Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse in Washington, D.C. has been drawing a crowd since 1948.
No, they’re not giving away cash.
It’s more like love and understanding.
The story goes that sometime in the 1970s, Annie Kaylor was working alongside her four sisters at the family owned restaurant, when she observed a two gentlemen having dinner and holding hands underneath the table. And without missing a beat, she told them, “You don’t need to hide that here.”
That short declarative sentence, which is quoted on the restaurant’s website, announced to the world that a restaurant founded by the son of Greek immigrants and his four sisters was a place for everyone.
“Annie was my great aunt,” says Georgia Katinas. “She was known for the way she welcomed everybody, with no judgment and open arms. From the beginning, when my grandfather George founded the restaurant with his sisters, Annie stood out. She drew a crowd. And, even though she died in 2013, people are so loyal to her memory.” And to the restaurant, which is the recipient of the James Beard America’s Classic Award.
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Georgia Katinas discusses her family’s famous restaurant.
Q: Who was Annie, and what made her great?
Annie was one of five sisters who started the restaurant in 1948 with their brother, my grandfather George. From the beginning, Annie was known as the fun one. She was the youngest of the sisters and very entertaining. Her name was added to the restaurant name in the 1960s because she was so popular. I worked with Annie, and she was so warm and fun to chat with. Not in the typical grandmother way, but in a feisty and funny way.
But what she was most famous for was offering a welcoming restaurant for men in the community. She used to say “love is love” and she was one of the first restauranteurs to offer a safe place for members of the gay community.
Q: Streets have been named for her. And James Beard also weighed in!
After she died in 2013, Mayor Vincent Gray named a nearby street for her, calling it Annie’s Way. And we received the James Beard America’s Classic Award in 2019 after longtime patron David Hagedorn nominated us. This award celebrates the timeless appeal and quality of food that reflects the character of the neighborhood. There are only two family owned restaurants in DC who’ve received this award, and we’re one of them. And , we owe this to our loyal community and to Annie.
Q: How has Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse remained relevant for 70 years?
I think part of what keeps people coming back, and new people coming in, is the magic of Annie’s nostalgia. But, our home cooking is another important factor. A lot of our clientele don’t cook for themselves and we offer a core menu of comfort food. One of our most famous menu items is our “bowl in the pan,” which is marinated steak tips that come sizzling with a choice of two sides. The aroma is unmistakable, and when someone orders it, everyone’s eyes follow it as the pan goes by their table. Our brunch is also really awesome. Annie’s Breakfast is our French toast platter with three eggs, bacon or sausage and home fries. I see it ordered 100 times every weekend. And, our fried chicken and crab cakes, which are semi-local flavors of Maryland, are also really popular.
Q: How do you attract new customers?
We’ve been flying without any social media or web presence for a long time. But I just created Annie’s website to help promote the restaurant to the next generation of gay and straight groups. We had a great brunch the other day for a gay kickball team. And we’re engaging the LGBTQ groups throughout the city to offer our spot for parties and fundraisers.
Q: What’s it like working for the family restaurant?
I’ve been working in and out of the restaurant since I was 15. Now that I’m 31, I’ve decided to step back in full time. My father Paul, (son of the founder), is the owner, and I’m spending my time learning the ropes from all sides of the business. We’re lucky that we’ve found many amazing people to work here through the years, and many have been with us over 10 years. We are always working to keep up the consistency of everything we offer, from our menu to our atmosphere. We were so honored when food writer and cookbook author David Hagedorn nominated us for the James Beard Award. He took it upon himself to nominate us and write an essay, which describes how wonderful it was to discover us in the 1970s. — Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse uses Boxerbrand’s Metallic Tones line in its table presentation. Thank you!