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Celebrate Hard Times’ Birthday This Weekend

Brothers Jim and Fred Parker opened the first Hard Times in Old Town Alexandria on July 20th 1980. Well, it’s 30 years later and to celebrate this occasion the brothers are bringing out of retirement the great Mr. Spoons to entertain July 16th and 17th at the Old Town Hard Times. This is a unique opportunity to see the world’s oldest musical instrument played by the master.

Chuck Hagee at the Alexandria Times takes an inside look at this Old Town institution:

From store-front church to hallelujah chili. It was a perfect transformation for the building that for the past 30 years has been home to Alexandria’s Hard Times Cafe.

On July 16 and 17 brothers Fred and Jim Parker will celebrate the three-decade anniversary of their venture into the restaurant business. They opened on July 20, 1980.

Given the recent heat indexes, it may prove to be quite an authentic event. The day they opened the temperature was 101 degrees.

“The owner of the restaurant across the street at that time said we wouldn’t last three months. He’s gone. We’re here,” said Fred Parker, co-owner of Hard Times Cafe at 1404 King St.

Prior to opening Hard Times, Fred worked as a graphic designer for the National Gallery of Art and Jim was a financial officer for a D.C. consulting firm.

Jim and his wife, Monica, have really gotten into the art of chili creation. Monica won both the Red and Green chili cook-off at the 2010 Kidney Foundation competition in Washington. And, “Jim has become a competition chili cook,” Fred said.

In 1994, at the world championship, he placed eighth out of 350 cooks. Jim is always tasting chili recipes and checking their temperature. He is known among his chili-cooking colleagues as “Doctor Chili.”


Read more of the story at

Lee Hernly, Editor
the authorLee Hernly, Editor
Founder & Editor
Lee Hernly is the Founder and Editor of Port City Wire, Alexandria, Virginia's best source for hyper-local news, opinion, and events. I live in the Old Town Alexandria area with my fantastic wife and son Sam. Oh, there’s Serena & Bea too. I’m so excited to meet new readers and see where you are from! Please be sure to leave a comment with a link to your blog so I can check it out!

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