Save The Waffle Shop!

A recent Washington Post article about the possible demise of DC institution The Waffle Shop made the rounds yesterday and I felt compelled to comment and reminisce.

Back in the 90’s I worked across the street from The Waffle Shop at Ford’s Theater. Early each morning I’d walk from my Chinatown apartment through the pre-MCI Center urban blight to open Ford’s gift-shop. Back in those days there wasn’t a lot of choice for breakfast along the way. In fact the neighborhood offered up a whole lot of nothing, a bunch of run-down abandonded buildings and a few wig shops. The area between Ford’s and Chinatown was pretty depressing in any light, but especially so in the early morning, pre-work gloom.

Each morning I made that walk ended with me rounding the corner of 10th and F to be greeted by the warm glow coming from The Waffle Shop. I gave The Waffle Shop a try my first week working at Ford’s and romanced by the atmosphere of the place I quickly became a regular at the old-school, breakfast diner.

To me The Waffle Shop was a place where the real, honest, working folk of DC went for a cup of coffee, a bite to eat, and a couple scratch-off lotto cards before a long day at work. It was an authentic place, its years of short-order grilling showing up on its walls and its battle-scarred waffle-irons. It was a place to share tables with strangers, to bullshit about the weather or politics, and to comiserate – “another day another dollar”. The Waffle Shop was an original, a place with an edge, earned through survival. Serving its loyal, clientele even as the neighborhood around it had long since declined. My breakfasts there always ended with either a good conversation, a wizened nod from an old-timer, or a smile from one of the waitresses laughing at that “crazy, white-boy from over at Ford’s”.




The late 90’s brought a whole lot of development to the area which brought a mixed bag of emotions. Seeing life pumped back into blocks of empty buildings was exhilirating at times. But also left me with reservations about the ultimate goal of the project. Like eras of urban renovation past, would this one become unchecked and rampant?

After reading about the possible closing of The Waffle Shop due to newly formed development plans for that block I am inclined to say that yes, development has become unbound. When we are forcing long-standing businesses to close in the name of yet another new office-block among pre-existing dozens we have moved beyond the downtown renovation project into the territory of developmental vulturing.

The Waffle Shop has been serving Washingtonians breakfast for more than 50 years through times both thick and thin. It is a place that has been through the ringer with loyal, long-time customers who now border on being family. While not as flashy, I equate The Waffle Shop to Ben’s Chili Bowl in the importance of both places to their customers and the living, breathing representation both places offer of local DC life over the years.

The Waffle Shop is a DC original that can’t be reproduced in the modern age. It is a museum thriving with life, a social mixing-bowl, and a great place to grab a quick breakfast (or a long one if you’ve got the gift of gab).

Make sure to swing by for a short-stack before this DC stand-out is long gone.

The Waffle Shop
522 10th St. NW

6 Comments so far

  1. Mik (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 7:38 am

    Mike – you did the Waffle Shop proud, great piece! We’re trying to make it over there tonight before going over to Ford’s Theatre for a show.


  2. Katre (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 8:51 am

    That is so sad. Guess what else is closing? The Red Sage! (I read this in WaPo earlier this week.) It’s been in DC for 15 years but the landlord is apparently raising the rent so much that the restaurant can’t afford to stay there. Why are we getting rid of all the good stuff? Doing away with these two is like taking, say, the Jefferson Memorial out of DC.

    Red Sage closes on the 22nd, so get your goodbyes in now.


  3. andy (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 9:20 am

    Back in the mid 90s, I was around the corner at the Corp for Public Broadcasting and used to go there pretty regularly. It was always a trippy, timewarp experience, and I’d hate to see it vanish…


  4. chimprage (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 10:34 am

    That is a shame, i remember going over there after flag football games to grab some greasy grub. They’d better make that place historical like Ben’s, there’s no reason not to.


  5. Doug (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 11:33 am

    I will be sure to check this joint out before its demise. The WaPo piece includes a short video about the architectural significance of the place, which interests me more than waffles. I also appreciate the patron comradery, preferring old-timey diners and bars to Starbucks and the latest hip club any day of the week.


  6. Mik (unregistered) on December 14th, 2006 @ 4:53 pm

    I passed by last night after seeing ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Ford’s Theatre, the inside looks pretty neat.



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