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Some time ago, the Quick Stop Turkey Burger carryout in Trinidad served its final namesake platter. The out-of-town drivers barreling west down Florida Avenue wouldn’t know that, seeing as the restaurant’s sign still looms invitingly where the thoroughfare meets Staples Street NE. You’d have to look a bit closer for the indications of disuse: The cracked ’80s-era Pepsi sign, the broken plastic clock, the metal accordion gate covering the door.
The commercial boom has reached this part of town, and the shuttered carryout could feasibly have a new tenant by next week, assuming one of the three phone numbers plastered to the door leads to the right realtor. Quick Stop Turkey Burger is just the kind of commercial shell that neighborhood boosters can’t wait to see reoccupied and refurbished—or at least mercifully stripped bare. Most neighbors would consider the latter an improvement, although there’s much to appreciate in the carryout’s façade.
Take the name itself. In a city where carryouts love to proclaim their ability to cook all foods imaginable—chinese food, american food, seafood, chicken, subs—here was a proprietor staking a claim to a single, relatively fringe takeout dish. And consider the delightful exhortation toward self-improvement—eat your way to better health. Was there ever another carryout in this town that promoted healthy eating habits? You have to wonder: Maybe if they’d plugged wings with mambo sauce instead, they’d still be open. And, lastly, there’s that vintage outdoor clock, which one day, presumably long ago, came to rest at 3:28 and 10 seconds, though we’ll never know whether in the a.m. or p.m. Who knows how many watchless block-huggers depended on it for the time before it died.
Walk the H Street corridor near Quick Stop Turkey Burger and the commercial signs will reveal two cities, maybe even three or four. No matter what the line outside the recently opened Rock and Roll Hotel might suggest, nightlife is nothing new to this strip. The sign above the old Micky’s Bar and Lounge still stands—even though the doors seem locked for good—recalling another era and probably a different clientele. Head off into the alleys and the side streets and you’ll travel back decades, maybe even a century, to a time before $1,000 store signs, when owners heralded their businesses with nothing more than weather-resistant white paint over red brick. k. bretler, one rotting, vacant building still reads faintly on its side. groceries—meats—provisions. There are signs around town that urge us to buy used autos at a car lot that no longer exists, to partake in happy-hour cocktails at a bar that’s long been boarded up, and to spend the night at a hotel that doesn’t appear to have seen a guest in years.
Businesses come and go in our main corridors—Georgia Avenue NW, Rhode Island Avenue NE, Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE—but their façades have a way of long outlasting them. We may be in the midst of widespread revitalization here in D.C., but we’re not the Lower East Side of Manhattan; our vacant spaces don’t fill overnight. They sit and languish, waiting for a critical mass to determine that they be remade as coffee shops or hipster bars. If market forces are any indication, the old Quick Stop Turkey Burger could soon become a bustling yoga studio. And when it does, we shouldn’t expect an outdoor clock. —Dave Jamieson
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Darrow Montgomery.