Stand by Your Mannequin at Amsterdam Falafelshop in Adams Morgan

The human dolls are lined up for the topping bar—just like the old days.

Mannequins stand in line at Amsterdam Falafelshop in Adams Morgan. Photograph by Arianne Bennett

So far, 2020 hasn’t been good for a lot—but its been a great year for mannequins. The human dolls are popular placeholders in restaurants and stadiums that are partially emptied by Covid capacity restrictions. We’ve spotted mannequins faux-living their best faux-lives in the dining room of the Inn at Little Washington; clad like ancient Persians at DC’s new Rumi Kitchen; and most recently, hanging out in line at Amsterdam Falafelshop in Adams Morgan.

Falafelshop owner Arianne Bennett says she isn’t just filling empty space in the reconfigured restaurant, an AdMo mainstay for over a decade (a sister location on 14th Street closed this summer due to Covid). Her idea was to transform part of the restaurant into a museum—a tribute to years past when night owls and bar hoppers would fill the small space and heap freshly fried falafel sandwiches with toppings from the bar. None of those activities are allowed in the Covid world.

“When we reopened [in June], we realized that part of it had really become a museum—people won’t ever get to be in line hugging each other, picking out toppings,” says Bennett. “We want you to know this is how it was, this is how it started—our restaurant has a history.”

Bennett didn’t splurge on designer dolls and fancy costumes. She went bargain hunting on Amazon, then borrowed clothes from friends. “All of our clothes were way too big for these cute, skinny mannequins,” she says. “The man didn’t have a shirt for the first week and I felt uncomfortable.”

Now the mannequins have clothes—but no names (“which is weird, because even my lawnmower has a name,” Bennett says). Send ideas to Amsterdam Falafel Shop’s social media accounts. 

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.