- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2000

Back in 1959, Michael Anderson celebrated his eighth birthday at Sherrill's Bakery and Restaurant on Capitol Hill.

Yesterday, he returned, having traveled from California, to pick up a steel ice-cream cup similar to the one he ate from all those years ago and to say a final farewell to the venerable Sherrill's, which served its last crab cake yesterday after 80 years of serving customers at 233 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.

"My uncle worked on the Hill, and I would come here all the time as a little boy. I loved their gingerbread men," Mr. Anderson said.

The cookies, among Sherrill's specialties, were baked in a specially designed brick oven using a secret recipe, said one of the restaurant's owners, Dorothy "Dottie" Polito.

"This is the end of a tradition," Mr. Anderson said.

Sherrill's is the latest casualty of changing lifestyles and the modernization of Washington.

"The business is costing us a lot of money… . It is very expensive to run," said Mrs. Polito, 68, who first entered the restaurant as a girl of 9 in 1941 when her father, Samuel Revis, bought it from the man who gave the restaurant its name.

She has since served thousands of customers, including the "hundreds [who] came in just today" for a final meal that many said reminded them of home.

The restaurant developed something of a reputation for brusque service, but most regulars dismissed that as just part of its charm.

"I remember being screamed at the first time I was here," said Marcia Montgomery, 50, who discovered the restaurant when she first came to work on Capitol Hill in 1972.

Over the years, however, she grew to appreciate its "small-town atmosphere."

"They serve the kind of food I grew up on," she said.

Bill Pietrucha, 52, a regular for 20 years, said that beneath the brusque behavior of the waitresses were "hearts of gold."

A reporter for Hearst newspapers in his younger days, he doubled as a waiter on weekends to help out the owner, Lola Revis, who took over the restaurant's operations after her husband died in 1969.

Yesterday, he took orders from customers for a last time.

He remembered Mrs. Revis as an efficient woman who ran the place with an iron hand. "But there was a lot of trust the word of mouth was important," Mr. Pietrucha said. "And I remember she would run after me with a $10 bill for the work I'd done, even if I did not want it."

He had some fond memories of the food, too.

"They serve up this really good, heavy food steel-worker kind of food, very Old-Worldly," he said with a laugh about Sherrill's hot cakes and sandwiches.

The restaurant is one of the "last few relics of the Old World," as one old-time regular, Bill Tresek, said.

He remembers coming to Sherrill's on dates with his wife, Ann, a former Library of Congress employee, when they were a young couple in the late 1940s.

"It is a place where you get to know most everybody it's like family," said Mrs. Tresek, who discovered Sherrill's in 1942.

"I was from Binghampton in New York. And when you are away from home, you want to go back to a place that reminds you of home," she said.

A day filled with goodbyes wasn't easy on the owners.

"This place has so many happy memories… . I cannot start to remember," Mrs. Polito said, taking a moment off from behind the cash register, where she was serving customers who lined up without pause, buying bags of baked goods.

One such memory, she said, was the time her mother attended the Academy Awards in 1989 with David Peterson, the director of a documentary on Sherrill's titled "Fine Food, Fine Pastries, Open 6 to 9." The documentary was nominated for an Oscar, although it didn't win.

Showing pictures of her mother at a beauty parlor getting ready to attend the ceremony, and sitting down at dinner with Mr. Peterson, she recalled how excited her mother was. "It was just wonderful," she said.

The title of the documentary came from the words inscribed on the glass front of the restaurant, but the years have weathered them away, as they have the restaurant's facade and the wooden booths inside it.

Otherwise, the place "is exactly the way it was," Mrs. Polito said, watching with sad eyes as workers took down one of the old, faded paintings on the wall.

Other things have changed, too.

Lola Revis, 95, now lives in an assisted-living home in Virginia. Over the years, the hearty, robust food served up by Sherrill's has been losing out to more modern, health-conscious restaurants.

John and Patricia Marino came to the restaurant for the first time, all the way from Manassas, Va., after hearing of its demise.

Mr. Marino said he had come to see "a part of Washington that's changing."

Other customers picked up copies of the menu for keepsakes.

Nat Cooper, 38, who owns two fast-food restaurants in the city, said he would preserve copies of the receipt of his last meal at Sherrill's.

"I ate an omelet," he said.

But the cut will be felt most by regulars like Sally Rogers, 51, who ate breakfast at Sherrill's every day for the past five years.

"It is like losing a person," she said.

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