Nothing has the ability to bring opposing sides together quite like a good meal. It’s no wonder then that the nation’s capital has so many wonderful lunchtime options available to politicians, international dignitaries and the like. We visited many of the D.C. restaurants lobbying for your midday business and have come up with six spots we can fully endorse.
Blue Duck Tavern
With natural light flooding in from the windows, a warm ambience, farm-to-table American fare and diners like President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama (they celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary here in 2009), it’s no wonder that Blue Duck Tavern at Park Hyatt Washington draws a loyal crowd. The introduction of a breakfast menu this past spring only added to the restaurant’s cachet, as have appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Condoleezza Rice and other power players. All diners here are treated like VIPs—think complimentary newspapers and Wi-Fi, and your choice of available tables. We recommend the Wagyu steak salad or seared lemon pepper tuna.
Old Ebbitt Grill
A presidential pit stop can often make (or break) a restaurant’s reputation. And if that’s the case, then Old Ebbitt Grill—dating back to 1856—is one of Washington’s most acclaimed. Originally a boarding house once home to William McKinley before he became president, Old Ebbitt has been a go-to spot for many commanders-in-chief (it’s about two blocks from the White House). While this legendary oyster house lures in lots of tourists, you’ll definitely spot a few hungry politicos slurping the briny delicacy, too. If you’re not a fan of oysters on the half shell, order the crab cake sandwich instead.
Social Reform Kitchen and Bar
The Caucus Room steakhouse has long been one of D.C.’s go-to players in the world of political lunches, and now there’s even more reason to head to this top spot. The front part of the restaurant is now known as Social Reform Kitchen and Bar and continues to attract the Washington elite. While diners may not agree on public policy and tax reform, both parties seem to concur the food here is worth repeat visits. The menu and atmosphere is more fun and relaxed than The Caucus Room—think cleverly named dishes like The POTUS (a prime beef Swiss cheese burger said to be President Obama’s favorite) and The Continental Congress (a jumbo lump Maryland crab cake sandwich served with oven-roasted tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and opal basil).
Long considered D.C.’s top power dining destination, this clubby steakhouse, known for its savory steaks and gigantic lobsters, has reason to brag. Since its D.C. debut in 1972, nearly every president from Gerald Ford to Bill Clinton—as well as the city’s top lawyers, lobbyists and media bigwigs—has visited the Dupont Circle restaurant. The walls are covered in cartoons depicting local celebrities and, in this case, plenty of politicos. If you’re looking to spot the power player of the week, head to The Palm around 12:30 p.m. and sneak a peek into one of the three booths by the bar.
The Source by Wolfgang Puck
The Source is Wolfgang Puck’s first endeavor in the nation’s capital has been attracting the bigwigs of the political, media and Hollywood variety since it opened a few years ago. The sleek glass-fronted restaurant and lounge is attached to the Newseum, where you’ll find interactive exhibits that trace the history of news and journalism. The bi-level restaurant is lauded for both Wolfgang Puck’s signature Asian cuisine—think spicy tuna tartare cones and pan-roasted rockfish with red Thai curry shrimp—and the see-and-be-seen vibe. Political types ranging from Senator Lindsey Graham to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi have been spotted here, and even Michelle Obama chose the swanky spot for her 47th birthday dinner.
The Oval Room
This restaurant is the closest most of us will get to the Oval Office. Powerful political figures and media types flock here for its contemporary American cuisine; that it’s only a short stroll from the real Oval Office adds to the atmosphere. Oval Room owner Ashok Bajaj (also of D.C.’s Bibiana and The Bombay Club) serves simple American cuisine with Mediterranean influences that’s good enough to cross party lines—both presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush were regular diners, and Condoleezza Rice also admitted it was her favorite restaurant.
Chef Fabio Trabocchi’s Fiola is new to the D.C. scene, but it’s quickly making a name for itself. Trabocchi takes the trattoria concept and elevates it to lunchtime fine dining—the restaurant even offers a special prix-fixe, three-course “power lunch” menu. Boldfaced diners in the restaurant’s first year have included New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Hollywood actress Katherine Heigl. The award-winning Italian restaurant really gets buzzing when Congress is in session, hosting the nation’s politicians wheeling and dealing over dishes like Maine lobster Caesar salad, and housemade pappardelle with tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil.
Photos Courtesy of Len DePas, Michael Colella and Seasons