What to expect: This place could be right out of a sitcom. As one regular put it, it’s like a lunchtime version of Cheers. Step into the narrow space lined with a counter and 12 stools, and you’re transported to a small-town coffee shop. Everybody knows everybody, it seems, and if you’re a newcomer, you won’t be for long. The grill cook starts kibitzing with you, and, before you know it, you’re debating the outcome of the next Redskins game.
Meet the owners: That grill cook is Ned Saah, and the cashier—that’s his wife, Irene. Ned purchased the eatery in 1991 with an uncle. Irene—who was running a day care business at the time—bought out the uncle’s share five years later. The “Peter” in Peter’s Carry Out ran the place a couple of owners back; the Saahs just haven’t bothered to change the name. It started in the 1940s as a Toddle House, one of a chain of restaurants that offered breakfast round the clock, and Ned believes the tile, counters and stools are original. The Saahs have worked in restaurants for years—in fact, they met at the defunct Uncle John’s on Rockville Pike, when he was a dishwasher and she was a waitress. Now, they’ve turned Peter’s into a gathering place where Ned holds court, bantering with the regulars about politics and sports. He posts his football picks on the shop’s Web site, but Irene says customers often ask Ned for more serious kinds of advice. “They trust him with a lot of their personal information,” she says. Ned also functions as a sort of human clearinghouse, hooking up people who might benefit from shared information. Need a good mechanic or plumber? Ask Ned.
Who stops here: In the morning, the regulars spar over coffee; at lunch, the place attracts students from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, as well as people who live or work in the neighborhood. One local comes in for breakfast and lunch every day. “It’s like his second living room,” says Irene. Out-of-town patients receiving treatment at the nearby National Institutes of Health also stop by, and the Saahs keep tabs on their medical progress. Aside from papering the walls of the restaurant with customer photos, Ned keeps track of what they like to eat, too. “They’re sandwiches to me,” he jokes. Some customers have even become close friends, dining with the Saahs at their Mount Airy home. Says Ned of his job: “It can’t get any better than this.”
Sugerman, C. (2008, Nov/Dec). Peter’s Carry Out. Bethesda Magazine.