Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse, located in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., wasn’t originally prefaced with Annie Kaylor’s name. Customers simply began using the title themselves. The exuberant bartender, sister to founder and World War II veteran George Katinas, welcomed visitors to the steakhouse with a smile, witty banter, and a darn good Manhattan, stirred idiosyncratically with her finger. Since the 1950s, she and the rest of her siblings built the steakhouse into a haven for D.C.’s LGBTQ community. Recently honored by a James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award for its decades of warm, welcoming service (and massive steaks), Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse is a landmark to LGBTQ culinary history.
It all began in the fifties, when gay men—many of them federal employees who could lose their jobs or even be imprisoned under sodomy laws if news about their sexuality were made public—began frequenting the establishment. They came for the affordable steaks, juicy ribeyes with thick-cut fries, but they stayed for the rare aura of acceptance. “It was freedom, the same feeling I would later experience when I stepped off the plane in Provincetown or the ferry to Fire Island for the first time,” wrote D.C.-based food critic David Hagedorn in a post for the James Beard Foundation. “More than freedom, it was community.” It was a community Annie had purposely helped nurture. Sometime in the 1970s, the restaurant’s website reports, Annie spotted a gay couple holding hands under a steakhouse table. She strode over to them, and in her signature warm tone, said, “You don’t have to hide that here.”
Members of the LGBTQ community haven’t had to hide at Annie’s ever since. Today, the restaurant, under the direction of Annie’s nephew and George’s son, Paul Katinas, offers saucy buffalo wings, tender filet mignon, and strong martinis. Today, D.C.’s annual gay pride parade continues to cross the steakhouse. While Annie, who died in 2013, no longer graces the steakhouse’s own float, her welcoming spirit lives on.
Know Before You Go
In a nod to its clientele of federal employees, Annie's remains open for 24 hours the night before all federal holidays.