The Watering Holes of DC’s Lawmakers
D.C. Uncovered

Kennedy Headshot_SketchWashington, D.C. has insultingly been named by many as the “Hollywood for ugly people.” D.C. isn’t going to turn into anyone’s idea of Hollywood any time soon, but the District does have its own star map. Our star sightings feature presidents, senators, representatives, Supreme Court justices and cabinet members.

These lawmakers are usually hidden away in the distinguished halls of the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court and the White House. Politicians still frequent institutions like the Senate Dining Room and their building’s cafeteria, but more out of convenience or to take out interns or guests. This shift is due to a near-constant need for fundraising, which has forced members to spend their breakfast, lunch and dinners wooing donors and lobbyists. Politicians, Supreme Court justices and lobbyists can be regularly spotted at restaurants like The Monocle, Bistro Bis, The Palm, Medium Rare, Off the Record and Johnny’s Half Shell.

It is easy to spot a power lunch, breakfast or dinner of these distinguished politicians. They will usually be at a corner in the back that surveys the room or in a private dining room. Every member of the meal will be rarely focusing on his food and instead be determinedly talking. Rule in any table all dressed in suits. Rule out any table with alcohol (unless it’s Friday). Just keep your wits about you — these parties will eat and leave quickly before they head to their next meeting or event.

Charlie Palmer, nicknamed “Congress’ Dining Room,” is a key example of a political watering hole. It is reported that Charlie Palmer serves near 100 congressmen and between 20 and 30 senators a week. The reason for this constant political patronage is that it fits the very specific needs of the lawmakers. First, it has location. Charlie Palmer is just steps away from Capitol Hill. Secondly, the restaurant is very sensitive to politicians’ needs. Charlie Palmer prides itself on quick service so that their customers are always able to run back to vote. The restaurant even caters to needs that hit closer to home. The restaurant notes that senators and politicians will ask to eat food that comes from their state or ask the chef not to include food from certain states. This domestic focus can be seen on the wine list, which includes wine from every single state.

However, if you really want to eat like a politician, you should follow the biggest American politicians of all: the Obamas. Michelle Obama is a notable trendsetting foodie in the D.C. culinary scene. It was noted that in 2011, when Michelle Obama ordered the fish special at Art and Soul, everyone else in the restaurant ordered the fish special as well. She has been said to be a regular at BLT Steak, Fiola Mare and other D.C. hotspots.

But if you want to see the president, there will be a change of food scenery. He has been spotted eating at Ray’s Hell Burgers and Good Stuff Eatery, even sharing a shake with Vice President Joe Biden at Shake Shack. However, if you are ever at a restaurant and someone asks the chef to take out the asparagus and beets, keep your eyes peeled. That might just be the commander in chief trying to avoid his most hated foods.

Another key political stop is the star of the shutdown, Tortilla Coast. It is in this casual Mexican joint Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) worked as a server during his early days in D.C. This restaurant was made notorious when Ted Cruz held a secret meeting with other Republicans during the 2013 government shutdown. The restaurant is still a political hotspot, where hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent by numerous house campaigns.

Yet, perhaps the easiest politician to find in D.C. is the speaker of the house, John Boehner. Just head to the casual breakfast joint, Pete’s Diner. Look for a man sitting at the corner in jeans and a ball cap, eating eggs and drinking no coffee. But be early. He’s in and out pretty quickly, usually there for less than 15 minutes. If you miss him at breakfast, then head to Barracks Row to the Italian restaurant Trattoria Alberto. He can be seen there drinking a glass of merlot and eating veal, specifically the “Veal Alla Boehner.”

D.C. offers an easy chance to look at some of the most powerful and famous people in the country. Just be ready to eat and drink if you want the chance to see them.


Blair Kennedy is a rising junior in the College. This is the final appearance of D.C. Uncovered.

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