The man, while pacing the sidewalk, kept scanning the distance in search of relief.
“I’m trying to get me some chicken but they don’t take credit cards,” the cash-strapped, first-time visitor to the Blue and White Carry Out griped as he wandered off to hunt down an easily-accessible ATM.
While the surrounding neighborhood has changed rather drastically over the years, adding everything from luxury condo buildings to Trader Joe’s outposts, Blue and White’s cash-only policy remains. Which only makes sense, given that most of the dinner combos cost less than a seasonal brew at Starbucks.
Virtually everything on the meat-intensive menu can be had for less than $5, including the signature fried chicken, grilled pork chops and a meatloaf-like hamburger “steak” dotted with chopped onions. A slew of made-to-order breakfast sandwiches slide in under the $3 mark, including an array of freshly-griddled pork products (think bacon, ham, bologna, sausage and half-smokes) married to glistening eggs.
Unless, of course, someone beats you to it.
A Blue and White crew member, chuckling to himself, informs a latecomer seeking cholesterol-laden sustenance just before noon, that breakfast is off the table — they’ve run out of eggs.
While casual fans tend to float in at their leisure, owner Alexander Truitt knows his core constituency expects things to run like clockwork. That’s why he’s at the timeless luncheonette most mornings by 4:30 a.m. (after trekking over from his home in Burke), preparing for the early risers he says line up promptly at 5:30 a.m. to grab something on their way in to work.
“I’ve been here for 34 years,” Truitt said, noting that be began working at the corner shop during the first Reagan administration. To this day customers find him there, hand-cranking open industrial-sized cans of collard greens, tending giant pots of ham-spiked bean soup and loading serving trays with flour-dusted chicken legs destined for a date with the deep fryer. While staff up front trade barbs about local sports with waiting construction workers (“When are the Redskins gonna play my team so I can make some money?” a Raiders fan ribbed one burgundy-and-gold loving cashier), Truitt busies himself scrubbing pots and rinsing cooking utensils, pausing every so often to field call-in orders or perhaps draw down a Marlboro Gold 100 during a well-deserved smoke break.
According to Truitt, the comfort food he serves “is pretty basic.” Which is why he is still tickled by the fact that an actual chef — one-time Grille at Morrison House toque Dennis Marron, to be exact — went on the record about his love of Blue and White’s fried bologna sandwiches.
He guesstimates that the restaurant has been around since the 1950s; Truitt can’t attest to any origin story prior to his uncle assuming control of the establishment in 1972. “I’m not really quite sure,” Truitt said when pressed about the little white shack’s extended history.
What he does know is people. Particularly, the people who come to his restaurant again and again. “I know everybody by name, virtually,” Truitt said, noting that many of his most dedicated customers continue to poke their heads through the ordering window even if they’ve left the immediate area. “We’ve survived because the people have been loyal,” he said.
Truitt’s had a good amount of help along the way.
“Trust me, I’ve raised some of these kids,” Truitt said, a smile spreading across his face as he surveyed the tightly knit group working in his claustrophobia-inducing kitchen. “They were shorter than the counter over there when they started coming here.”
People grow up. Cities evolve. Tastes change. Truitt is confident he’s fared well because of his unwillingness to fuss with success. “We’ve been here for the amount of time we have because we’ve got really good prices and fresh food,” he said.
The omnipresent crowds in search of yet another mouthful of crispy bird doused in Texas Pete hot sauce appear to validate his theory.