American City Diner Closes After 30 Years

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By KATE OCZYPOK
The DC Line

The American City Diner has closed its doors after operating for three decades on Connecticut Avenue NW.

Steve Salis, the owner of Kramerbooks & Afterwords and Ted’s Bulletin, is taking over the diner space, but has not yet announced his plans for the Chevy Chase landmark.
Former owner Jeffrey Gildenhorn, a onetime mayoral candidate, opened American City Diner in the late 1980s. It was awash in old-timey decorations, and a big billboard in front still reads: “There’s no way like the American way.” Gildenhorn died last year after choking on a piece of food.

In its heyday, the diner was a popular place for fluffy silver dollar pancakes, thick milkshakes and piled-high burgers. But it had taken a downward turn in recent years, with a 2.5-star rating on Yelp and many commenters suggesting it was time for the diner to close, or at the very least undergo renovations.

The diner announced the closure July 8 on its Facebook page.

Salis, who is also a co-founder of local pizza chain &pizza, bought Ted’s Bulletin from Matchbox Food Group in 2017 with plans to retool and expand the diner chain, which has DC locations on 14th Street NW and 8th Street SE, as well as three suburban spots.
While Salis has remained mum on whether the American City Diner space will be a new Ted’s, he seems to be on a roll. He opened Federalist Pig two years ago, and the eatery is now ranked second on a Washington Post list of the 11 best barbecue joints in the DC area.
Several commenters on the Chevy Chase Community Listserv said they had already been hoping to see Ted’s Bulletin move into their neighborhood. But for many others, the end of a neighborhood institution brought out nostalgic feelings.

“That diner was the first place I ate at with my family when I moved down to DC to attend American University,” said local resident Shea Mulcahy, who graduated in 2008. “From there, it became a tradition that whenever my parents came down for family weekend, we would go there. The food was good, but the atmosphere inside the diner was what made it special. And there’s not many vibrant old-style diners like that anymore — especially in an Instagram world, you always could take a good pic there.”

Cosima Gallina, a lifelong resident of the area, grew up just one block from American City Diner. “My mom took me there every week for burgers, milkshakes and arcade games,” she said. “I had so many happy childhood memories there and am so sad to see it close.”
Gallina loved the jukebox and often saved up her quarters to play her favorite songs.

“I really did have a lot of great memories there,” she added. “I know it changed a lot over the years, but it really was an awesome place when it first opened when I was a kid.”

This article also appears on the new local news website thedcline.org.