KENSINGTON — In 1997, Steve Harris, the owner of Mr. Wash, a car-wash facility on Connecticut Avenue in Kensington, purchased the building next to his business, which had previously been a Roy Rogers and a Gino’s. His new tenants opened Savannah’s, a bar-and-grill restaurant offering traditional American fare. While Savannah’s has stayed in business for nearly 20 years, and has been a popular Saturday night karaoke venue, it also received negative reviews for food quality and cleanliness on Yelp and other sites.
In early 2016, Harris took over the management of Savannah’s. After a brief closure for remodeling, Harris reopened the restaurant. He eliminated karaoke and keno games from the restaurant’s offerings and began ordering fresher food. He said he wanted to steer the business in a family-oriented direction, and planned to rename it the Kensington Tavern. In July 2016, however, Savannah’s abruptly closed again.
“The building had major problems, and I decided that it needed to be gutted and completely remodeled,” Harris said. “I wanted it to have more of a coffee-shop vibe than a tavern vibe.”
On Aug. 4, the building’s newest incarnation, Car Wash Coffee, opened for business. The restaurant serves Vigilante Coffee, a local roaster based in Hyattsville. The food menu includes pastries, in addition to breakfast and lunch offerings such as egg and roast beef sandwiches. The interior of the building was redesigned to feature lounge seating.
“I wanted this to be a place where people can come, get a car wash and an oil change, then sit down and have a cup of coffee and see their friends,” Harris said.
Harris said that while he has not yet gone “full court press” in promoting Car Wash Coffee, the restaurant has received positive word-of-mouth publicity in and around Kensington and good reviews on Yelp and similar sites.
Mary Knight, a local resident, said she visited Car Wash Coffee because of positive comments on local listservs.
“I plan to come here from time to time because I like the locale, the spaciousness; the view of the traffic is very nice,” Knight said. “I’m from San Francisco, so I was raised on coffeehouses, and they make good coffee here.”
Car Wash Coffee is located at 10700 Connecticut Avenue in Kensington.