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Friday, January 27, 2012

Capital City Diner Closing

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They posted a letter on their site. Stop by and say goodbye between 7am and 6pm Saturday and Sunday (1050 Bladensburg Road). It's sad news, but it's a tough economy, and (with help from Harry Thomas Jr.) a Denny's recently opened up down the street. That can't have helped.

55 comments:

ro said...

This makes me sad. I know it's difficult to make a restaurant successful, but I really thought this place would survive, especially with the new project down the block getting closer to completion. Anyone know what Matt means when he says he's going to ``reformat'' the place? maybe he can find a way to differentiate the diner from Denny's. maybe switching to higher end, organic food. There really aren't that many places in the area to get a sit-down breakfast (or lunch for that matter).

East_H said...

There MUST be a way for the diner to survive. With the Flats going in right across this street, surely business will pick up?

Would also like to hear what's meant by "reformatting"... Matt, please don't leave the area as your recent tweets have suggested. We (the diner and the neighborhood) can work this out!

Ryan said...

According to the post on DCist (http://dcist.com/2012/01/capital_city_diner_closes.php):

"Ashburn said that future plans for the diner itself and the location were up in the air, and that they were in discussions with the landlord to see if someone could take over the space."

It sounds like they're definitely getting out. A sad end to a great idea.

Chris said...

It breaks my heart. But I knew the writing was on the wall when the Denny's opened. Many, many times since the Denny's opened, I have driven by at lunchtime and seen Denny's parking lot more or less full, then gone into the Diner and found not one customer inside.

WAfuls said...

Noooooooooo! So so sad. I will definitely miss this icon and their great waffles with eggs :(

Anonymous said...

I'll definitely miss this as an option, but sometimes the idea of this place was better than the execution. More than a handful of times, usually later in the evenings, I was there and had completely incompetent service and poor quality food.

They seemed to make big improvements in the last few months though, and when it was good it was really good.

Hope it can be reborn in this location.

charles said...

I wanted the diner to succeed and gave it numerous chances. Anyone who thought that was home cooking, your mom must not have spent much time in the kitchen.

Re: the remark about Thomas ... If he did have anything to do with Denny's opening, it was one of the few times he was doing his job. I don't like Denny's but clearly a lot of people who live nearby do like it.

inked said...

Charles,
HTJ was quote in local press as saying that he handpicked the Denny's location.

Anonymous said...

Another shining example of a BS chain killing local business. I am a frequent customer of Cap City and I am extremely upset by this news. Furthermore, anyone who prefers Dennys over Cap City is smoking crack. Oh wait, they probably are...

I really hope Cap City will reappear in some form or another and stay in the area.

Anonymous said...

Cosign Anonymous @ 1:46. The diner stumbled while adjusting some in the first year but then really tightened up ship and been on point every time I came in the last 6 months.

Its a shame and wish Matt/Sheryl/Silvia/everyone else the best.

Kenny G said...

Quoth my son upon hearing the news:

But, what about my big happy fat boy?

Thank you Cap City Diner. You will be missed.

Anonymous said...

This is awful news, hopefully the Diner will remain and someone or group will take over and keep it going.
The place has charm and offers a unique experience that can't be matched.

Apple Pie said...

I love the idea of a neighbor diner but Dennys is better and cheaper and therefore the successor. I will always pick CCD over Dennys. I hope Matt finds a way to open it back up.

Anonymous said...

This was our late night hang out after a night of partying when the urge for some WAFulls hit. Sad to see it go, you'll be missed.

dave b said...

Is there just not enough foot traffic in that area? Sullivan's closed and that place was good the time or two i went there.

Its a shame these places couldnt stick it out. I would think better times are ahead. The diner had a pretty short life for all the effort that went in to starting it up. I doubt they will just throw in the towel. We'll see...

inked said...

Dave B,
Sullivan's was a different deal. He did a lot of catering, but had really irregular hours. That made it tough to patronize his business.

Anonymous said...

The hours were really poor and the booths were exceptionally uncomfortable--either very saggy, no padding on the springs, crooked, etc--really uncomfortable. It didn't help that the staff was watching TV and that they didn't have proper working A/C or heat. Additionally, its still not in a safely walkable area at certain times of day--which would be when you are hungry for dinner so that may have lessened traffic. Likewise, if their main customer was local residents with low income from that area north of Benning or in Trinidad--Denny's is cheaper for them to frequent now.

Kyle Russell said...

The place failed because it couldn't generate or sustain high traffic. It was uncomfortable, cramped, poorly staffed and the food was so so. A diner is meant to be chill and bustling all at the same time. A body bringing you food is not the same as a short order cook with flare, shouting out orders and servers not missing a beat. Give up on the "I can fit a whole diner in a trailer" idea and open it up. Hire staff that is well spoken, on time, and looks like they don't hate the customers, and if that means working it yourself as the owner, then great, get it done. What I saw was someone cutting corners, buying things they thought were nifty like slushy machines, and not having a presence in their own business. Sad to see what could have been a great idea die off though, since if we're being honest, Denny's is crap.

inked said...

Kyle,
They built a whole area out back. It opened maybe a year ago. Shortly before that they overhauled the staff. The owner did work there. He has since the beginning. He's even in the background of this photo. Also, that trailer was a whole diner for almost 60 years, so clearly one can fit a whole diner in there. The food is a matter of taste, but I think it got better after some initial hiccups. I've never been a huge fan of Denny's, so we can agree there but most of you criticisms of the diner seem a bit off-base to me.

curmudgeon said...

The Diner had some of my favorite fried chicken in the city -- the pieces weren't huge, but the seasoning was great. Superior to the Hitching Post, almost (but not quite) as good as Blue & White in Alexandria or the quirky-but-yummy fried chicken at sadly passed Ray's East of the River. Now the only places I know to go to get chicken and waffles are upscale places in or near downtown that sell it for prices that aren't remotely worth it.

The area never felt particularly unsafe to me -- it's not Tenleytown, but I was never worried.

I will miss the Diner so much.

stersesa said...

Last time I checked, Denny's didn't sneak into their kitchen and steal their ground beef. What kind of diner is ever out of cheeseburgers? Especially when there's a Safeway across the street?

inked said...

Stersesa,
As I don't see any other references to the diner being out of ground beef I'm going to assume that you mean they ran out today. It that's the case, I can easily understand why they would not want to over order for closing weekend. Judging from the fact that I heard they only had three orders left of chicken fried steak this morning, they are probably out of that too. When you are trying to exhaust your supplies right before you shut down your business you aren't going to rush out and pay inflated prices at Safeway.

Anonymous said...

I like diners, but didn't patronize this one because of the lack of parking.

tiffanyc said...

i agree with a lot of the commenters here..the diner was just a little disappointing. i was excited at the idea but, it never lived up to a true diner experience. they had odd hours and small portions. i made the conscious decision a few weeks ago to bypass denny's and try them out again. and the food was good, (and somebody's chicken and waffles looked OUTSTANDING) but i left feeling like my bacon slices were purposely counted...and those booths were the WORST!

denny's isn't the problem. they have been struggling for a while. and it is unfortunate because i would have loved for this to have become a new landmark in the neighborhood. if they had good food, generous portions and friendly service people would go there regardless of how close denny's is. the diner scene is just not a dc thing.

Anonymous said...

There is parking on each side of Bladensburg Road. And to those throwing out statements like, "It isn't a safe area", or "Hire staff that is well spoken, on time, and looks like they don't hate the customers", are you sure you are not confusing perception with fact?

inked said...

Tiffanyc,
The booths were definitely vintage. This also means that the average American was a tad slimmer when those booths were built. That might be why some people have a hard time squeezing in 4 to a booth. I've never had a problem with portion sizes at the diner. I typically find that I take half my meal home. I think people are mentioning the Denny's bk the owner of the diner stated in an interview that revenues have been down about 20% since the Denny's opened.

Annoyingmous said...

"The lack of parking"? Are you kidding me?

Jeebus.

Anonymous said...

I really can't understand all the complaints about the food and service. I've been there numerous times and the food was always great. Sure service could be a bit slow at times, but never unfriendly, and frankly, I don't want to feel rushed anyway. As long as I had my $7 bottomless mimosa I could give a crap how slow the service was.

And yes, the booths were a bit saggy, but I felt they were part of the charm. If you want a place with brand new booths, huge obese-size portions and a giant parking lot, go out to the suburbs. Or the Dennys up the street....which, in my opinion, belongs in the suburbs, not cluttering up space in our neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Denny's is disgusting.

Scott said...

Matt; way to go for it. I hope you learned many lessons that you can apply towards your next adventure(s)!

curmudgeon said...

My gf and I were the first customers in this morning. I had my last chicken and waffles there. What a bummer.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Inked, we get it: You're a fan of the diner. That doesn't mean everyone is. There's no need to put up a weak, overly defensive rebuttal of every poster who says something negative about it.

Anonymous said...

The owner was talking to us today, and said they were denied a business loan from the city... who instead decided to grant $800,000 in aid to the Ihop in Columbia Heights. Wooo, supporting small businesses.

Annoyingmous said...

Anon 5:22pm -- We get it: you weren't a fan of the diner. That doesn't mean that everyone else wasn't. There's no need to describe positive posts about it, which have often served the purpose of correcting simple factual inaccuracies in this discussion, as "weak, overly defensive rebuttals."

John said...

ANON 5:22 PM -- There are plenty of people who have posted in favor of the diner, so don't pin that on Inked.

Sorry the place didn't meet your expectations. Sorry you couldn't fit inside of the booths. Sorry for all of the problems you've had with the place. For complainers like you, there is Denny's.

John said...

Matt and ANON 5:44 PM -- Is there any way that we can petition the city for assistance. The diner was the best business to settle on Bladensburg Road since I've been here (2006), and I know that my neighbors were happy to see it come in, even if they were not frequent patrons. There are spillover benefits to having a business that is open during evening hours and hires locally.

Anonymous said...

Move it to H St west end. Everyone walking to from the metro, the two, no, three high end apt/condo buildings, the lack of anything similar in terms of hours or cuisine ... no brainer

Anonymous said...

So, what we can take away from this thread is that the fat people should just park their asses at Denny's, and the others can talk about how great a place they never bothered to patronize regularly was. H STREET GREAT STREET.

Tubbs said...

"The owner was talking to us today, and said they were denied a business loan from the city... who instead decided to grant $800,000 in aid to the Ihop in Columbia Heights. Wooo, supporting small businesses."

This should be the basis for a new season of The Wire.

Anonymous said...

Curmudgeon
Rays the Steaks East of the River did reopen last Thursday and it looks even better. Its worth the 10 minutes trip down Benning Road for that smoked fied chicken. They even have BBQ smoked checken now..

monkeyrotica said...

When is that Walmart opening off New York Avenue? Just move the diner to the parking lot: plenty of parking, and a captive audience, although they'll have to widen the booths.

Anonymous said...

Do not move it to the west end of H St. I do not want to live by a trailer. That thing is an eye sore in an urban landscape.

Tom A. said...

wow. sad news. It was the only good place for early morning breakfast! I hope they can either sell the business or come back in another form. Maybe they need to start selling 10 cents worth of ramen noodles to hipsers for 10 bucks. That, somehow, seems to be a more successful business model.

Anonymous said...

This is really a shame, my wife and I have loved going to the diner ever since it opened. Regarding Kyle's comment--I saw Matt the owner there almost every single time that I went. He was most definitely a hands on owner. I do hope that he can re-open soon and find a format that works!

Anonymous said...

Do we need to pile on? Maybe, just maybe, the weekend it closes, we can be nice to folks to put everything they had into a diner they ran for 2 years? A diner, or any business, takes a lot of blood sweat and tears. Plenty of time to armchair qb this without salt in the oh so fresh wound...I'm sure it stings at least a bit even if plans were up in the air.

Thank you for being part of the neighborhood and good luck in your next venture.

tiffanyc said...

inked,

i didn't say i had to SQUEEZE into the booth. let' not make assumptions about my size...or appetite. i said they were uncomfortable. they were old. and while it was cute and charming to use an old diner car, they should have been replaced or reupholstered in the move. when you go to a diner in jersey or new york, you can't find the bottom of your potatoes and the bacon is just a nondescript pile. that's the diner experience i referred to. there was nothing about the capitol city diner that distinguished itself from a home cooked breakfast. not even the service or atmosphere. so what would bring a person back over and over? (like why i may stop reading this blog because you called me fat and greedy...) and once the hours was change, then the convenience factor was lost. i work on h street. and i try my best to patron our businesses, but i an also recognize why one didn't succeed. i also operate a food business and i have seen my own costs increase tremendously so i know what he was up against. but, other establishments were able to weather through with a better formula.

inked said...

Tiffanyc,
I know you just said the booths were uncomfortable. I was acknowledging that the padding might have slipped over the years with the vintage bit. Other people had mentioned that the booths were too small and felt cramped. I think it's a tight squeeze with four people. I was just trying to fit responses to more than one comment into one reply. No offense intended. I definitely wasn't trying to get personal.

Anonymous said...

I really liked that place. The portions weren't huge but they were decently sized and priced accordingly. The fat boy breakfast was less than $9.00 and filled you up accordingly. I'm having trouble with the notion that they were more expensive than Denny's. Lunch for two was usually under $25.00.

I thought that the service was fine. It wasn't rushed and it wasn't obsequious, but it was nice. I'll miss the place.

Anonymous said...

Wow, from the complaints here I now know why the diner failed: they overestimated the fortitude of their customer base.

Seriously, some of you guys are weak sauce and should get to the suburbs already. Enjoy your TGI Friday's on H Street.

H. Lamarr said...

and how often did you patronize the establishment? At the end of the day it was a business model that failed, and I've not seen any substantive evidence that it was the arrival of Denny's that led to the failure.

I went to the diner about a dozen times, from right at its opening to about three weeks ago. I would love for it to have succeeded, but every single time I went, the food was merely passable, while the service was grossly incompetent, to put it mildly. I kept going, hoping for improvement in one of those categories. You can have average to below average food and you can have crappy service. You can't have both and expect to make a go of it.

The owner may very well have miscalculated the volume of drunk hipsters willing to make the trek up Bladensburg from H. That's not my problem, and speaks to nothing regarding my "fortitude" as a customer. Moreover, the notion that a customer of any business needs to have fortitude of any kind is ludicrous. You either have a business that works, or you don't.

Anonymous said...

DERP. So much ignorance and misguided idiocy on display in this thread in so many forms. Fun times. Thank you, FT commenters, you never disappoint.

NiggaPlz said...

Very few have a firm grasp on what it costs to run a food establishment. It's not just the startup costs (build out, code compliance) or recurring costs (insurance, rent, food supply, equipment supply, staff) but the random costs. Commercial rat abatement? Emergency fryer repair? $500 here, $500 there...it starts to add up.

There are a number of ways to generate profit despite all of this: high margin products and/or customer volume. Bacon and eggs ain't gonna cut it. And that tiny diner could never do the volume necessary to sustain its costs.

Anonymous said...

60% of restaurants fail, we don't need to play armchair entrepreneur with this

Anonymous said...

Annon 1:38:00 PM:

I would prefer a Chili's --- hold the weak sauce.

kapricious1 said...

Good luck to you, Matt. Thanks for your efforts. You'll be missed, small booths and all.