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Essy’s Carriage House is serving up decades of memories before it closes next month

It’s the day after Valentine’s Day and Janet Saedi is tired.

It was extremely busy and a bit “overwhelming” at Essy’s Carriage House last night, she tells ARLnow, while taking a breather at a white-clothed table adorned with fresh cut flowers right before the lunch rush. Janet cooks, manages, and does ordering for the restaurant.

She’s also the wife of owner Essy Saedi, who’s stepped out to go to the bank and grocery store.

After nearly five decades of serving, Essy’s Carriage House in Cherrydale will permanently shut its doors at the end of next month. The couple is retiring. The news was first reported by Charlie Clark for the Falls Church News-Press last week.

So, throughout Valentine’s Day, new diners and long-time customers alike were coming to get one last holiday meal at the long-time Langston Blvd landmark.

But, really, it’s been busy like this since Janet and Essy first started telling regulars their plans at the end of last year. It’s been tough on them.

“It’s really been fundamentally the two of us running this place,” Janet said. “But it’s been beautiful.”

The restaurant opened in 1975 with Essy Saedi fully taking over as owner a year later. It’s been a local staple ever since, serving up steak, liver, and crab cakes.

There were a few lean years in there, Janet says. The 2007-2008 recession was tough and, more recently, the pandemic forced the restaurant cut some staff. That’s left the two of them to do most of the work.

Janet and Essy were married in the 1980s and she joined him working at the restaurant later that decade. She notes with a laugh that it’s Essy who gets a lot of attention. He has a “quirky sense of humor that some people adore…and there are people who don’t quite get it.”

And he loves his customers back, she says. While he still does a lot of the prep work, sauce-making, and meat-braising, he’s most often out among the people in the dining room greeting, joking, and soaking it all in.

Janet knows it’s going to be tough for both of them when the time comes to lock the door for the final time.

“I don’t know how it’s going to feel at the end. I’m very comfortable that we’re doing the right thing,” she said. “There’s some element of relief. But it’s not going to be without emotion.”

As we talk, the phone rings while several customers come in asking for a table. It’s getting busy already and Essy is still out doing a few errands.

RJ McGlasson is one of those customers, sitting at a table by the wall. She tells ARLnow she’s been coming to Essy’s since the late 1970s with her husband.

“This is a dying breed,” McGlasson said. “It’s a great place where locals come and the food is good. It’s just like losing a member of the family.”

Her favorite thing on the menu is the crab cakes. She’s traveled to a lot of places in her life, but these are the “best crab cakes we’ve ever had. Anywhere.”

A moment later, Essy walks in all smiles and immediately greets the several customers here for lunch.

He immigrated to the United States from Iran in the 1960s and has made a very comfortable life for himself, running a restaurant that serves what he calls “high-end customers” like judges, military brass, lawmakers, lawyers, and “four-star generals.”

He says he’s not sad they are closing because “48 years is enough” but, on this day, it certainly doesn’t seem like he’s had enough. He talks to everyone who walks in, laughing and telling them what’s good on the menu today.

The secret to their nearly five-decade run of success, Essy says, is that they have good food at reasonable prices and an personable service.

“I guess I’m just cute,” Essy said of why customers seem to be drawn to him.

They don’t have many plans after their retirement, Janet says, besides enjoying their free time and taking care of her 95-year-old mother. She works at the restaurant too, arranging the fresh-cut flowers. Essy says he has other plans for retirement.

“I’m excited… I get to go to Las Vegas more,” he says.

The plan is to close next week for their annual February trip to Las Vegas and, then, re-open on Feb. 27 until shuttering for good on March 31.

At the moment, there are no plans for a grand exit or celebration next month. All they want to do is keep serving their loyal customers until the very end, as they have for decades.

“They’ve become family and friends. We’ve done this for 50 years and we see [many] like once a week,” Essy says, taking a long pause. “Maybe I’ll pass them at the grocery store someday.”

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