Monday, May 12, 2008
Places That Aren't Gone
Anyone following my random acts of writing has probably noticed my penchant towards music, however my first love is food. It was not always the case. As a child I was The Picky Eater.
Tuna fish was a staple. Vegetables could take a hike. I quickly developed survival skills- hiding peas by slipping them onto the table then smashing them so they adhered to the underside of the plate. If need be I could stare down a plate of Lima beans for hours rather than gag one down. I did like to go out to eat, but my parents rarely took me with them. (smart) Somehow between then and now however, I did a complete flip and will eat darned near anything put in front of me, and I still love to go out to eat. I have written before about places that have slipped away, but we still have quite a few around that I remember from back in the day.
When I was thirteen or fourteen, a favorite French teacher took me out to lunch at The Hamburger Hamlet in Georgetown. We might as well have gone to the moon and eaten green cheese- I thought it was that exotic. Out with a teacher? Out to eat with a teacher? I've never forgotten it. She treated me like I was grown up- like a friend. I could order whatever I wanted to which included dessert- their fudge cake. I remember actually being encouraged to get dessert. What a treat. The Hamlet is no longer there in Georgetown, but there is one lone hold out in Bethesda which feels pretty much like the same place- dark and kind of clubby, and you can still get that fudge cake.
Also in another part of Bethesda is The Tastee Diner- my home away from home as soon as I could drive. What a great place to hang out. It was always a scene late at night-kids and working stiffs, musicians and drunks (and drunk musicians) all coming together for eggs or a burger or just coffee and dessert. They always had cakes and pies on the counter. I remember a lot of people yelling and laughing-including the staff. My friend, Lisa and I would sit there for hours talking rather than go back to her house which was just down the street. There was a juke box at each table with everything from Patsy Cline to the Rolling Stones to Tex Rubinowitz. They 're still open 24 hours a day-breakfast anytime- and they still have the jukeboxes and pies on the counter.
Finally, I left home for good and went to the University of Maryland. That's when I discovered Ledo. Now Ledo is a franchise with branches all over the area. The sauce is the same, the pizzas are almost the same- but nothing beats the original restaurant on University Boulevard. For one thing they make the pizza just right. Somebody there has probably been training the next guy for over fifty years. AND there is a bar, and though I don't go there to drink, the bar helps give the place atmosphere. To me it feels like a scene from a JD Salinger novel- where one of his characters would go to to break up with their girl just before she gets on a train. Not much daylight penetrates- it could be lunch time - it could be dinner time-1960, 1977 or 2008. Check it out.
It's nice to know some things don't change- at least for now.