When I still lived in Vienna one of the places I would regularly take visiting family and friends was the Vienna Inn. They all loved the old tavern for the chili dogs, beer and unpretentious atmosphere. I did too, though they may have even loved it too much as it was frequently the only place they wanted to go. Thankfully, we have a much wider variety of happy hour spots right now, but it is always good to go back to our old haunt like we did last Thursday night.
The Inn, opened in 1960 by the late Mike Abraham, is frequently described as a dive. Abraham himself called it a “crummy beer joint.” Until about 2000, the place was really a hole, with surly waitresses, a perpetually slamming screen door, old windows, and a ceiling blackened by cigarette smoke. I think this all got replaced after the health inspector informed new ownership, “we were letting Mike slide a little bit, but YOU are going to bring this place up to code.” Even now, following those renovations, the tables are unsteady. The cushions in the booths have needed to be re-stuffed since at least the Reagan administration and don’t count on your fries and dogs coming out the same time. Soda is self service too. The surly waitresses seemed to have disappeared — even the remaining mean one (regulars know who I mean) was no where to be found on Thursday.
Generally, all of these things I have mentioned rarely make for an enjoyable meal, but it all works because there is an uncompromising authenticity to the Inn. It is a small town gathering place in suburbia, an oasis from the generic sprawl of TGI Fridays, Applebee’s, and fast food joints. The Inn helps set Vienna apart from other Fairfax County communities that are merely a series of intersections, strip malls and gas stations.
Everything is really cheap too. The Inn’s signature chili dogs with everything (mustard, raw onions, chili, and cheese) go for $1.50. A burger is under $4. Drafts cost no more than $3 and come in frosty mugs. Hot and crispy fries will set you back $2. Budweiser, which the Inn has sold so much of over the years that Annhauser-Busch regularly sent the Clydesdales to the Vienna Halloween parade, will set you back about $1.75. Bud tastes better there than anywhere else too and the chili dogs are pretty special. I have been told the carrot cake is also quite tasty.
Over the years, the Inn’s casual atmosphere has made it a favorite to people from all walks of life, from the laborer to the executive. It was so popular with CIA staff that Langley banned them from going there because the KGB had discovered it as well — or so the legend goes.
The Vienna Inn is located at 120 Maple Ave. E (VA 123) in the central part of Vienna. Don’t forget to a designated driver!
Retconned from Metroblogging DC