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The Thai Room is Under New Managment, and They’re Serving Smoked Ribs and Chicken, and a lot of Bourbon

From what I can tell, the Thai Room that used to be on Connecticut Avenue in NW DC up there where Nebraska Avenue crosses, closed up shop in 2005 after a 30 year run.  I think there’s some kind of ping pong pizza restaurant with an even better known locally famous sign there these days that lets free form jazz pick up combos make experimental noises in the back.

I moved to the Washington, DC area in 1991, first to Arlington, then finally helping to start up a group house in Mt. Pleasant in 1993 with some other musicians that only liked to play in odd time signatures. The Thai Room was just always there. I know I went there on at least one date, maybe two, and I can’t remember if there were many other Thai restaurants around at the time. Couldn’t tell you if the food was good or not. Not sure if my palate was advanced enough at the time, probably isn’t that advanced even now.

But I do remember liking two things:

– All the green plants they had in the windows

– And their sign

I am not sure where the plants ended up, and if they are still living healthy plant lives or not.

I hope they are.

But I know where the sign is.

It’s in my friend’s backyard.

The Thai Room sign lives on. Photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

The Thai Room sign lives on.
Photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

The new Thai Room is now located in the old Walter Reed area of Washington, DC and serves a seasonal prix fixe menu. Last time I was there I was offered deliciously smoked pork ribs, a green bean salad brought by another guest, and teeny tiny roasted potatoes. They have a strict BYOB policy, so I accompanied my meal with a 24 pack of Modelo Especial. Usually there is bourbon readily available, but the chef had finished it off two nights before, and finished all the Hornitos Tequila before I had arrived. Since the actual Thai Room Restaurant portion of the new site is only located outside, within the confines of a worn down fence that at times may catch fire from randomly placed candles, they have a smoking “at-will” policy, which is pretty nice (I almost wrote “sweet” here, but everyone knows I don’t actually talk that way). The new owners smoke more cigarettes than are usually available, and you may at a moment’s notice be sent out on a “ciggy run” to one of the many nearby liquor stores to make a transaction through bullet proof glass. One of the last times I visited this establishment, I was smoking on the upper deck waiting for an order of fish tacos with smoked jalapeno peppers, when I and all of the other guests were pelted by unripened pears tossed over the fence by neighborhood youths who immediately fled when I stood on my rocking chair and pointed directly at them with a look that said “you little mongrel pricks”.  Other nights I had enjoyed smoked chicken without incident. And I vaguely remember a special holiday dinner for St. Patrick’s one year that featured corned beef hash nicely done and accompanied with Jameson’s and those big bottles of Guinness Extra Stout.

Other pluses that make this joint favorable to me are:

– The availability of parking though it’s on a one way street

– The human jukebox who only plays 78 rpm records through one of those furniture pieces your grand pappy used to have

– The utilization of grown on the premises vegetables (tomatoes, lettuces, peppers, cucumbers)

– The homemade pickles

– The puppy who doesn’t bark and smells good.  Really good. The puppy in fact provided the after dinner entertainment the other night by leaping back and forth into the sprinkler.

The biggest plus for me is that if there is a queue for the single occupancy water closet sandwiched between two bedrooms , it is encouraged by the management that you piss in the garden.

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Bettye LaVette – How do I get to meet a woman like you?

I read her book in two days last week,

“Bettye LaVette – A Woman Like Me”

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It’s kind of like reading James Brown’s autobiography in that it’s not really well written, but the stories are amazing all the same.

You get to hear about all the people she knew over the years…Aretha, Solomon Burke, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Berry Gordy, Diana Ross, and a cast of other knowns, semi-knowns, and completely unknowns, and how she just kept on having “Buzzard Luck“.

Read the book, it won’t take you much time. It’s an interesting perspective from someone involved in a particular history who just didn’t make it until relatively recently.

Her website is full of information on what going on with her these days so keep yourself posted if interested.

I have been listening to her only for the past few years after stumbling across a recent release while shopping at Dusty Groove.

That release was “Bettye LaVette – I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise” released on ANTI- in 2005.

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Stand out track on this one for me is her version of Dolly Parton’s “Little Sparrow”.

This live version may be even better than the LP cut.

Bettye’s  version is quite a bit different than Dolly Parton’s, which of course is a classic in itself.

My love of the “I’ve Got my Own Hell To Raise” LP led to the purchase of “Betty LaVette- Do Your Duty” released in 2006 on Sundazed (LP-5208) from recordings made in 1969-1970.  Sundazed has a lot going there at their own site, might be too hard to leave once you get there.

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The most moving track on “Do Your Duty” for me is “He Made a Woman Out of Me”.

Certainly funky soulful stuff yes?

I missed her original performances in DC, but I was lucky enough to catch her at the newly renovated Howard Theatre on May 18th, 2013 with the Blind Boys of Alabama. Between the two acts, though I am not much of a dancer, I found myself jumping up onto my chair (our group of 6 had fought hard for a table up front), and letting my 6’4″ frame move in ways once thought impossible.

The Blind Boys of Alabama & Bettye LaVette tickets to the Howard Theatre show on May 18, 2013

The Blind Boys of Alabama & Bettye LaVette tickets to the Howard Theatre show on May 18, 2013.
Photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

The somewhat newly renovated Howard Theatre Washington, DC

The somewhat newly renovated Howard Theatre Washington, DC.
Photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

Bettye LaVette live at the Howard Theatre, Washington, DC May 18th, 2013, photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

Bettye LaVette live at the Howard Theatre, Washington, DC May 18th, 2013, photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

The Blind Boys of Alabama live at the Howard Theatre, Washington, DC May 18th, 2013, photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

The Blind Boys of Alabama live at the Howard Theatre, Washington, DC May 18th, 2013, photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

The Blind Boys of Alabama live at the Howard Theatre, Washington, DC May 18th, 2013, photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

The Blind Boys of Alabama live at the Howard Theatre, Washington, DC May 18th, 2013, photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

The Blind Boys of Alabama walking through the crowd live at the Howard Theatre, Washington, DC May 18th, 2013, photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

The Blind Boys of Alabama walking through the crowd live at the Howard Theatre, Washington, DC May 18th, 2013, photo by Joseph P. McRedmond

It is possible that the four $20 double rye whiskey’s may have helped.

I cannot wait to see her perform live again.

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Bettye LaVette Live at the Howard Theater January 9th, 2014.
Photo by Joe McRedmond

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Bettye LaVette’s Band Live at the Howard Theater January 9th, 2014.
Photo by Joe McRedmond

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Bettye LaVette Live at the Howard Theater January 9th, 2014.
Photo by Joe McRedmond

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