Transcripts

Bethesda Diner Serves Up "Tastee" Late-Night Grub

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and this week we're burning the midnight oil and "Staying Up All Night." So far, we've dropped by the National Mall, we've done rounds at Children's National Medical Center, we've drifted through alleyways and this point, I don't know about you, but I'm feeling just a little bit peckish. Now, I know, I know, D.C. isn't exactly famous for its 24-hour dining scene.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:32
I mean, the city does have a smattering of 24/7 eateries, like the diner in Adams Morgan, Osman & Joe's Steak & Egg Kitchen in Tenleytown. And on the weekends, you can always toss in stand-bys like Annie's Paramount Steakhouse and Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café in DuPont Circle.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:49
But if you head out of the city and into the suburbs...

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:53
So here we are in lovely downtown Bethesda going up Wisconsin.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:57
As I recently did with "Metro Connection" producer, Tara Boyle.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:00
How would you describe the streets right now? I'm seeing people.

MS. TARA BOYLE

00:01:02
Yes, there are people out here in Bethesda too, out at 12:54 am. It's kind of amazing.

SHEIR

00:01:08
You'll find quite a few more options in the 24-7 eating department, like Amphora's Diner Deluxe in Herndon, Bob and Edith's Diner in Arlington, Double-T Diner in Catonsville, and then in Silver Spring, Laurel and, yes, Bethesda.

SHEIR

00:01:22
Dude, we're here.

SHEIR

00:01:25
The Tastee Diner.

SHEIR

00:01:26
I like how it's Tastee, T-A-S-T-E-E. I like that.

SHEIR

00:01:30
The Silver Spring branch hails back to 1946. Laurel's been going strong since 1951. And in Bethesda...

SHEIR

00:01:36
There's a great neon sign in the window. It says, open eats. Awesome.

SHEIR

00:01:42
The old-fashioned dining cab on Woodmont Avenue has been around since 1935.

SHEIR

00:01:47
Here we go.

SHEIR

00:01:49
And despite a kitchen fire 10 years ago, not only does Tastee's still smell like a classic diner...

SHEIR

00:01:54
Can you describe the smell for our listeners out there, since this is radio after all?

BOYLE

00:01:58
Deep fried, decadent, delight basically.

SHEIR

00:02:02
It looks and feels like a classic diner, too. You've got your old-fashioned counter with bolted-down stools, your cushy pleather booths with mini-juke-boxes and, of course, the healthy helping or not-so-healthy helping of greasy-spoon goodies, made fresh to order on a sizzling hot griddle.

MR. LARRY HALL

00:02:24
Well, the diner is Bethesda. Without the diner, there's no Bethesda.

SHEIR

00:02:29
Larry Hall's been working at Tastee's for about seven years.

BOYLE

00:02:32
Tell us about the regulars who come here.

HALL

00:02:34
We have -- mostly customers that come here, they're people that are like second, third-generation of customers. You know, their grandparents been here, their parents, their kids and their kids.

SHEIR

00:02:45
And during our visit, Tara and I meet quite a few of those long-timers, like Andrew, a 20-something Bethesda native who's wolfing down a chocolate shake and fries with his friends, Corinne and Carly.

SHEIR

00:02:55
So is the Tastee Diner a place you come to often?

ANDREW

00:02:58
Yes, I would say a few times a week, late at night.

SHEIR

00:03:03
At this point, the crew has been nocturnally noshing at Tastee's so long that, as Corinne says...

CORINNE

00:03:08
It's kind of like home when it's late at night, you know? Because really there's nowhere else to go, so this is kind of the hub for us.

SHEIR

00:03:14
And for a whole lot of other people, too. Corinne says Tastee's' late-night scene attracts all kinds of characters.

CORINNE

00:03:22
Definitely just a lot of motley crews will come in when you're there at weird hours. Of course, we probably look like motley crews when we come in, too, so I guess I can't judge.

SHEIR

00:03:31
Kyle Brick waits tables on the overnight shift.

SHEIR

00:03:33
How long have you been working here?

MR. KYLE BRICK

00:03:34
I've been here almost two years. It'll be two years in August.

SHEIR

00:03:36
And he says the motley-est crews he's seen...

BOYLE

00:03:39
What's the weirdest thing you've seen here in the middle of the night?

SHEIR

00:03:41
...are the lovebirds.

BRICK

00:03:43
Probably the romantic types getting too frisky. That happens quite often.

BOYLE

00:03:48
Do you sanitize the booths after...

BRICK

00:03:51
We've got our cases of Lysol ready to go.

SHEIR

00:03:54
Kyle says Tastee's is at its rowdiest once the bars close.

BRICK

00:03:58
It gets pretty busy during the night rush.

SHEIR

00:03:59
How busy is pretty busy?

BRICK

00:04:00
We'll have all the tables filled up, four, five, six people in each table. We'll have a line out the door, almost to the street sometimes.

SHEIR

00:04:07
And as the night wears on, that's precisely what happens.

BOYLE

00:04:10
Holy smokes, look at that line. There's now about two dozen people in line waiting to get into the Tastee Diner now.

SHEIR

00:04:18
If you were to put, like, a velvet rope, it would be like they're waiting to get into a club.

BOYLE

00:04:21
Yes, it's the happening spot.

MR. AL SNOWDEN

00:04:22
In about 10 or 15 minutes, it's going to get real loose in here.

SHEIR

00:04:26
Al Snowden started cooking at Tastee's in 1978, so he knows all about the after-bar rush.

SHEIR

00:04:32
It's 2:00 o'clock now so like, 2:15?

SNOWDEN

00:04:34
Yes. First Maryland, then D.C. closes at 3:00. So we get a double whammy and usually cleaning up around 4:30. You haven't seen nothing yet, I guess is what I'm saying.

SHEIR

00:04:46
After so much time behind the counter, Al's pretty much seen it all at Tastee's.

BOYLE

00:04:50
And so what's the strangest thing you've seen in all your years here?

SNOWDEN

00:04:54
Strangest thing I've seen? I don't know if I can say that on radio. You know, actually you'd be surprised who you're sitting next to. You can have a street bum here, you can have a senator here and the street bum looks better than the senator, you know.

SHEIR

00:05:10
But not only has Al Snowden seen it all, he's cooked it all too. Tastee's menu is a five-page compendium of comfort food and if you don't see what you want...

SNOWDEN

00:05:19
If you can tell me what it is and how exactly you want it, we'll do our best to get it there. If you can't tell me, I can't do it.

SHEIR

00:05:26
In the case of me and Tara, once we sit down at our booth, we see exactly what we want it and it's all about breakfast.

BOYLE

00:05:33
I have four pieces of French toast in front of me and it looks amazing. It's got a little powdered sugar on there. It smells just the way French toast should.

SHEIR

00:05:42
That's good. That is good, dare I say, it's tasty.

SHEIR

00:05:52
For Tara and me, this is where our night ends. After we polish off our food, we head out the door where a bustling line of people awaits, all of them eager for burgers and breakfast, hot cakes and hot coffee, and in the wee small hours of the morning, none of them ready to call it a day.

SHEIR

00:06:14
To see snapshots from our late night excursion to Bethesda's Tastee Diner, visit our website, metroconnection.org. And if you have a favorite late night dining spot, we'd love to hear about it. Send an email to metro@wamu.org or send us a tweet. Our handle is wamumetro.
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