The Little Tavern That Could

Reprinted with permission from Quirks. Quirks was a free, bimonthly magazine. “QUIRKS was where you’d find the silly and the sacred, the interesting and the unusual in a community right outside of our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.”

If you’d like to know more, some of their webpages are archived here.

I’m afraid the scan I have of this article, from the mid 1990s, clipped the bottom of the text off, so there’s a bit missing. Some of the facts seem a bit off as well, but I hope you enjoy it. Note the “Toddle House” sign on the Bethesda Location in the top photos. The other two are the two locations once in Silver Spring.

Once there were dozens in the country. Now, there’s only one. “Club LT,” you might have called it. For more than three generations, the Little Tavern Shops were a classic Washington hangout. Mention the name to anyone living here during their teen-age or 20-something years and the stories will pour forth about late night “death burgers” after a night on the town. The chain prided itself on dishing up food 24 hours a day to all sorts of people- businessmen, shoppers or locals just killing time. The motto “buy ’em by the bag, ” once emblazened in neon over every sho, lured the hungry to feast on the trademark tiny burgers that could be gulped down in a few bites.

The chain was started in St. Louis in 1924 by Harry F. Duncan. He moved to the Washington area several years later, settled in Silver Spring, and began opening his distinctive green-roofed restaurants. His “baby beef burgers” were a hit, and by the 1940s there were nearly 50 Little Tavern Shops in our area. . .
A few originals still remain, on New Hampshire Avenue in Northwest Washington, on Route 1 in Laurel, and on Viers Mill Road in Wheaton. For 67 cents a burger (vs. 5 cents in 1928!), you can still take home a sack, although the logo on the bag is long gone.

An authentic Little Tavern Shop is instantly recognizable. Cute and tiny, it looks like a dollhouse set amongst the big buildings of the urban landscape. . . Designed in the period just before World War II, Little Tavern restaurants were one of the first carry-out restaurants in the area.

Inside, the lights are bright, the floors and walls are tile, and the counter is Formica. No booths – the place is too small. . .

. . .have been stripped of many of their unique features, the distinctive colors painted over. However, one converted location – “Ollie’s” on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring- has retained the charm of the original, both inside and out. It gleams with the loving attention poured into it. . .


2 thoughts on “The Little Tavern That Could

  1. Have you heard about Jax on the Tracks in Truckee, CA? My folks eat there all the time. The place was moved several years ago from it’s original location in West Chester, PA (where my family also used to live!)

    It’s a pretty neat story. You shoudl check it out:

  2. Pingback: Little Tavern Locations- Updated List « Diner Hunter

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