Diner Find: Peter’s Carry Out

You would never know to look at it from the street. For years I’ve been going to Potter’s and Weaver’s violin shop, which share a back parking lot with Peter’s. For years I’ve been going to the Tastee just a few blocks away, and I’ve stood under the awning of Peter’s to shield my camera from glare while taking pictures of the former Little Tavern located right across the street. But for whatever reason, I’ve never looked inside.
Photobucket

But sure enough, back in behind the facade of this little shopping strip lies a surprise. A long row of stools and a barrel roof. Whereas all the other buildings in this strip have basements, Peter’s does not. The barrel roof visible on the inside of the diner, is finished for exterior use on the top side, in a space which is now an attic, with the long ago addition of a flat roof, flush with the rest of the businesses on that street. Google satellite photos show a clear seam on either side of Peter’s. All that confirms that Peter’s was not built on site, but was something “other” from the fabric of the streetscape, brought in from somewhere else and set up.

Now let’s take a look at the building itself. Old newspaper articles talk about Maryland being a haven for streetcar-turned-diner conversions in the depression era. Most disappeared as soon as the owners were able to scrape together enough money to buy a proper factory built diner. Take the fomer State Diner in Baltimore, for example, which was a trolley diner until it was replaced with the current secondhand 1930s Silk City in the early 1950s (the Silk City was the original Laurel Diner- now the Tastee). Here’s another interesting Maryland trolley to diner conversion.
With a trolley conversion, like the White Diner or the Crossroads Dinor you would expect to find curved ends. While the original front wall of Peter’s has been punched out to allow more light from the storefront and more seating, it’s clear that the end walls (the one in back as well) are flat, but with curved corners, which makes me think it is far more likely that this was a factory built-purpose built diner.

Photobucket

The ends of the diner have a curve running perpendicular to that of the main barrel, similar to a Silk City roof, not like, say, a ’20s O’Mahony or Tierney. The roof has a distinctive profile- not a smooth curve, but one that has steeper slopes on the sides and a flatter roof. The closest thing I can think of with this particular roofline is a very early, narrow Silk City model. A surviving example would be the West Shore Diner. There is also an abandoned diner of this Silk City model in Montana (formerly Gordy’s) and the Miss Jersey City diner, now long gone.

Here is a picture of the interior of the West Shore for comparison. The Silk City is wider, but the similarities in the barrel roof are notable. Same profile, same curve at the ends. With all the years of modification and renovation at Peter’s, though, the definition of the barrel profile could have been somewhat lost, making real identification difficult. The shape, though, is undeniably that of a diner.
Photobucket

The backbar gives insight into its history, but not its origin. Custom-Bilt National Toddle House, Inc.
Photobucket

The patent numbers, from 1933 and 1934, correspond to the backbar equipment which was found in all Toddle House restaurants at the time. And sure enough, this building had a long stretch operating as a Toddle House.
Photobucket

Toddle House was yet another diner-concept early fast food place, similar in its early days to White Tower, Little Tavern, etc. Like Little Tavern, they used a very small tudor cottage style building. While Little Tavern had the counter oriented perpendicular to the front facade, Toddle House had theirs, diner style, parallel to the front. So for a restaurant which was just stools and a grill, it’s easy to understand why, and how they would take over a barrel roof diner like this. It also means that the first of many renovations, disguising the diner’s true origins, took place 75 years ago, when the diner itself was still relatively new.
Photobucket

And here are some news stories from the late 1950s, mentioning it as a Toddle House.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Peter’s Carry out has a website!
It’s located at 8017 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814

Bethesda, MD Little Tavern

Here are some photos my dad took yesterday of the Bethesda Little Tavern.

From Cerphe of WHFS:
Here’s the deal: i was lucky enough to interview jerry garcia on 3 occasions and one of the times in 1977 at whfs in bethesda, garcia along with several people in his posse along with weasel, a fellow dj on hfs, walked down cordell avenue to the little tavern near the intersection of woodmont and cordell. they had the munchies…go figure.

the group is lumbering down the sidwalk when suddenly approached by several stoners whom intently stare at them, eyes dialate and collective jaws drop. after being speechless for a moment…one points and says………..’look……….it’s WEASEL……..!’

the stoners didn’t even notice jerry garcia, but it was a very big deal to see weasel. like ships passing in the night, the two groups went their separate ways, garcia remained invisible and managed to get his little tavern burgers , return to the studio and join me on my show.

couple footnotes…being vegetarian, there wasn’t much for me to eat at club LT, so i hadn’t put in a lobster lollie or burger order (ha!) AND seeing as i couldn’t leave the studio (i was on-air and not on the sidewalk where this hunter thompson-esque caper went down) i didn’t witness it. the story was told to me after the fact, so some urban legend, revisionist history could be at work here.

at this point, both little tavern AND jerry garcia have left the building…so no harm.

DC / MD diner trip – May 24, 2009

This was my first real diner trip in a while. I met up today with Mike Engle, author of Diners of New York; the man behind NYdiners.com, and roadside buff and frequent Zippy the Pinhead contributor Ed Engel at the American City Diner, and headed out from there.

The first stop of the day was the American City Diner of 5532 Connecticut Ave NW Washington, DC. It’s a late ’80s Kullman, one of the early retro-styled diners, and one of the ones that did it right. For some photos as it appeared when new, click here. Since then, it’s been added on to, with a large side addition, and a front porch which obscures everything to the left of the vestibule.
Photobucket

The Left side of the diner- 2009
Photobucket
The left side of the diner – 1989
Photobucket

The former Howard Theater. Great rusty marquis on this one.
Photobucket

Photobucket

The now abandoned Wonderbread / Hostess Factory

Photobucket

Photobucket

Ran into a little excitement along the way between these two stops, but all’s well that ends well.

Northeast Academy of Dance Neon sign. Look at the detail at the left hand corner of the sign.
Photobucket

We hit up the Capital City Diner, which was moved here on the 20th. Watch the video of it being moved. This Silk City, formerly of Avoca New York, has made its way to the Trinidad neighborhood of Northeast DC.
Photos at its original location and some backstory can be found at :A Real Historic Diner Coming to DC!

Photobucket

Photobucket

This next leg of the trip had some neat neon and signage

A&R Auto Parts
Photobucket

Syd’s Drive In / Liquor
Photobucket

Cross Roads
Photobucket

Tesst theater
Photobucket

Hyattsville Hardware / Franklin’s
Photobucket

Calvert House
Photobucket

Silver Spring’s old Canada Dry bottling plant
Photobucket

A quick stop at the Silver Spring Tastee was made.

Now
Photobucket

Then
Photobucket
More old photos can be found here.

Then a side trip to Forest Glen, parts of which have deteriorated greatly since my last visit.
Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Dinner at the Tastee Diner in Bethesda
Photobucket

Then
Photobucket

And the trip’s final stop at Bethesda’s former Little Tavern. A 1990 photo of it, when it was still a Little Tavern, can be found on the Diner Hotline.

Photobucket

Photobucket

The American City Diner – Washington DC

I have a couple more posts of these old slide scans to go.

The American City diner was built by Kullman in 1989, and was one of the first old style diners to be built. And it really nailed the look. Just take a look at the photos. With the exception of larger dimensions, the detailing and proportions were kept essentially the same as a ’40s model. It’s beauty was in its simplicity, the design was clean and beautiful. Based on pictures of them from when they were built, this one and the Silver Diner in Rockville are my two favorites from this era of diners.

Photobucket
Photo is copyright Michael G. Stewart

Photobucket
Photo is copyright Michael G. Stewart

Photobucket
Photo is copyright Michael G. Stewart

Photobucket
Photo is copyright Michael G. Stewart

Photobucket
Photo is copyright Michael G. Stewart

Photobucket
Photo is copyright Michael G. Stewart

And here’s how it looks now. An awning has been added, obscuring the roof stainless work. The roof has been painted blue and red, a signboard has been added to the vestibule. A googie-esque addition has been added to the left hand side, as has a now closed in patio seating area, entirely covering the diner to the left of the vestibule. Everything about the diner has so much added onto it that the diner that was installed in 1989 is hardly recognizable.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Tastee Diner, Bethesda, Maryland

While I’m on Tastee diners, and while I still have access to my dad’s slide archive, let’s take a quick look at the Tastee over in Bethesda, an old O’Mahony.

Photobucket
Here’s how it looked back in the early ’80s?, before the roof was added, before the addition was put in, before the building went up behind it, before the sign was taken down.

Photobucket
Here’s what it looks like now. It hasn’t changed much outside since this photo was taken. This photo isn’t mine, but none of mine were from the correct angle to roughly match the old one.

Photobucket
a little closer in.

Tastee Diner, Laurel, Maryland

As far as diners within a reasonable drive go, the Tastee in Laurel is my favorite. Great food, served fast in a nicely designed diner by a rare maker, Comac. The Tastee sits on an island of land between US 1 North and US 1 South, with entrances to the parking lot from both sides. It sits with the old train station to its right, and the old Little Tavern to its left. The kitchen, a small dining room, and the T.D. Lounge are all housed in the original brick addition.

This Tastee Diner was built by Comac in 1951, and replaced an earlier monitor roof diner at the location. The manufacturer is rare as they were only in business for four years or so. Their tag is found above the door. It opened as the Laurel Diner, but was bought by the local diner chain, Tastee Diner, which once had locations in Fairfax, Va, Rockville, MD, Bethesda, MD and Silver Spring, MD, as well as sponsoring an award winning duckpin bowling team after WWII. The Fairfax location is now known by its original name, the 29 diner, the Rockville location is long gone, but the Silver Spring and Bethesda ones are still going strong.

The two original neon signs still stand on either end of the diner, a silhouetted chef perpetually beckoning hungry travelers. The sign’s original neon reading “Laurel” is long since replaced with “Tastee”. The sign also originally read “Air Conditioned / Steaks-Chops / Cocktails / Patron Parking”. By the 1980s, “chops” had been replaced by “pizza”, and a sign for the adjacent motel had been added. Those have been gone for years, though.

The outside of the diner has changed very little in all the years since it was installed, with the exception of the usual wear and tear. Inside is also in good condition, with some changes made over the years, but nothing, with the exception of televisions, which detracts terribly. They are now smoke-free, which is nice.

Photobucket
The “New” Laurel Diner- Restaurant and Liquor Store – “Before and after the races, as always your best bet.. is the Laurel Diner

Photobucket
The Laurel Diner showing the neon

Photobucket

Photobucket
Later postcard from the Laurel Diner

Photobucket
Copyright Michael G. Stewart
Photobucket
Old slide of the diner. Copyright Michael G. Stewart

Photobucket

Photobucket
an early ’80s view of the . Copyright Michael G. Stewart

Photobucket
The sign c 2007

Photobucket
The Tastee Diner c 2006

Photobucket
Comac Inc. Builders of Better Diners – Irvington, NJ
Photobucket
Inside the diner. Note the newer stools and tile floor over the original terrazzo. Booths are presumably original old-syle dark wood.

Photobucket
2007
Photobucket
Me in the diner yesterday. The double cheeseburger was gooey and delicious on a perfectly toasted bun, with a side of homemade mashed potatoes. The refills on the crushed ice filled cokes came before I could finish even half of the previous one. The name of the diner says it all.