Bob & Edith’s Diner
Six locations in Arlington, Alexandria, and Springfield
The diner’s original location on Arlington’s Columbia Pike—a destination for blue-plate staples like country-fried steak and patty melts—is now supplemented by five more around Northern Virginia.
Who’s behind it: When Bob Bolton bought the former Grey’s Donut Dinette, he told wife Edith: “I’ll put your name up in lights.” Bob died in the mid-1990s, and the business is now run by their son Greg Bolton; his children, Tammy and Chris; and his son-in-law, Alex Guzman.
On growing up in the diner business: “I’m 60, and I started when I was ten,” says Greg Bolton. “I used to work from 4 AM until 8 AM, then take a cab to school, and I worked weekend nights. I love the action.”
On expanding: “I just keep opening stores. I believe in what we have: a really good, all-American diner,” says Greg. “I try to keep the food at a nice high level, because quality is everything. I’d rather charge another $2 than give you crap.”
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Fairfax Inn Restaurant
2946 Sleepy Hollow Rd., Falls Church
The cozy luncheonette serves American diner classics alongside homey Filipino dishes.
Who’s behind it: Owner Solita Adler, her sister, Evangeline Gordon; cousin Leonarda Gatdula; niece Jhoan Salonga; and family friend Merlin Mobley. Adler, who grew up in the Philippines around her parents’ convenience store, took over the long-running Fairfax Inn with her husband, Jim, in the late ’90s. She started serving a separate Filipino menu there in 2008.
On serving a Filipino menu at a diner: “Filipinos convinced me, so I started with breakfast. We never publicized it, just word of mouth,” Adler says. “We make our own leche flan, bibingka, cassava cake. Even the sago—I make the syrup. I boil and boil it in a big pot until it’s thick. It’s a lot of work.”
On working with family: “It’s not like other restaurants, where if they’re not busy, they let you go,” Adler says. “I won’t make them go home. Business, no business, they stay.”
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McLean Family Restaurant
1321 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean
The strip-mall Greek diner and breakfast destination in McLean has fed CIA agents, politicians, and local families for half a century.
Who’s behind it: Owner George Kapetanakis; his brother, Peter; and two of his children, Nick and Constance.
On the diner’s beginnings: “It was a Jewish delicatessen from ’55 to ’69, before my three uncles bought it,” says George Kapetanakis. “I came in 1977, and I bought Pete Sampras’s parents’ shares in 1978, so I was one-third partner. In 1991, I bought the restaurant by myself.”
On his boldface clientele: “Because of the location, a lot of different people are coming with different positions in the government,” says George. “President Biden was here three times before he was elected. Michael Hayden, who was the director of the CIA, was here this morning. We know who they are, but we leave them alone so they feel comfortable.”
Illustration by Connie Zheng.
This article appears in the October 2023 issue of Washingtonian.