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Ollie's Trolley, Diner-Like Dive Still Chugging Along on 12th and E Street Downtown


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"Love them Ollie's fries," said the homeless man keeping the bench in front of the Barnes and Noble warm as I walked by with my white paper bag filled with an Ollieburger and fries a couple years ago.

He was so right. I do love them Ollie's fries. Nice Carolina pork BBQ to boot. And I keep going back.

The Popeye's thread made me think of them. In fact, I'm gonna get me some of them Ollie's fries to take to the Nats game tonight.

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Thanks so much for starting this thread. I'm always curious about this spot, and not just because of the rather unique decor. Something about it screams greasy goodness, and every time it comes up in one of Sietsema's chats (I remember at least three occasions) he's always said "You know, I really should try the place"

What's on an Ollie burger? Anything else there of note? I might pop in Saturday night to check the spot out myself... seems like a spot you can only find in DC that goes unmentioned.

Edited to add: Okay, maybe not only in DC -- but it still looks good dammit.

Edited by Kanishka
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I work in the Columbia Square building, which is right across from Ollie's. I went to Ollie's a few weeks ago and got the Ollie Burger with cheese and a medium fry.

God I love ollie burgers. They are greasy, thick, juicy, and seem almost hand formed. The ollie fries are seasoned with some sort of cajun spice and salt, salt, salt, and I think, salt.

After you eat one, you get that wonderful self loathing feeling.

:P

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FWIW, there really was an Ollie once upon a time. Rocks no doubt has the full historical information. IIRC he was a guy with a little "trolly-like" burger place that folks liked, and some guys came along and tried to set up a local chain based on the idea. There were several little "trolleys" for a while (they were just little tiny buildings on the sidewalk, like overgrown kiosks), but most or all have long since disappeared. This was all about 1979. I think the business model was "if it doesn't work in location A we can move it to location B and try again."

Anyway, since we're on a history kick, I thought someone might be interested.

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FWIW, there really was an Ollie once upon a time.  Rocks no doubt has the full historical information.

I just remember some Long-Island-sounding man on the radio (and I'm pretty sure it was Ollie, and he sort-of sounded like the guy from Carvel Ice Cream who, by the way, sounded like he was talking with ice cream in his mouth): "[The Ollieburger] Don't need nuttin'!" (no ketchup, no mustard, nuttin'! Apparently, the burger was so darned good that it didn't need nuttin'.)

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he sort-of sounded like the guy from Carvel Ice Cream who, by the way, sounded like he was talking with ice cream in his mouth): 

Ahhh, Tom Carvel. Tom was the ultimate answer to the question "why should business owners never be allowed to do their own ads?"

I always thought he sounded more like he was drunk and had gravel in his mouth!

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Below is a short discussion on Ollie's we had back on egullet:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...ndpost&p=713920

The thread's not solely devoted to it, but we discuss the history in the next few posts. I've only ever been to the L Street location. I understand they all used to be part of the same franchise, but I still don't understand why the L Street location doesn't look like a Trolley! I've also heard good things about the fettoosh, but have always stuck with the burger.

Edited by The Doctor
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This is my first post- so I hope I'm doing it right!

Just want to add that I grew up in Kentucky (birthplace of Ollie's), where eating Ollie burgers and fries was a tremendous treat at the State Fair every year.

The 12th & E location's offerings are absolultely consistent with what I remember eating as a child. Those hot and greasy fries eaten right out of the bag and the Ollie burger with cheese are still heaven (guess I know what I'm having for lunch today!) Also worth trying at that location is a decent crabcake and the bacon-LOADED BLT. And did I mention the sweet tea?

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This is my first post- so I hope I'm doing it right!

Just want to add that I grew up in Kentucky (birthplace of Ollie's), where eating Ollie burgers and fries was a tremendous treat at the State Fair every year.

The 12th & E location's offerings are absolultely consistent with what I remember eating as a child.  Those hot and greasy fries eaten right out of the bag and the Ollie burger with cheese are still heaven (guess I know what I'm having for lunch today!)  Also worth trying at that location is a decent crabcake and the bacon-LOADED BLT. And did I mention the sweet tea?

Nothing wrong with the post, keep them coming. Welcome to DR.com!

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You can find a reverse-engineered recipe for an Ollieburger as researched by a former employee here. He says the chain actually bought the blend of spices already mixed for economy of scale. He also states that the long list of ingredients let to the chain's demise, as the burger was getting expensive.

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It looks like Ollie's on L St. is no longer. They "closed for renovations" a few weeks ago but yesterday there were signs in the windows for a new place whose name I can't recall. But its menu promises "tapas" with no recognizable theme. Based on the logo and signage my guess is that it will be "upscale" probably catering to the clientele of the new lounges like Josephine that are cropping up in the neighborhood.

Just what we need - generic pretentiousness replacing an institution that sold good food at cheap prices.

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I fixed your post for you...

I won't back down from the statement that Ollie's fries are good food and their burgers are better than most similarly thin and pressed fast food burgers (I'm looking directly at Five Guys and even the fabled In n' Out Burger here).

Give me the names some places in a 5 block radius that are as authentic, fast and cheap as Ollie's and I'll go there in a heartbeat.

(Seriously. I'm hungry and need to head out for lunch).

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I won't back down from the statement that Ollie's fries are good food and their burgers are better than most similarly thin and pressed fast food burgers (I'm looking directly at Five Guys and even the fabled In n' Out Burger here).

Give me the names some places in a 5 block radius that are as authentic, fast and cheap as Ollie's and I'll go there in a heartbeat.

(Seriously. I'm hungry and need to head out for lunch).

The Roasting House, Greek Deli, and Pedro and Vinny's Burrito Cart.

Reading through this thread makes me feel like everyone in it is being sarcastic. Really? The last Ollie's burger and fries I had (at the 15th and L location) were atrocious. The patty was a flattened, frozen mound of Grade F meat (of the Sysco variety, if I'm not mistaken) grilled into oblivion and topped with a very cheap version of a Kraft single and some shredded lettuce. No amount of ketchup, mustard, mayo, salt, pepper, bacon, foie gras, or fairy dust could save this burger from being anything other than horrendous. The fries were little greasy, overcooked niblits of what I think was previously frozen and processed potato, although one cannot be sure with an establishment like the Ollie's on L. Even the people I work with (the farthest thing from food snobs) think the place is nothing more than a crappy dive that serves cheap food.

What am I missing?

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The last Ollie's burger and fries I had (at the 15th and L location) were atrocious. The patty was a flattened, frozen mound of Grade F meat (of the Sysco variety, if I'm not mistaken) grilled into oblivion and topped with a very cheap version of a Kraft single and some shredded lettuce. No amount of ketchup, mustard, mayo, salt, pepper, bacon, foie gras, or fairy dust could save this burger from being anything other than horrendous.

I went for the first time about a year ago and this was exactly my experience. Haven't been back since.

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MK and I out of sheer curiosity went to Ollie's Trolley after we had hoped to go to the Renwick this past weekend, but the line was superbly long so we went to the White House museum instead.  I thought the meat was good and tasted freshly ground to me.  I liked the seasoning on the burger and the fries.  The cheese was american cheese, but the tomato was actually so ripe that even MK who is super picky about tomatoes ate his on his burger, lettuce was just iceberg, but I like iceberg lettuce on a burger.  I got it with their sauce and I liked the sauce, it reminded me of animal sauce.  I didn't think the fries themselves were amazing, but they weren't bad at all and didn't seem to be from a bag frozen and I did really like the seasoning.

The place is totally dated inside, but I think that is the point.  We both liked the burger better than any Spike Mendehlson joint, or five guys, but we like five guys fries better (esp when you add old bay).  Anyway we both were glad we did it.  I feel like if Uber did burgers from here for a day on their app people all over would order out of sheer curiosity too.  I was surprised to know they sold beer.

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Ollie's brings back great childhood memories for me.  Back in the late 80's/early 90's, my oversaw the construction of a new building in Clarendon.  He would take me with him on Saturdays which would allow him to walk the site without much disruption to see what was going on, what had happened, what hadn't happened etc.  I remember an Ollie's Trolley in Clarendon, which was what appeared to be an actual trolley (carryout only).  Every time he took me there he got me fries.  I remember the seasoning (what is in that seasoning) and how hot they always were.  One day my wife and I stumbled across the down town location a few years back and got some fries.  They were exactly as I remembered them.

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Over a decade ago, I used to go to the Ollie's Trolley tiny storefront on L St off of 15th around the corner from my office at the time. It was quick, cheap and mostly satisfying - but not spectacular. I do remember their fry seasoning (which was like Old Bay, but different) was good - lots of spice, little bit of heat.

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I went to Ollie's about 9 months ago and it was pretty vile; the only customer was a young Asian tourist playing Candy Crush on her iPhone. The place was dirty, like it hadn't been cleaned in a while. Everything was quite sticky. The burger was dry, the cheese handn't melted, and the bun was stale. Also, they didn't put any Ollie Sauce on it. And all the kitschy crap had signs on them saying "ANTIQUE! DON'T TOUCH!" I don't know how many times this place has flipped ownership, but I remember a few years back when they were serving kebabs along with burgers. If I want seedy charm burgers, I got up the street to Harry's Bar in the Hotel Harrington.

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