News & Politics

Whitlow’s Will Likely Become a Five Guys. It’s Just the Latest Anticlimactic Restaurant Takeover Around DC.

These iconic spots are now chain restaurants and banks.

Arlington bar Whitlow's on Wilson. Photograph by Flickr user Dave DeSandro.

Clarendon’s boozy staple Whitlow’s on Wilson just closed last month, but there’s already a likely tenant in line to take over part of the space. ARLNow reports that permits posted in the windows list burger chain Five Guys as the incoming project name. The arrival of a chain restaurant—even a locally-founded one—feels like a deflating bookend to the building’s beer-soaked legacy.

This isn’t the first time an iconic spot has been replaced by a less exciting alternative. Here’s a look at some of the most anticlimactic change0vers around DC:

Yenching Palace

The Chinese restaurant with the backwards “Y” sign opened in 1955, and was known for hosting bold-face names like Henry Kissinger, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, and Dionne Warwick. Most notably, the restaurant was rumored to be a meeting spot for representatives of President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, crisis couldn’t be averted when the restaurant closed in 2007, and the space was transformed into a Walgreens (it’s since been shuttered).

Sans Souci

Originally an old card store near the White House, the address is better known as the location of buzzy French restaurant Sans Souci in the ’60s and ’70s. The hotspot counted literal kings and queens among its diners, along with pop culture royalty such as John Lennon, Elizabeth Taylor, and Andy Warhol. (Mick and Bianca Jagger were once turned away for not following the dress code). The eatery that now stands in its place—McDonald’s—is a little less exclusive.

Red Sage

Penn Quarter’s Southwestern-themed restaurant opened in 1992, counting the Clinton family among its regulars. Even the Grateful Dead stopped by. The restaurant closed after 14 years of business, and the lavishly decorated space was converted into a TD Bank.

Nathan’s

The 40-year-old institution in Georgetown closed its doors in 2009, with owner (and former Washingtonian staffer) Carol Ross Joynt citing high rent prices and debt. Ten years later, the corner building started serving food and drinks once more—albeit as a Capital One Café with a banking component.

Rive Gauche

The corner of Wisconsin and M Street in Georgetown was once home to Rive Gauche, a pricey French restaurant with glitzy chandeliers and an equally glamorous clientele. (Jackie Kennedy Onassis was a fan). Now a visit to the same location will land you at a Banana Republic.

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Daniella Byck
Assistant Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in August 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied journalism and digital culture.