Young and Hungry

Former Used-Car Lot in Trinidad to Get a New Ride — a Diner Car

A man named Matt W. Ashburn e-mailed the paper this morning, alerting us to the fact that he and his business partner have just bought a 1940s-era diner and plan to move it to their Trinidad neighborhood, where it will come to rest at the former location of a used-car lot that Mayor Fenty shut down last November.

Well, that's enough to capture your attention.

I got Ashburn on the phone this afternoon and learned that he's a first-time restaurateur who really just wants to give his Northeast neighborhood a "good sit-down" eatery. Ashburn, a former FBI analyst who now does contract work for another agency, is in the process of moving the old diner down from its previous perch in Avoca, a tiny burg in upstate New York.

"It's a small town that doesn't really have enough population to support" two different restaurants, including the diner, Ashburn tells Y&H.

Ashburn and his housemate/business partner, Patrick Carl, found the diner on eBay after Carl started mocking his roomie over his attempts to build a cheesesteak cart right in their place. Ashburn drove up to Avoca after work one day and met the diner owner's brother-in-law in the middle of the night. "I instantly fell in love with it, and it's something D.C. will love, too," Ashburn says.

The diner, manufactured in 1947 by the Paterson Vehicle Company, is in excellent condition, despite the fact that it has been operating from 1949 until about "three months ago" in its Avoca location. Ashburn says it needs some roof repairs and "a good, deep cleaning" to be ready, once again, to serve up short-order fare.

Once the 40-foot car comes to rest in Trinidad, Ashburn believes it will instantly become the first true diner in the District. He may be right. The chrome-heavy American City Diner on Connecticut Avenue NW looks like a classic car from the '50s, but it was built in the late '80s by owner Jeffrey Gildenhorn, who was looking to recreate the look of a period diner. There is, of course, the Tastee Diner in Silver Spring, which includes the prefab body of an original 1946 Jerry O'Mahoney diner, but that obviously doesn't count in Ashburn's District-only accounting.

Whether it's the District first real diner or not, Ashburn and Carl's Capital City Diner will at least be a welcome addition to Trinidad. The partners still have work to do before opening — including hooking up utilities to a site where the previous owners were poaching water and electricity — but they expect to start serving up meals in a few months. Carl will serve as cook.

And what should diners expect at Capital City Diner?

"We don't have a chef, we have cooks," Ashburn says. "The theme is very simple. It's a diner."

  • http://twitter.com/monkeyrotica monkeyrotica

    PLEASE do not f**k this up with "contemporary interpretations of classic diner fare" like "Deconstructed Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes" where you get a plate of steak tartare, artisanal catsup, a side of potato "foam," and for dessert, a creme brulee junkpunch. $37.95.

  • http://www.twitter.com/capcitydiner Matt Ashburn

    Monkey, you have nothing to worry about. We're gonna be a true diner. Almost everything will be under $10, and we're aiming for *consistent* good food, reasonable prices, and friendly service.

  • http://twitter.com/monkeyrotica monkeyrotica

    You now have a regular customer.

    Now, about that whole "friendly service" thing. I don't go to diners to make friends. I go there to be treated like an annoying yet loveable distant relative. Real authentic Jersey/Connecticut diners are known for their surly waitstaff, usually bluehaired ladies who are happy to tell you where you can stick your "where's my refill?" This is part and parcel of diner kultur. I'd much rather be abused by a good-natured diner professional than some parttime a$$clown who can't tell rye from wheat and who can't wait for their shift to end so they can get to their audition for the role of Rum-tum-tugger in the local production of "Cats."

  • Dan Riley

    I cosign monkeyrotica.

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  • http://brooklandavenue,com/blog/ Tyler

    This is great, I can't wait. I agree with monkeyrotica about the surly staff that is part of the charm. Every time I used to go the Taste Diner in Silver Spring (Before it moved thanks discovery :() It was the staff that kept it interesting, that and the scrapple burgers

  • J.Conway

    Monkey I thought you were just a DCist snark-commenter at large, but you are electronically ubiquitous.

  • http://twitter.com/monkeyrotica monkeyrotica

    Great. DCRA refuses to approve the diner's foundation, so they issue a stop work order.

    This is why you can't have nice things.

  • WOV

    Wait, where is this going? No street address in either the article or on the diner's webpage?

    Check out MGM Roast Beef at 905 Brentwood Road, BTW - doing much better than you might have expected in a similar locale...

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  • rockcreek

    There have been several diners in D.C., but they're all long gone:

    http://www.victoriansecrets.net/lost%20dc%20diners.html

  • Chris S

    This is trippy; I've eaten at this diner! I grew up about 25 minutes from Avoca, NY.

  • Don S.

    I live 25 minutes for the diner. I was sad to hear it had closed. Now I will have to visit my son to eat at the diner.

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  • J

    I can see it now...long lines of people waiting hours to eat at an authentic diner. I think its a great idea but will probably be tough to snag a seat.

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  • mike e

    I run a website http://www.nydiners.com While I'm sad to see the diner leave New York State, I'm happy to see two such enthusiastic owners will be caring for this diner! All the best of luck! And, in an ironic twist of fate, I'm going to be visiting diners in northern Virginie this Sunday, so I'm definitely going to be swinging by to take some photos!

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  • Max Hodog

    CAFE! secrets. Good to see you still working at it. I personally am looking forward to double fried nights and to-go cups once more!

  • http://zdorikrasota.ru Марк

    Тема старая конечно , но прочитал с удовольствием :)

  • http://geraldicka.ru Бронислав

    Действительно отличный блог! Спасибо и… разумеется, пишите еще!

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  • http://www.autoplox.com Exotic Car

    I just now realize that I have to learn alot. you are a genius.

  • http://www.kyliecouric.com Kylie Couric

    This is informative. :) Thanks. oh, i find some commends funny :)

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