Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. EAT

 

I like to start out fast so, in keeping with our monthly theme, here’s some immediate advice. If, like quite a few of your fellow Americans, you have dreams of opening your own cozy little bar/restaurant, don’t call it “Whitey’s.” It probably won’t wash as a name in 2020. But, fortunately for those of us who resided near Washington Boulevard in Arlington, VA, a generation or two ago, Whitey’s not only existed–like something out of an Edward Hopper painting–it thrived. Not that a degree of success went to anyone’s head who actually worked or hung out there. 

No doubt many of you are thinking “That was a long time ago, and I don’t really want to hear about this place unless Whitey’s had a neon sign that said, ‘EAT.'” Here’s more advice: Not To Worry. I lived a long walk away but always marked my progress by how clearly I could see the sign. And, being the reasonably well run joint that Whitey’s was, that sign never said “E T”,” “ AT,” or “EA .”

Whitey’s existed for 50 years—a remarkable number in our own era of disposable enterprises. It passed away on March 25, 2003. Little is known about the eponymous owner, a biker named “Whitey,” but the consensus is that, under his stewardship, Whitey’s was a honky-tonk inhabited by “ruffians” straight out of central casting for “The Wild One.” At some point in the late ’50s, when the suburbs of Washington were still largely “countrified,” Whitey’s was sold to its last owner, and did well for a long time.  

In many ways, Whitey’s was all about the decor, including: 

  1. A prominent sign admonishing “Eat or Go to Your Room.”
  2. A deer head protruding from one side of a wall while the other end protruded from the other side. 
  3. An area for darts dubbed “The Lincoln Room” by Secret Service staffers after President Clinton solicited contributions to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom.

Eventually, as happens, things began to change. The owner was booed when he took down a sailfish hanging over the bar. The menu “evolved,” but not to the exclusion of another piece of advice. What should I order? “Broasted chicken,” of course (see neon in left window, above). Perhaps this chicken concoction is popular elsewhere in the country, but I’ve only encountered it at Whitey’s. True to Whitey’s rather quirky nature, its sort-of-famous chicken was prepared in a device straight outta Beloit, WI, and manufactured by The Broaster Co. The cooker looks something like a top-loading washer and the culinary experience is similar to lightly fried chicken. It was good enough.

Now one might reasonably ask “Is this a story without a moral?” Mere random snippets of quasi-advice about a time when honky tonks really were dives, as opposed to ersatz places designed to be “dive bars?” Not so fast, because it turns out that Whitey’s was one of those proverbial canaries in the coal mine, and its demise presaged a turn in the area’s politics from red-ish to hard-core blue. Whitey’s was replaced by two adjoining restaurants owned by the same group, one described by the Washington Post as a “contemporary American bistro with an exceptional wine program,” while the other was “its casual gastropub counterpart. Introducing a fresh, textural palette.” In other words, not Whitey’s.  

So, if you live in an area transitioning from red to blue and have your own “Whitey’s,” here’s a last piece of advice: Enjoy it while you can.

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  1. Lilly B Coolidge

    The bistro/wine bar/gastropub has been replaced with Texas Jacks barbecue. It’s no dive bar, but it is good barbecue with irreverent t-shirts that celebrate meat consumption. Maybe not all is lost?

    • #1
    • February 28, 2020, at 10:07 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  2. Lilly B Coolidge

    Don’t get me wrong, at lot has changed in Arlington in a relatively short period of time. I remember Whitey’s and the way Arlington looked before all the high rise apartment buildings. Back in 2000, it was foregone conclusion that Virginia would go for Bush. Now the high-rise dwellers and new suburbanites have overwhelmed the old voting patterns of the state. Beware the unintended consequences of a creating a business and building-friendly environment. 

    • #2
    • February 28, 2020, at 10:15 AM PST
    • Like
  3. Michael Brehm Member

    Hoyacon: If, like quite a few of your fellow Americans, you have dreams of opening your own cozy little bar/restaurant, don’t call it “Whitey’s.”

    Why not? It’s okay to be Whitey (unless your last name happens to be Bulger.)

    • #3
    • February 28, 2020, at 11:06 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  4. Old Bathos Moderator

    I was in Whitey’s sometime in the 1970’s–a lot of unclear memories from that era but I do recall the deer. All of Arlington was unpretentious in those days. You could buy parts to fix anything somewhere along Washington Boulevard or Lee Highway. I often bowled at the duckpin lanes in a place now buried under highrise buildings. Lots of normal people. Lots of military families. Consistently elected GOP Congressional reps until the last election. The first congressman from the 10th district elected in the 1950’s was then Virginia’s only Republican (Joel Broyhill) who was also about the only Republican to sign the Southern Manifesto.

    In the 1980s as Arlington transitioned, there were pockets of Asian stores and restaurants mostly because (I strongly suspect) they were the only businesses willing to take risky leases in storefronts that could be demolished on short notice if and when zoning and planning permits for bigger newer stuff were approved. Fantastic Vietnamese food dirt cheap even as the blocks above and below got more gentrified.

     

    • #4
    • February 28, 2020, at 11:29 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  5. PHCheese Member

    I got an idea . Reopen and call it Whitey’s Castle and sell hamburgers.

    • #5
    • February 28, 2020, at 12:26 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  6. Bob Thompson Member

    I used to go to Whitey’s and sometimes went to the movies at the Glebe Theater. But my house is in Westover so that was a long walk so I drove. I essentially left Arlington as my permanent abode around the same time as Whitey’s demise. No fun to drive in Arlington now. I’ll be there sometime later in the Spring so maybe there can be a Ricochet meetup arranged.

    • #6
    • February 28, 2020, at 12:29 PM PST
    • 1 like
  7. Old Buckeye Member

    Broasted chicken was the centerpiece on the menu at what began as a walk-up place along the side of a truck highway near the home I grew up in. It served the chicken and soft-serve ice cream, had a miniature golf course, driving range, and trampolines. My dad was petrified we kids would break our necks on the trampolines, so we were seldom allowed to use them and then only under his watchful eye. As if him seeing us break our neck would have somehow made it better. 

    • #7
    • February 28, 2020, at 1:19 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  8. Old Buckeye Member

    And I love local diners like Whitey’s. I can still remember the roast beef hash at a place called The Ritz.

    • #8
    • February 28, 2020, at 1:24 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  9. Bob Thompson Member

    Old Buckeye (View Comment):

    Broasted chicken was the centerpiece on the menu at what began as a walk-up place along the side of a truck highway near the home I grew up in. It served the chicken and soft-serve ice cream, had a miniature golf course, driving range, and trampolines. My dad was petrified we kids would break our necks on the trampolines, so we were seldom allowed to use them and then only under his watchful eye. As if him seeing us break our neck would have somehow made it better.

    Now, c’mon, he was likely observing your techniques as you performed on the trampolines. I’ve done this and had a chance to see some really stupid moves that are among those that can lead to serious injuries. Like most things, there’s a right way and a wrong way.

    • #9
    • February 28, 2020, at 1:27 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    We have “Woody’s” — a really great place to eat that has carved out its restaurant digs from the insides of a huge local hardware emporium.

    I’ll have to take pictures when I eat Saturday brunch there tomorrow. It is very eclectic and fun, including the remarkable “Free Beer Tomorrow” signs.

    It is also the only place in the county that means it when they say “bacon” on the menu. Compared to the generous thick tasty pieces served at Woody’s amidst the eggs and hash browns, I feel like other eateries merely wave the strip of bacon over the plates of food.

     

    • #10
    • February 28, 2020, at 1:31 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  11. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I used to go to Whitey’s and sometimes went to the movies at the Glebe Theater. But my house is in Westover so that was a long walk so I drove. I essentially left Arlington as my permanent abode around the same time as Whitey’s demise. No fun to drive in Arlington now. I’ll be there sometime later in the Spring so maybe there can be a Ricochet meetup arranged.

    Love to do that–even on a small scale. I generally avoid the area now, but recall the Glebe Theatre as being white with pillars adorning the front. My grocery–one of those IGA franchises–was down the street a bit, across from a People’s drug store (when those existed).

     

    • #11
    • February 28, 2020, at 1:36 PM PST
    • Like
  12. Bob Thompson Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I used to go to Whitey’s and sometimes went to the movies at the Glebe Theater. But my house is in Westover so that was a long walk so I drove. I essentially left Arlington as my permanent abode around the same time as Whitey’s demise. No fun to drive in Arlington now. I’ll be there sometime later in the Spring so maybe there can be a Ricochet meetup arranged.

    Love to do that–even on a small scale. I generally avoid the area now, but recall the Glebe Theatre as being white with pillars adorning the front. My grocery–one of those IGA franchises–was down the street a bit, across from a People’s drug store (when those existed).

    Last time I was in that area I think the Buckingham Apartments were being renovated. Be interesting to see that.

    • #12
    • February 28, 2020, at 1:41 PM PST
    • Like
  13. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge

    This is off topic but I have an irrational hatred of signs that say EAT. I can’t explain this but it may have stemmed from the time I was looking at a lot of house magazines and seeing pictures of people with stupid phrases on their walls like no coffee no workee or something fatuous about love. But I’ve a particular loathing for big lettered signs that say EAT in a kitchen. I’ve also seen SLEEP in a bedroom. Unless you’re in a residential unit and you have dementia I can’t see what these are supposed to achieve. They sound bossy and they look pretentious. I’d give them some credit if they carried the theme into the bathroom but funnily enough no one has an enormous instruction over the toilet.

    • #13
    • February 29, 2020, at 5:24 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. Architectus Coolidge

    Wow, I remember and miss Whitey’s. Went there often in the 80’s and 90’s. The last owners, Calvin and Linda Seville, lived up the street from me, and the demise of that institution was tragic. If I recall correctly, part of (most of?) the reason was due to the changing neighborhood. Though Whitey’s was there long before, the new residents disliked the loud, late music and the crowds who often parked in the surrounding neighborhood. (Reminds me of those geniuses that buy a home at the end of an airport runway, then start complaining about the noise and seeking to limit flights. Really?!?) Pressure with the County (The Peoples Republic of Arlington) ensued, and they were forced to close earlier and limit the music. Eventually it was bankruptcy, and they had to sell their house as well in the process. A classic neighborhood bar was ruined by the (new) neighborhood. Sad. 

    • #14
    • February 29, 2020, at 8:04 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. Architectus Coolidge

    Marjorie Reynolds (View Comment):
    But I’ve a particular loathing for big lettered signs that say EAT in a kitchen.

    OK, totally understand the distaste for those signs in the home. But chalk this up as another case where Boomers thru Millennials ruined a perfectly good commercial advertising scheme by making it into domestic kitsch, trying to be cool. The trend continues if you are still inclined to read the home magazines, where the most hideous “art” is considered the crowning touch. 

    • #15
    • February 29, 2020, at 8:15 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  16. Bob Thompson Member

    Architectus (View Comment):

    Wow, I remember and miss Whitey’s. Went there often in the 80’s and 90’s. The last owners, Calvin and Linda Seville, lived up the street from me, and the demise of that institution was tragic. If I recall correctly, part of (most of?) the reason was due to the changing neighborhood. Though Whitey’s was there long before, the new residents disliked the loud, late music and the crowds who often parked in the surrounding neighborhood. (Reminds me of those geniuses that buy a home at the end of an airport runway, then start complaining about the noise and seeking to limit flights. Really?!?) Pressure with the County (The Peoples Republic of Arlington) ensued, and they were forced to close earlier and limit the music. Eventually it was bankruptcy, and they had to sell their house as well in the process. A classic neighborhood bar was ruined by the (new) neighborhood. Sad.

    Iota’s in Clarendon is another music venue recently closed due to neighborhood changes. My son, a blues musician who lives in Arlington, lost one of his favorite places to play.

    • #16
    • February 29, 2020, at 8:48 AM PST
    • 1 like
  17. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    A tasty, satisfying post worth chewing over and digesting at leisure.

    This post is part of our Group Writing Series under the February 2020 Group Writing Theme: “Advice.” Thanks to all who signed up, filling the month with advice of all sorts. Next month’s theme is “Working;” stop by and sign up now.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #17
    • February 29, 2020, at 4:25 PM PST
    • 1 like
  18. Doctor Robert Member

    We had broasted chicken, from Fairchild’s Broasted Chicken of Thomaston, CT, at my first wedding (8/4/79). Joyce and I were not rolling in dough and neither were her folks. It was really good.

    • #18
    • February 29, 2020, at 4:31 PM PST
    • 1 like
  19. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon

    A bit of a reach now, but space prevented me from getting into Whitey’s move to a really small musical stage in the ’80s, noted by @architectus above. Originally, it was solo acts (later bands), including one of the many largely unknown amazing guitarists in our country, Pete Kennedy:

    • #19
    • February 29, 2020, at 4:43 PM PST
    • Like
  20. Lilly B Coolidge

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Architectus (View Comment):

    Wow, I remember and miss Whitey’s. Went there often in the 80’s and 90’s. The last owners, Calvin and Linda Seville, lived up the street from me, and the demise of that institution was tragic. If I recall correctly, part of (most of?) the reason was due to the changing neighborhood. Though Whitey’s was there long before, the new residents disliked the loud, late music and the crowds who often parked in the surrounding neighborhood. (Reminds me of those geniuses that buy a home at the end of an airport runway, then start complaining about the noise and seeking to limit flights. Really?!?) Pressure with the County (The Peoples Republic of Arlington) ensued, and they were forced to close earlier and limit the music. Eventually it was bankruptcy, and they had to sell their house as well in the process. A classic neighborhood bar was ruined by the (new) neighborhood. Sad.

    Iota’s in Clarendon is another music venue recently closed due to neighborhood changes. My son, a blues musician who lives in Arlington, lost one of his favorite places to play.

    So where does he play? Clarendon is so totally different. You can get a burger at a place where the waiters where plaid flannel ironically. Burgers are good though. 

    • #20
    • February 29, 2020, at 6:29 PM PST
    • Like
  21. Bob Thompson Member

    Lilly B (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Architectus (View Comment):

    Wow, I remember and miss Whitey’s. Went there often in the 80’s and 90’s. The last owners, Calvin and Linda Seville, lived up the street from me, and the demise of that institution was tragic. If I recall correctly, part of (most of?) the reason was due to the changing neighborhood. Though Whitey’s was there long before, the new residents disliked the loud, late music and the crowds who often parked in the surrounding neighborhood. (Reminds me of those geniuses that buy a home at the end of an airport runway, then start complaining about the noise and seeking to limit flights. Really?!?) Pressure with the County (The Peoples Republic of Arlington) ensued, and they were forced to close earlier and limit the music. Eventually it was bankruptcy, and they had to sell their house as well in the process. A classic neighborhood bar was ruined by the (new) neighborhood. Sad.

    Iota’s in Clarendon is another music venue recently closed due to neighborhood changes. My son, a blues musician who lives in Arlington, lost one of his favorite places to play.

    So where does he play? Clarendon is so totally different. You can get a burger at a place where the waiters where plaid flannel ironically. Burgers are good though.

    Check bobbytmusic.net for his scheduled shows.

    • #21
    • February 29, 2020, at 8:29 PM PST
    • 1 like