Ulysses G. “Blackie” Auger Sr., who made a fortune as a steak restaurateur and became one of Washington’s leading entrepreneurs, died Sunday at his home in the District of Columbia of complications from a heart attack. He was 83.
Auger’s greatest fame came as the proprietor of Blackie’s House of Beef, the restaurant that provided heaping platters of rich food and emphasized value over ambience for what was invariably described as a meat-and-potatoes clientele.
He and his wife started a hot dog stand after World War II and expanded their venture into Blackie’s. The business continues to this day, surrounded by the Washington Marriott, which Auger helped build atop Blackie’s in 1981. He owned the hotel, the chain’s first in the city.
Ulysses George Auger was born Sept. 19, 1921, in Pottstown, Pa., and raised in Washington, where his Greek immigrant father was a chef. He left high school to help support his family.
He received his nickname, a reference to his black hair, while in the Army during World War II. He served in Africa and Europe, and was wounded in Italy.
After the war, he borrowed $2,000 on his mother’s home and began a hot dog stand. Within a few years, he bought the Minute Grill, which catered mostly to auto mechanics from the nearby Capitol Cadillac garage.
He renamed his restaurant Blackie’s in 1953, the same year he started a fixed-dinner menu of prime rib, baked potatoes and peas, plus salad and cheesecake for $1.75.
To Auger’s customers, his mantra was simple: “You eat beef or you don’t eat nothing.” But he would also promise them: “If you don’t like it, I’ll pick up the tab.”
Auger shied from civic involvement, once saying: “Look at it this way, I feed 500 Republicans and Democrats a day. How can I get involved?”
He maintained a reduced but active role in business after a stroke five years ago.
Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Lulu Hansen Auger of Washington; three children; two sisters and 10 grandchildren.