A bit of human warmth amid the concrete, steel and glass


The pickin’ and grinnin’ downtown last night reminded me of one of my favorite parts of my trip up to suburban D.C. over the weekend. As you saw, I gave the usual sights a mere lick and a promise; I paid more attention to Montgomery County, Md. That’s where my Dad grew up.

On Friday night, we were taking our lives into our hands in the heavy traffic on Rockville Pike, looking for a place to eat, when Dad suddenly said, “Dietle’s!” Established in 1916, Hank Dietle’s tavern — Dad remembered it as “Pop Dietle’s” — really looked out of place amid the steel and glass and concrete towers and malls that crowd the once-sleepy town of Rockville. We didn’t stop there that night, but came back on Saturday morning, and it seemed almost like an archaeological find in that location.

Yet it remains very alive, very much a part of the community. As you see, on Saturday morning there was a group of musicians playing Celtic music over pitchers of dark beer, and we stopped to chat with them, which gave them a chance to recharge their glasses.

Dad remembers this as one of the places where my Grandad would stop and go in for a quick beer while Dad waited in the car. That may sound neglectful by modern standards, but my Dad remembers it fondly in the context of traveling around the county with his father. Now, of course, he’s old enough to go inside, and he sees that it’s a pretty cool place.

Here’s the way it’s described on a Washington Post site:

Hank Dietle’s white “Cold Beer” sign and front porch look more than a little out of place among the neon lights of Rockville Pike, but for people looking for a no-nonsense neighborhood bar, it’s a welcome spot.

Watching a Redskins game at Hank’s is like watching it in your friend’s living room. Snacks — free chips, dip in a crockpot and sandwiches — are provided on a card table in the small bar and patrons shout at the quarterback and the officials from their bar stool or booth. The regulars are mostly locals in their thirties and forties, although weekends can draw both a younger and less local crowd as well.

I find the existence of such places as this reassuring. We ended up eating Friday night at a Chili’s, which is more typical of what you find on that road. I wish we’d had more time to hang out at Dietle’s, which seemed a lot more real.


2 thoughts on “A bit of human warmth amid the concrete, steel and glass

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    This weekend, my dad tried to fob off some chain restaurant coupons on me, and I kept saying Mom and Dad’d use them before we did. Mom said they seldom eat out, which is true, but in South Aiken, there is just about every chain known to man. Mom is a fan of Red Lobster and Fatz Cafe (gack!. My husband and I do eat out more often than Mom and Dad, but never at chain restaurants. You got to keep the local joints in business!

    Just maybe not dark beer in the morning?


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