Monday, September 21, 2009

Mr. Carter on The Hitching Post's Famous Fried Chicken

"I moved to DC from Cleveland, came here to be a police officer when I was 28. I met my wife while walking the beat. She was always supportive of whatever I did, including opening a restaurant. Today, I am very pleased that I made the decision to open The Hitching Post. Now, at the age of 75, 43 years after opening this place, I am still doing what I want to be doing.

"It all started when I was assigned with another policeman at Connecticut Ave. and Calvert St. one evening on a special detail. I was a footman, and footmen were required to stand outside in all kinds of weather for special events. This particular event was the President, at that time, having some festival at one of the major hotels in that area. During that evening, I was talking with the other officer, I don’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget what he told me. He said, 'You interested in going into business?' He told me about opening a restaurant and suggested this location in Petworth and said it was a gold mine. He said if I opened this restaurant, served good food and was nice to the clientele, I would make a good living. He was right.

“We were new to the business, to cooking and to dealing with the public so I learned my trade in here. I started cooking in the 1960s, but there was not much of a need for it then because much of our business was in the alcohol trade: beer, wine and mixed drinks. We had a good relationship with the older people who came in here from the soldiers home across the street. Many of them were from broken families, divorcees, lonely people, but when they came in here, we cheered them up. They made us feel so happy that they could relate their stories to us…and many of them had a lot of stories to tell. They told stories about war and their time overseas and we listened. They were very nice men and we even had a few women too. They would come day after day, we were like a big family.

"Much of that has now gone, and most of our clients are professionals who drive from other areas of the city. There was a lady who came all the way from Baltimore the other day to have some chicken. People always ask what kind of mixture I use to cook my fried chicken. It’s simple. I beat up my eggs and add a little water. That is my dip and then I mix in a little flour with salt and paper….and rosemary. Got to add the rosemary to it, that gives it the flavor.

"I think that our music box has also been a big addition to our popularity. We carry a mixture of music, much of it dating back to the 1940s. I still enjoy listening to Big Band, it has always been a part of my repertoire. We have some of our favorite artists such as Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, and Chet Baker. A lot of the music is quiet music, nothing that is going to blow you out of here. We do have a little music that would be attractive to the younger generation, but most of our music is for a subtle dining atmosphere. With that Ipod you can collect more of what is available, but the music box still has something that you can’t replace, nostalgia. I think that in time, the music box is going to be an old dinosaur, just like the Carters!

“In the future, I’d like the restaurant to continue to operate. I don’t want to shut it down. I hope that I can manage the restaurant without ever, ever closing or changing it to something else. We spent so much of our life here, it means so much to us.”

Read more about The Hitching Post and other soul food restaurants in Petworth here.

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