There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Of all the burgundy-and-gold-themed restaurants and bars that have served us over the years Joe Theismann’s remains the cock of the block.
Good golly, there have been a bunch of these places.
From the mid-1970s through the early 1990s, when even in off seasons George Allen and Joe Gibbs’ teams were in the playoff contention, anybody associated with the Redskins could throw their name on an eatery or watering hole.
And, it seemed, almost everybody who could did: Punter Jeff Hayes had a chain of Italian restaurants with safety Curtis Jordan, who also opened a Tex Mex margarita retail outlet in Fairfax; an assistant coach, defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon, had enough pull to start up gaggle of grills; Columbia-educated tackle George “Head Hog” Starke became a barbecue guru with a chain of meateries; tight end Rick “Doc” Walker, way before he had a radio show, put his moniker on a few bar marquees in Northern Virginia; brief starting QB Jay Schroeder called his Falls Church burger bar the All-Pro Restaurant, even though he never sniffed an All-Pro Team during his days with the Skins; and, there was Theismann’s.
While every sports guy or gal knows who Joe Theismann is now, either from his Super Bowl winning career with the Skins or his broadcasting days with ESPN, he was anything but a star when he lent his name to a restaurant at Bailey’s Crossroads in 1975.
In fact, he wasn’t even a starter: Theismann was the third-string quarterback, behind Billy Kilmer and Sonny Jurgensen, and a part-time punt returner. (Would Colt Brennan dare open up his own joint?)
But Theismann as in Heisman was cocky enough to think he had enough of a Q-Rating to make it work.
And it did: Soon enough Theismann’s was a chain of five restaurants that covered DC and Baltimore.
While all his contemporaries have gone to restaurant and bar heaven, Theismann’s remains.
Not as robustly as it once was, alas. The Alexandria outpost, across from the King Street Metro stop, is the lone remaining restaurant in the Theismann’s empire.
And, even there, Theismann the QB’s presence is understated: In the main room, there’s more obvious odes to Tom Brady and Denzel Washngton then to the guy who gave the place its name.
But, then again, it’s been about 23 years since Theismann put on a uniform.
The last game came in a Monday Night Football telecast in 1986, when Lawrence Taylor provided the world with highlight clip as horrific as the Zapruder film by cracking the QB’s leg like it was on a crab.
In Joe T’s honor, I ordered the crab gumbo. Delicious.