- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2001

Usually, Robert King can't decide whether dinner at O'Donnell's is a great way to end a lousy week or begin a great weekend.
This weekend was different. Mr. King's dinner of crab imperial and baked potato was delicious, as always, but O'Donnell's of Bethesda is closing after 45 years. The decision came easy this time: It was, without doubt, a lousy way to end a week and begin a weekend.
He jokingly claims to be the cook in his household, which gives him the power to say, "We're going out to dinner." And that almost always meant going to O'Donnell's.
"This is a comfortable place," said Mr. King, 58. He picked up the restaurant's familiar blue-and-white menu and pointed to the fine print at the bottom of the appetizer listing.
It read: "We ask that you refrain from cell phone use in the dining rooms."
Mr. King beamed it is a sentence that always brings a smile to his face as he and his wife enjoyed their last supper at Table 101, the table they always request.
He's not the only one who will miss this Maryland landmark on Wisconsin Avenue, which at 10 last night served the last of its famous rum buns, a 4-inch-high confection shaped like a cylinder and slathered with white icing.
"Hmmm, they're warm. It's like having dessert before dinner," Elaine Jackson of Hyattsville said, pulling the sticky sweet bun apart and nibbling on it while deciding on her main course. She finally settled for the Norfolk sampler, a combination of sauteed Maine lobster meat, lump crab meat and gulf shrimp.
That's only one of the many Norfolk-style dishes that made O'Donnell's famous.
Yesterday, loyal patrons streamed in and out of its solid wooden doors. Among them were Robert T. Hartmann and his wife Roberta, who came to enjoy a final lunch, see one of their favorite waiters, Kenny, and, of course, get a few rum buns to go.
Mr. Hartmann, a veteran newspaper man who headed the Washington bureau for the Los Angeles Times for 10 years, used to eat at O'Donnell's on E Street. Mrs. Hartmann said they were ecstatic when O'Donnell's moved to Bethesda. Like her husband, she's sorry to see the Bethesda landmark close.
"I ordered everything today the crab dip, the crab cakes and rum buns to go," she said.
In 1922, founder Tom O'Donnell opened his first restaurant on E Street NW. Three decades later, in 1956, his daughter, Janice O'Donnell Edelblut, opened the Bethesda branch on the site of the old Edgemoor Motor Building.
This week has been bittersweet for Bill Edelblut, Tom O'Donnell's grandson and owner.
"It's a decision that took a long time to make. Although, it's time to go, it is still an emotional time. We've had great people and loyal customers for 46 years. But, it has run its course and it's time to move on and time to concentrate on the Gaithersburg restaurant," Mr. Edelblut said.
"This place [had] become a second home to many people. We opened at 11:30 a.m. every day and people came here every day to a staff that [loved their jobs] we're in the hospitality business, that's been one of our strengths," he said.
"It's been around so long, it's an institution. The manager and the owner are great. And I've made some true friends here co-workers and customers," waiter Tim Whitfield, who has worn a number of hats over his seven years at O'Donnell's, said.

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