Nathans of Georgetown, Washington D.C.



'Community Lunch' Brings Dialog, Talk Show Guests to Georgetown


"I�m not a Democrat or a Republican," syndicated columnist Art Buchwald was saying into the microphone. "I�m against whoever is in power."

The lunchtime crowd at Nathan�s� the well-known bar and restaurant at 3150 M Street�had paid $25 each for a plate of jambalaya, dessert, and the opportunity to see and hear the legendary humorist up close.

Buchwald, who made his name writing for American newspapers about the good life in Paris and lived for many years at the Westbridge in the West End, shared his memories of the "old" Washington crowd and their haunts.

He reminisced about "in" places like Doc Delinsky�s pharmacy on Wisconsin Avenue, where he and David Brinkley and Ben Bradlee used to go every Sunday morning; and about the Sans Souci restaurant downtown, where he always had the same table.

"It was the place to be," he said of the Sans Souci. "That�s gone, and there�s no hangout like it since."

Nathan�s, in a way, would like to be that kind of place, a new Washington institution.

Since the fall of 2001, owner Carol Joynt has been inviting some of Washington�s most interesting and important people to come and talk.

"The catalyst that made me start in earnest was September 11th," she told the Guide. "I felt there was a real need for communication and a hunger for information."

Her first guest was Chuck Vance, the Secret Service "body man" for President Gerald Ford, and a regular guest on cable news talk shows on the subject of terrorism and security.

A longtime television producer, Joynt took ownership of the bar when her husband Howard, then the owner, died in 1997. She had no background in the restaurant business, but she had been a senior producer for CNN�s "Larry King Live," and had done similar duty for David Brinkley, Ted Koppel, and Charlie Rose. Her main job was to book the guests, and she transferred that skill to the restaurant.

February was a big month for Nathan�s. In addition to Buchwald, the bar also hosted Richard Perle, the chairman of the Pentagon�s Defense Policy Board.

And on February 29, Nathan�s celebrated its 35th anniversary with a dinner featuring Bob Woodward and Ben Bradlee, the reporter and editor from the Washington Post who broke the Watergate story.

"As the lunches have taken on a life of their own, I am starting to book people I don�t know," Joynt told the Guide. And the guests aren�t paid. "They do it out of the kindness of their heart."

The March schedule isn�t complete, but will include: Mark Plotkin, the WTOP radio commentator and political analyst, on March 3 ... MSNBC�s Hardball host Chris Matthews and his wife Kathleen Matthews of WJLA-TV on St. Patrick�s Day, March 17 ... and Bill Dunlap, the painter and WETA arts commentator, on March 30.

David Lehrman is the commissioner from single-member district 2A01 of the Advisory Neighborhood Commisson.

Copyright 2003, The West End Guide. All rights reserved. This article is from the March 2003 edition.