MR. JONATHAN WILSON
Time now for D.C. Dives.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1
What is a Dive Bar?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1
It's a glorious dump.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2
It's got to have an interesting staff and an interesting crowd.
It's got to be dark. It's got to be old. Typically, it's got to be cheap.
This time Jared Walker takes us to Vienna, Va., for a visit to what may be the most kid-friendly dive bar around.
MR. JERAD WALKER
It's a Friday night and I'm at the Vienna Inn in Vienna, Va. The place is packed with customers, it's standing room only, but manager Katie Herron somehow pulls herself away from the bar just long enough to give me a quick history lesson.
MS. KATIE HERRON
Mike and Mollie Abraham opened the restaurant in 1960. And it changed hands in May 2000, but the tradition stayed the same.
And what is the tradition?
The tradition is casual, laid-back, it's all-inclusive. So you can be old, young, new to the area, lived here for 20, 30 years and you're always welcome.
And the building itself?
It's wooden, it's small, it's compact. Not a lot has changed since 1960.
Like most folks in this bar and restaurant, known for its chilidogs, cheap beer, and long communal tables, Casey Samson is a regular. A real estate agent and local youth football coach, Samson's been visiting this beloved neighborhood tavern for 45 years.
MR. CASEY SAMSON
It used to be, back in the '60s and '70s, that only the coaches would come in and adults would come in, and kids weren't really allowed in here. The coaches didn't want the kids to see them drinking.
Was it more of a beer bar?
It was a beer bar, and it was a little rougher group.
But Samson says that began to change when Mike and Mollie's son Philip began working at the Inn in the 1970s. Philip Abraham introduced an expanded menu and created a family-friendly environment that still exists today under current owner Marty Volk.
MR. MARTY VOLK
And now everybody comes. It's a part of our identity. This is Vienna's clubhouse.
And he means everybody. Tonight kids of all ages are running around the Vienna Inn, many still wearing their youth baseball uniforms. Manager Katie Herron says there is a surprising equilibrium to the whole thing.
I think the parents can relax and the kids can be distracted for a while, at least five or ten minutes. I don't think that they have to really tell their kids, you know, keep your napkin in your lap, keep your hands folded and please try and be quiet. Kids can really participate in the restaurant and they really like to do that.
Tonight I'm sharing a table with patron Richard Peterson-Cremer, who describes the unique contribution kids have made to the Inn's aesthetic.
MR. RICHARD PETERSON-CREMER
The walls are covered in local teams' sports trophies from, you know, little league baseball to probably some bowling leagues and everything in between. There's also placemats that kids have drawn on, drawn various pictures about how much they love Vienna Inn. And those get posted weekly, or daily I guess, all over the place.
Other than that, the presence of the kids doesn't really seem to change much of anything. The room is still dimly lit, every table creaks and wobbles, and the Inn has an eclectic and boisterous crowd. This could be any dive bar in the country, except, says Casey Samson, for one key difference, you don't curse in the Vienna Inn even if you're Washington Redskins Hall of Fame running back John Riggins.
John Riggins was here one night and John Riggins threw the f-bomb out, and the whole place went quiet because Mollie wouldn't put up with that. So she came walking over and he turned into an 8-year-old kid. He had to stand up. He had to apologize to the crowd--true story--apologize to the crowd for cursing, and she goes, "All right, you can stay."
Mind your manners and you can stay all night at Vienna's unofficial clubhouse. I'm Jared Walker.
You can check out photos of the Vienna Inn at metroconnection.org. And if you've got a favorite dive bar you think we should visit for this series, we'd love to hear from you. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find us in Twitter. Our handle is @wamumetro.
Up next, just how much energy does it take to hit your 100th birthday?
MR. GEORGE BOGGESS
One of the reasons I think we live so long now is because we walked everywhere, walked, walked, walked. We walked to school. We walked to church. We walked to the stores.
That and more is coming your way on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.
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