Founded in 1856, Old Ebbitt Grill is Washington’s oldest saloon, and it is one of those places that exudes a sense of America.

Although owned and operated by Clyde’s Restaurant Group, the same company that owns Georgetown staples The Tombs and 1789, Old Ebbitt Grill has maintained its own unique historical identity. The restaurant has changed locations many times, but it has attracted illustrious patrons, including Presidents McKinley, Grant, Andrew Johnson, Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and Harding. It is also reported to be the site where British generals drank while watching the White House’s fiery demise in the War of 1812.

With velvet booths, crystal chandeliers, animal heads, dark mahogany paneling and giant paintings of old Washington, D.C., the restaurant sports a Victorian vibe, which is supposed to “evoke Washington saloons at the turn of the century,” according to its website. The large collection of antiques and memorabilia illuminated by dim lights makes the interior feel intimate yet bustling and exciting. Even the decor is historic:; one of the animal heads was supposedly the prey of Teddy Roosevelt, and one of the wooden bears was owned by Alexander Hamilton.

With many different venues within its doors, Old Ebbitt can accommodate any occasion. Gorgeous private dining rooms, a roof terrace, three different themed bars, an oyster bar and multiple dining rooms are all available to bring a fresh experience with every visit. The restaurant also has a section of tables in “The Atrium,” a dining area that looks to the inside of the greater building.

Whether one wants to take a break from museum visits, attempt to spot some of the well-known celebrities who have been known to drop by or lust after a reminder of the essence of old America, Old Ebbitt Grill’s location is conveniently only two blocks away from Metro Center on the Red, Orange or Blue lines. If time is tight, you can also try out Ebbitt Express, a take-away joint in The Atrium that emphasizes healthy, fresh foods, prepared daily to order.

If you make it down there before the Cherry Blossom Festival ends, you can sample Old Ebbitt’s “Cherry Blossom Menu,” which includes fuji apple and goat cheese salad with cherry vinaigrette as well as grilled chicken “cherriyaki” with steamed rice and Japanese stir-fry.

One thing is for sure: Old Ebbitt Grill is no small eatery. Based on annual gross revenue the restaurant is the fifth largest in the United States., and it feeds 2,000 people daily. It also touts the title of Opentable.com Diner’s Choice Winner 2010, which is a clear indication of its popularity within the D.C. area.

While it is a little more upscale than Booeymonger’s or Wisey’s, it is definitely an experience. The food was delicious, and the menu offered a variety of traditional yet interesting options. From sandwiches and burgers to entree salads and oysters, Old Ebbitt Grill is sure to satisfy. Since the restaurant tries to buy from local farms whenever possible, the food is fresh and perfectly cooked.

Even if you don’t get down there this week, this month or this year, it should be a stop before graduation. Too often, Georgetown students limit themselves to their neighborhood, so take some time to make a trip downtown and grab a great meal while you’re at it!

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