patisserie Poupon Inc. in Baltimore (which has a branch in Georgetown), but the brothers make their own chocolate mousse and a few of the cakes and pies.
Basmati rice accompanying many of the dishes, and a few kebab options, are the only outright indications of an Iranian influence. Pasta may be substituted for the rice on request.
Except for holidays, Calvert House offers an early bird menu every day from 4 to 6 p.m., which includes a four-course meal for $12.95.
A small but expanding part of their business is carryout, including cooked and uncooked food. The items, such as crab cakes (their bestseller), are 30 to 40 percent cheaper than the menu price, Fariborz Salimi said.
The brothers have unswerving notions of how to cook their food, and as a result, they never hire trained chefs. They instead prefer to instruct the cooks themselves.
"We feel the taste that we have is what made us come this far," Fariborz Salimi said.
And they credit their mother for that taste. She still comes in occasionally to castigate the boys for not using enough saffron or oregano in a dish, they admitted.
Mom also developed their specialty salad, called calcuminto, which is meant as a palate cleanser and combines cucumber, mint, tomato and onion. The "cal" part, they said, stands for Calvert House.
The Calvert House Inn, 6211 Baltimore Ave., Riverdale; call 301-864-5220. Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m.
CAPTION: Calvert House Inn's crab cake with the restaurant's signature salad, calcuminto.