Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Dancing Crab and Malt Shop

Yesterday after work I was driving meet my friend Mike who lives near Georgetown. We were going to meet a couple more friends for dinner and then go to the Georgetown-Rutgers basketball game. Mike helped me very early on in my sobriety and since I was celebrating an anniversary this week, it was a great time to meet up, show him pics of Benjamin and talk golf and sports. Plus I love college basketball and will watch two schools battle anytime, any place.

On my way to Mike's house I noticed how much Wisconsin Avenue had changed. Since I moved to Northern Virginia, I hadn't been in Upper Northwest DC much. Chevy Chase Center was torn down and rebuilt. The Roundtable Restaurant and movie theater were next on some developers list. Both of those places were abandoned. But what moved me was passing by the Dancing Crab and more important, the upstairs bar known as The Malt Shop. As you can see, the operation took over the restaurant next to the original restaurant and bar. I parked the car and shot a couple pictures. Why?

A little history of The Malt Shop as follows:

First, I believe the Malt Shop opened around the Fall of 1984 but I am not really sure as I was finishing up my final semester at school. I stumbled upon it one night in January 1985 when I was out drinking on a Friday night. I went upstairs and this bartender greeted me with "Hello, welcome to our dive". Miller was his name and he would be a good pal for a number of years to me and my friends, even when I stopped drinking. That first night I was there Miller had the Capitals hockey game on Home Team Sports. I was pumped I found a place that would show the Caps games. We didn't get HTS at my folks house, which is where I was living after finishing school.

This was an old-fashioned sports bar at its best. Formica tables, low ceiling and wood paneled walls with pictures of various clientele and sports memorabilia. TV's were scattered around the place and you had a juke box and a popcorn machine. If you were hungry, the standard bar food was available. Regulars hung out there, guys with names like Mole, Fritz and Gordo. My cast of pals Gus, Tim Dog, Veck, Jake, Weess, Crowl and Elwood fit in nice over the year's and we had our share of fun in the place. You would see tv people nightly, former and current Redskins occasionally and a Congressman or two every now and then. The late sportscaster Glenn Brenner was there a lot. Football Hall of Famers Sonny Jurgensen and John Riggins were there often as well.

It was was our Cheers. Everyone knew your name and when Miller saw you come up the stairs, a cold Bud was waiting at your spot before you sat down.

My best memories of the place. Not in any particular order:

Capitals vs Islanders Game 7 Patrick Division playoffs. April 18-19, 1987. Islanders won game 3-2 in the 4th Overtime. I believe the game ended around 2:20 AM. Miller said he couldn't serve us any more beer after 2:00 AM but we could stay and watch the end. Brutal result and the hangover that followed.

Game 7 of the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals between Philadelphia and Edmonton. Not all homes had ESPN so a bunch of hockey fans crammed in the bar and watched this game. Edmonton won their third Stanley Cup that night.

1988 World Series, Game 1 between the LA Dodgers and Oakland A's. Kirk Gibson.

April 1988: My friend Tim and I drinking with the Mayor of Santa Fe New Mexico, Sam Pick

For about ten years we were regulars there. Our place to blow off steam and have a good time. In the mid '90's our group went on to do other things but the Dancing Crab and Malt Shop remained an institution.

A couple more memories: I took two road trips to Yankee Stadium in 1987 with Miller and some of the regulars. I can't remember much about the trips as the drinking would start early and continue on most of the day and on the way home. (Yes we had one guy doing the designated driving)

I took dates there. My Mom and Dad even met my friends there on a couple occasions.

So while the new restaurant area is an improvement, the character of the new place won't ever match the old place. That's change though. We experience this when our favorite sports teams move into new stadiums, when our families move into new houses or when our companies move into new offices to name some examples. Sometimes I like to look back on things in my life and yesterday was one of those times. Part of the purpose of this blog is to put my thoughts and experiences down so one day Benjamin can read them and get an idea of who his Dad is, who his family are and what went on when he was a little boy. Bob Dylan wrote the following line that I like in this song . "Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast"


David Lifton said...

Whenever a scene on The Family Guy takes place in The Drunken Clam, I think of The Dancing Crab. There was a story that, when A Few Good Men was filming in town, Rob Reiner took the crew out there for an evening's festivities.

I did notice that The Round Table was no longer around when I passed by there about a year ago. I used to perform there quite a bit, as well as hang out when friends of mne played there.

Dave K from Va. Beach said...

Great picture. The few times I went in there with you and the OC 5 (I gave them the nickname after a night of tossing many a pitcher with you guys),were times I will always remember.You took me on an unintentional trip around the Washington Monument.The bartender was a cool dude.

Bill-DC said...

I am surprised that I did not suffer some kind of injury walking, err staggering down those stairs.

I have no idea where Miller is these days but I always had fun at that place.

All I can remember about the Roundtable is hanging out by the cigarette machine and drinking 3/4 of a glass of bourbon with an 8 oz coke bottle you got. I got stymied by the sauce there many times.

Anonymous said...

bill-dc I suspect you and I have crossed paths in real life. I was there with friends constantly in 1988-90, I filled in at the tables for Rose some nights, and I ended up behind the bar a couple nights a week between grad school and marriage. A picture of us was still among those on the wall last time I was there.

Miller lived near NIH at the end of Alta Vista if I remember right. They would have this incredible party every year. Huge smokers with pigs etc, bands, holy moly those were days.

I've lived in the Finger Lakes for 3 years now and I miss DC for a thousand reasons. I'm glad I stumbled across your blog :-)


Bill-DC said...

Thanks for the post Laura. I loved the Malt Shop as it was a fantastic place to catch a game and a buzz. Miller was fun to talk baseball with. My friends and I thought he was the greatest.

Miller's farm near NIH was incredible. That used to me the central meeting spot for their day trips to Yankee Stadium. I went on a couple of those back in '87. Great time!

Last time saw Miller was in 1998 in Bethesda. I think that was when the Twist and Shout was closing down.

Lindsay Blake said...

I am trying to track down the crab restaurant from "A Few Good Men" and have heard it might have been the Dancing Crab. Just wondering if you happened to know.