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May 21, 201310:06 AMTable Talk

O’Donnell’s Sea Grill closing July 27

May 21, 2013 - 10:06 AM
O’Donnell’s Sea Grill closing July 27

O’Donnell’s Sea Grill in Gaithersburg, the 91-year-old institution that’s been serving rum buns and Norfolk-style seafood dishes to generations of Washingtonians, is closing July 27, and owner Bill Edelblut says he’s “just tired.”

Edelblut, grandson of founder Tom O’Donnell, who opened the original restaurant downtown in 1922, said that “business is fine. It’s not a question of that. I’m ready for the next chapter in my life. I’ve been doing it for 40 years…I want to do something different.”

O’Donnell’s had a couple of locations over its miraculous span, including one on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda that lasted for 45 years. That locale closed in 2001. The Gaithersburg restaurant opened in 1997.

Edelblut said he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife, daughters and grandchildren, and is also hoping to open a small market in the area that might include a bakery, fresh fish, prepared carryout food, and maybe a few café tables.

As for O’Donnell’s, he said that “in a lot of ways we’re a dinosaur. People nowadays are looking for that trendy kind of place.”

Nevertheless, such a longtime restaurant does become part of the community. “There are a lot of great stories and memories from O’Donnell’s,” Edelblut says. “I will miss that side of it.”

311 Kentlands Blvd., Gaithersburg, 301-519-1650, www.odonnellsrestaurants.com

Old to new | New to old
May 25, 2013 08:36 am
 Posted by  DaisyDog

Smells fishy to me! Why would you just close a restaurant that's profitable ("business is fine")? Why not sell it? And if you've tried unsuccessfully to sell it, why not tell us that? Do you really think you can "spend more time with family" while starting/running a new business?? Obviously, we're not getting the whole story here. Someone, PLEASE buy this place!!!

Jul 24, 2013 10:31 am
 Posted by  Tami K.

I don't think anything smells"fishy." For anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant business, particularly run a restaurant, 40 years is a very long time. I think Mr. Edelblut is smart in closing the restaurant while it is successful, going out in a "blaze of glory," so to speak. I believe they are closing O'Donnell's, instead of selling the brand, so that it can keep it's integrity. Why trust someone else with the reputation your family put it's heart and soul in for almost a century? No one said their won't be another restaurant taking it's place. It just won't be O'Donnell's. The Bethesda restaurant was a favorite of my late grandmother's. Having been patrons at both locations for many, many years, my family and I will miss it dearly.

Dec 26, 2013 08:50 am
 Posted by  KIMurray

Sad to see O'Donnell's leave. Had I known, I would have taken my Mom there last summer for one last dinner. The long closed Bethesda restaurant on Wisconsin Ave. was our family favorite in the '60's and '70's. O'Donnell's was like a family member. Dad would take us there for special occasions & after he passed, Mom & I would go there to bring back memories of family dinners. They also made “Kiddy Cocktails” with a slice of orange and a cherry that my indulgent parents would order so I could enjoy cocktail hour. O'Donnell's gave away small orange cloth drawstring bags with little toys for kids. They had a big bowl of brightly colored chocolate mints. The Rum Buns with lots of butter were a hit with everybody. The waitress would gladly bring extras. Customers loved they were sold in bun tins which pre-dated Cinnamon’s bun box by decades. Thanks for the memories.

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Welcome to Table Talk, the blog version of the column in Bethesda Magazine. Be one of the first to find out about new restaurants and food shops, and join in the lively discussion about first bites, snipes and recommendations.

Before becoming Food Editor of Bethesda Magazine, Carole Sugarman was an award-winning food reporter for The Washington Post for 20 years. She has also written for national food magazines and a food policy newsletter, as well as judged cookbook and cooking contests. She lives in Chevy Chase where she eats PB&J for lunch when she’s not working.

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