Posted by: Bill | May 19, 2009

A unique lunch venue

I’ve been working at ABCTE for almost seven years now. On my very first day of work (June 2002), I went into the office kitchen to attempt to buy a soda and was informed that the machine had not worked in a long time so I set out to find one outside the building.

On the ground floor of our building are two restaurants. The first is The Palm, lunch venue for many a lobbyist and what will likely be the final resting place of James Carville because he is there all the time. I don’t know how he stays so thin. Perhaps he is a runner.

The other is another DC landmark known as CF Folks. At the time (2:45 on Monday 6/17/2002), I did not know it was a landmark so I walked in looking for that soda. The proprietors looked at me strangely and informed me they close at 2:15. I thought to myself how odd that was and continued my search. It was probably 4-4.5 years later when I finally ate lunch there on the recommendation of a friend.

I have since become a regular. I mostly sit at an old-fashioned counter and break out the latest Atlantic Monthly either ordering a sandwich or one of the daily specials. The counter is my favorite because I can quickly switch from concentrating on the magazine to catching pieces of interesting conversations. The place has been there for years and it’s clear that so have many of the regulars. I enjoy the rapport the owner (Artie) has with many of them. I do not enjoy the feeling that one day the counter is going to collapse under the weight of the mostly rotund men leaning on it.

Aside:  A few months back, Heather took me on a date to listen to a local writer named George Pelecanos talk about his latest book. She thought I would be interested because he did some writing for The Wire and she was correct. Pellecanos is born and bred in Washington, DC and most/all of his novels take place in this area. As he was talking about his life, he noted that his father used to run a coffee shop that shared the same address as The Palm. It did not take me long to confirm that the predecessor to CF Folks was his father’s coffee shop.

I enjoy the food and the atmosphere and frankly the idea that places like this, though rare, still exist and I am fortunate enough to work so close to one. A small business like this has to be special to compete with the likes of The Palm and Sam and Harry’s as well as inexpensive delis and chains like Chop’t.

The reason for this long post with the extended background is a conversation between a patron and the owner on Monday. Early 30’s man walks in (looks like he might be a tourist) with a couple friends. He asks if anyone knows John Smith. “He was my father and he used to come here all the time”. Art’s ears perk up from halfway down the counter and he tells him that he did know him and asks how he is. The young man notes that he passed away 4 years ago. Art picks up a book and gives it to the man and notes that his father let him borrow that book years ago and that he should have it back. The patron is skeptical until he opens it and recognizes the handwriting inside as his dad’s. He is clearly touched by the gesture and they continue their conversation reminiscing about his father.

I smiled to myself as moments like this are pretty rare (except on television) and was happy to be listening. My day only got better from there, but that is a story for another time.

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