Several years ago, AMC debuted the drama Mad Men, set in the 1960s. The success and popularity of the show ushered in a new era of nostalgia, with clothes and culture to match.
Down in Southeast, D.C., one place takes the tradition to a new level, with an entire motif where the Greatest Generation would feel right at home.
In Barracks Row, on the corner of 8th Street SE and E Street, is Ted’s Bulletin, a 1950s-style diner, opened by the owners’ of the very successful local Matchbox franchise.
That area of town has seen a revival of its own, becoming a burgeoning dining scene in the past several years, with numerous restaurants setting up shop, from Belgian bistros to happening Greek spots and tasty pizza joints.
Ted’s Bulletin is another excellent addition to Barracks Row, even though it operates in a completely different decade. Walking into Ted’s is like leaving the 21st century behind. Right at the entrance is a pastry display case, showcasing homemade pies and other tasty treats. Next to it is the bar and those behind it are immaculately dressed, wearing vests and ties, mimicking the attire of soda jerks who worked fountains back in the day. All that’s missing are the paper hats.
Above the bar are TVs from the time period, wrapped in wood trim. They silently play some of the greatest films from the past. On a recent visit, Casablanca was showing.
A soft yellow light comes from the fixtures around the restaurant, and gives the entire place a soothing, relaxed vibe. The menus at Ted’s Bulletin are mock broadsheets, like dailies that were passed out on street corners. Folding one open gives the feel of reading the paper instead of searching for items to dine on.
The best part of Ted’s is typically what you save for last. But skip tradition and order it first. Their specialties are milkshakes, and choices are listed above the bar, written on a blackboard in white chalk. There are almost 15 varieties, which range from the traditional—vanilla, chocolate and strawberry—to the farther out, like caramel macchiato and a peanut butter and jelly variety.
Older visitors to Ted’s can enjoy adult shakes, which come with a healthy dash of booze. There’s a Dirty Girl Scout, which comes with peppermint schnapps, and a White Russian, with Kahlua and vodka.
The shakes come out topped with a dollop of white cream and an overflow cup, with extra bits of shake, as well as a long, spindly spoon to serve yourself.
Ted’s Bulletin’s other focus is breakfast, which is served all day. All the favorites are here, with the diner whipping up homemade corn beef hash, as well as their massive take on the breakfast sandwich, which comes with eggs done two different ways (scrambled and fried) and sausage, bacon and cheese.
Of course, Ted’s does lunch and dinner, and the options are total Americana. There’s a Sloppy Joe (the sloppiest they claim), as well as barbequed chicken, chicken fried steak and meatloaf. The sides complete the motif, with baked BBQ beans, onion rings and old favorite from the 50s, brussel sprouts.
Although the restaurant has been around for under two years, it’s already such a success that a second location is slated to open this fall in Logan Circe, another happening dining scene. And when that unveils, you’ll have two spots to indulge yourself in a bygone era. But be careful, those boozy milkshakes pack a punch, no matter what the year.
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