Lola M. Revis, 97, who co-owned Sherrill's Bakery and Restaurant on Capitol Hill and was a key personality in an Academy Award-nominated documentary about the legendary eatery that brought it national attention, died Dec. 5 at the Sunrise assisted living facility in Fairfax County. She had dementia and a lung ailment.
Sherrill's, which opened in 1922 and closed in July 2000, was a relished neighborhood institution that brought together an enormously diverse clientele. Diners at 233 Pennsylvania Ave. SE might be politicians, congressional staffers, employees of the nearby Library of Congress, construction workers or mothers with their children.
Sunday was a notoriously hard day to get a seat, when the place was brimming with young professionals taking their time devouring the newspaper as well as their bacon and eggs.
Prices were low, and two could eat a huge and hearty breakfast for less than $10.
Known for such comfort foods as creamed beef, eggs, meatloaf chock-full of onions, fried fish sticks and T-bone steaks, Sherrill's never garnered rave reviews for its nuts-and-bolts cooking.
The exceptions were mainly on the dessert side. Its eclairs were "excellent," according to one Washington Post food writer. Others considered the gingerbread cookies sublime.
Part of Sherrill's allure was the legendarily abrupt waitstaff. At least one waitress was known to tell a patron to "sit down and shut up" or to eat his dinner before it got cold.
Over the years, some visitors interpreted such brusqueness favorably. There were those who even welcomed it as a sign of humanity compared with the robotic, humorless approach in more fleet or fancy chains.
Sherrill's was far from fancy. Its furniture was emblematic of another era, with its high-back wooden booths and banquettes upholstered with gold-glitter plastic. The linoleum floor dated back more than 50 years.
At the center of it all was a petite woman with black-cat eyeglasses and a beehive hair-do -- Mrs. Revis. "When things break down, we don't call a repairman, we call an antique dealer," she told the Maturity News Service in 1990.
Many customers described her as the heart and soul of the place, a woman who believed everyone deserved a home-cooked meal, even on most holidays. She kept the place running 364 days a year, taking a break on Christmas Day.
For much of its existence, hours were 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., with Mrs. Revis taking four buses from her Silver Spring home to arrive at dawn to open the store.
David Petersen, a local lad, walked in one day and discovered a whole new world -- more accurately, quite an old world -- that resulted in his 1989 documentary about the venerable restaurant. The 28-minute film, "Fine Food, Fine Pastries, Open 6 to 9," was mostly funded by the D.C. Community Humanities Council.
"It's a place that contains time," Petersen once told The Post. "There was a different perspective on the way in which people gathered and ate together that was a complete anachronism."
He added: "I recognized a whole change in the rhythm of the speech people had among themselves. The conversation. The movement. The way the light comes in -- the architecture of the light. All the advertisements, the clocks, the appliances, the rib-trimming around the pastry cases, the booths."
Lola Mamakos, a Pittsburgh native, grew up in Washington and was a graduate of the old Central High School. Her parents were Greek immigrants, and her father owned a candy store that over time became Louie's Bar and Grill, about a block away from Sherrill's.
In 1927, she married restaurateur Samuel A. Revis, who became manager of Louie's. They purchased William Sherrill's diner in 1941 and kept the name.
The Revises ran the business together until Samuel Revis suffered a stroke in 1969; he died in 1975. By the 1970s, their two daughters also were involved, and all three ran it until Mrs. Revis retired at age 94 after falling and injuring her back.
The daughters, Kathyleen Belfield Milton of Fairfax and Dorothy Polito of Wheaton, sold the business in July 2000. They wished to retire, and Sherrill's had become too expensive to run in an increasingly gentrified neighborhood.
The end of Sherrill's became the subject of much mourning in the era of the low-fat latte, including a front-page Post article and television coverage.
The family sold Sherrill's to a developer, and a Ritz Camera now occupies the space. A Starbucks is on the same block.
Mrs. Revis once said of the business: "If I stay at home, I have to think too much. I'd rather get out and meet the public. It keeps me young."
She moved from Silver Spring to Sunrise in 1998.
She was a member of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington.
Besides her daughters, survivors include five grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.