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Deanwood resident Catherine Woods is used to eyesores in the neighborhood. “Just look at this,” she says, pointing out piles of refuse, baggies from drug deals, and the stashed belongings of homeless residents in a winding, overgrown alley behind her home. But this alley has something that other neglected corners of D.C. do not: an abandoned, boarded-up diner.
It’s sat there since late last summer, which is when Keanne Henry moved the 16-seat, 1939-vintage structure from Pennsylvania to its current resting spot on the 4900 block of Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE. Henry and a partner plan to open a hot-dog eatery there and thought it best to store the diner on-site while seeking building permits. “We could have cut corners, but were mindful not to,” she says.
Deanwood residents, however, aren’t necessarily enthusiastic about franks in neighborhood. “No. 1: It is an awful eyesore,” says Woods, an advisory neighborhood commissioner. “No. 2: It abuts an alley that lends to dumping of trash and garbage…and people prostituting and using drugs.” Though the diner is boarded up, she says, “people find a way in.”
Despite the diner’s current clientele, Henry has a distinctly upscale vision. Fatdog’s Hot Dog Bistro will offer gourmet toppings, hand-cut Belgian fries, and a soy-dog option when it opens sometime in mid-2007. “It’s not a trailer, it is a diner,” she says. “[A] lot of people have nostalgic memories for a diner—ice cream and good American food.”
Woods remains concerned about the “class of people” the diner will attract. “No one is coming in there with a three-piece suit on,” she says.