Jeffrey Gildenhorn, a restauranteur in the Washington, D.C. area and former mayoral candidate, tragically choked to death on Wednesday while dining at the city’s Palm steakhouse.
Gildenhorn, 74, was the owner of the American City Diner, a nostalgia-filled restaurant in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of northwest D.C.
NBC Washington reports that following the incident, Gildenhorn was rushed from the Palm Restaurant to George Washington University Hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
“All of us in the Palm Restaurant family are saddened over the loss of our longtime friend and patron, Jeffrey Gildenhorn,” said a spokesperson for the Palm Restaurant in a statement obtained by The Washington Post. “He was an institution in our city and at our restaurant. We applaud the effort and quick response of the medical response team. Our thoughts are with Mr. Gildenhorn’s family and friends.”
Gildenhorn’s restaurant, too, expressed their grief over the death of its owner in messages posted to its doors.
“Today we are mourning the [loss] of our dear boss, friend, neighbor, family and employer, Jeffrey Gildenhorn,” the staff notified patrons of the diner, which was closed all day on Thursday. “We are broken-hearted about this sad news and ask to understand our reasons for closing today/until further notice. Our grief is overwhelming.”
Gildenhorn initially opened the American City Diner in 1989, after running his family’s liquor store in the same D.C. neighborhood since 1965. His business empire would eventually include 11 retail business, according to a biography on the diner's website.
He also ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Washington D.C. in 1998, losing the Democratic Primary to eventual D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
Gildenhorn is remembered by friends and patrons as a “character” with a big personality, as well as a passion for all-things D.C.
"He was a character, but he loved this city incredibly,” said an American City Diner patron who spoke to NBC Washington.“He loved this city and he loved everything about it."
The American City Diner had reopened as of Friday morning.