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Reservations Recommended

Down Memory Lane = Trio

It’s right out of the oven, says the cheerful waitress about the gooey wedge of meringue-topped lemon meringue pie she serves. As she patrols the dining area, greeting patrons like old friends — and most clearly they are just that, eating at Trio for years — she reminds one of the good old days when restaurant service was both friendly and welcoming. Much like eating at home, it seems.

And that’s what makes Trio Restaurant in Dupont Circle such a classic and why it is celebrating its 60th anniversary: Trio is circa 1948 and it’s Aunt Millie’s Iowa farmhouse kitchen offering no-frills and homespun comfort food. (Visit www.triodc.com for a delightful story of it’s history.)

Although they liken much of their food to diner fare, the Trio’s owners obviously have long since realized that trends come and go, but nothing can quite replace the nostalgia and desire for home-cooked “Mom’s” food. So don’t expect to find fries with truffle butter or artful presentations of designer fare.

Even the décor is homespun: booths, dark woods, a collection of tables, and it would all seem retro, but bets are on that not much has changed since the place opened. The patrons resemble some sort of family gathering: over here, spreading out at a window table, one woman is working on her computer. And over there, with her hat set firmly on her head, another woman thumbs through the morning paper while she lunches.

Are you ready to toss trendy aside? If so, a Trio’s meal is just the ticket: A menu scan turns up such non-cutting edge dishes as stuffed green peppers, chicken-fried steak and penne with Italian sausage. That’s just for lunch, but a quick take of the regular listing turns up even more of the same: seared calf’s liver with caramelized onions, turkey potpie, crispy-fried half chicken, meatloaf, and cabbage stuffed with ground beef and rice.

Probably the closest the kitchen comes to borrowing dishes that might appear on the Food Network are their herb-crusted rainbow trout, glazed sea scallops with ginger-soy sauce, and grilled Atlantic salmon with Hollandaise sauce. You might even consider an order of grilled New Zealand rack of lamb and chicken korma over basmati rice. Supposedly, Aunt Millie likes to experiment now and then.

But most of us have that inner-child craving for the simple stuff. For example, at lunch recently: crunchy Idaho potato chips, mozzarella sticks, salsa and chips, feta cheese dip, baked onion soup, a tuna platter, baked ham and cheese triple-decker, and a hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes. And don’t overlook the turkey: it’s real, hand-carved from the actual roasted bird – a rarity in today’s world but at Trio, never the processed sunstitute with no texture!

So many choices for our recent lunch — all narrowed down to crispy calamari with a fresh marinara, a guacamole cheeseburger with ultra-crispy fries, and yes, lemon meringue pie. Served hot and fast, with the crispiest fries this side of Houston, lunch was divine, though not exactly keyed to fit a healthy diet profile. What was missing? A thick and creamy chocolate milkshake.

What was the clincher for wanting to lunch here? Reading ahead on their website that Trio serves lemon meringue pie, a true Americana, old-timey hit that recalls childhood pleasures. A rarity in this city of high-profile cooking, this pie even makes great breakfast fare. Speaking of which, Trio offers a full-scale breakfast menu all day long accompanied by hot coffee — or a Bloody Mary. Now do you see why Trio has lasted for six decades?<ENDMARK>

Trio Restaurant | 1537 17th St., NW; (202) 232-6305. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10am-midnight; Sat. 8am-3am, Sun. 8am-midnight. Lunch entrée price range: $10.95-$14.95. web: www.triodc.com.

Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.