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Old Ebbitt Grill, Operating since 1856 - 2000 Covers a Day, Half-Priced Raw Bar during Happy Hour


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I love oysters, and have eaten oysters at many a fine DC area restaurant, but nothing compares to the oysters at Clyde's and Old Ebbitt. Husband and I have two dozen each, at Happy Hour, about once a month.

We usually wind up getting dinner afterwards, the pickings are slim for me because I eat gluten free, but they do take gluten free seriously, which is nice. The waiter will warn me that the equipment is also used for dishes containing gluten, but I am not going to go into anaphylactic shock from a little cross-contamination, so that's OK.

I would not go there just for the rest of the menu.

What is the per-oyster price at Ebbitt these days? Curious about regular and HH pricing if anyone recalls. Agree I've had decent raw oysters there in the past (though not rest of menu) but haven't been in a long time with spots like Pearl Dive and Rappahannock River rising in the oyster scene.

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I believe OEG is a level better than (or maybe escapes) the tourist trap moniker because you leave feeling some draw to bring you back...and that they cared if you do come back.  While there, you feel

I had the orca platter during happy hour this weekend.  Pretty incredible deal still.   $70 (half off from $140 regularly), plus tax and tip (so comes out to about $110) for the following:  1# lobster

The most remarkable thing happened at Old Ebbitt Grill yesterday. After the coolest White House Tour ever (Christmas decorations, special rooms open, an orchestra playing the Peer Gynt Suite in the

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I can say the following nice things about Old Ebbitt, which is in the same building as my office. Their beer list has gotten more interesting. Their raw bar happy hour deal is good. They will put soccer on for me in the middle of the day at the back bar if I ask.

During the infamous snowpocalypse of 2010 (I think it was 2010) we stupidly decided to walk around the monuments in the snow. After trudging through the blinding snow and bitter cold for a couple of hours, taking some stunninng pictures at the Korea Memorial, we managed to get to Old Ebbitt, which was one of the few places open that Saturday afternoon. It was a welcome respite from the weather, with ever-cheerful Joe who was at the bar facing 15th serving up cocktails and listening to everyone's snow stories. Ever since then, I've had a real fondness for that bar (is that the "back" bar? I think of it as the "side" bar). We were tired and freezing, and it was so nice to sit for a couple of hours over Manhattans. So for that, I cut Old Ebbitt some slack.

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During the infamous snowpocalypse of 2010 (I think it was 2010) we stupidly decided to walk around the monuments in the snow. After trudging through the blinding snow and bitter cold for a couple of hours, taking some stunninng pictures at the Korea Memorial, we managed to get to Old Ebbitt, which was one of the few places open that Saturday afternoon. It was a welcome respite from the weather, with ever-cheerful Joe who was at the bar facing 15th serving up cocktails and listening to everyone's snow stories. Ever since then, I've had a real fondness for that bar (is that the "back" bar? I think of it as the "side" bar). We were tired and freezing, and it was so nice to sit for a couple of hours over Manhattans. So for that, I cut Old Ebbitt some slack.

The bar you're referring to (I believe) is technically called the Corner Bar - then there is the Walrus bar (to the right up front), Grants Bar (through the restaurant toward the back) and the Oyster Bar (around the back of the Walrus Bar - a hidden gem). This may be a sign I drink here too much...

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What is the per-oyster price at Ebbitt these days? Curious about regular and HH pricing if anyone recalls. Agree I've had decent raw oysters there in the past (though not rest of menu) but haven't been in a long time with spots like Pearl Dive and Rappahannock River rising in the oyster scene.

They went up recently - now $15.95 for half dozen, $25.95 full dozen, with half off during oyster happy hour. I asked why the sudden jump (a half dozen went up three bucks in one hike) and was told they were losing a few bucks a dozen during happy hour, and that at the volume they sold the loss was adding up. I would think for a place that charges north of $5 for a miller lite at a time when other bars have good happy hour drink specials nearby, that would make up the difference, but they seem to have forgotten to ask my opinion...

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The bar you're referring to (I believe) is technically called the Corner Bar - then there is the Walrus bar (to the right up front), Grants Bar (through the restaurant toward the back) and the Oyster Bar (around the back of the Walrus Bar - a hidden gem). This may be a sign I drink here too much...

This is accurate, although we also call the corner bar the Duck Bar. I typically visit Grants Bar (or back bar) as you can enter directly through the atrium, and it tends to get packed later than the other bars throughout the restaurant.

I find the food generally terrible (which is unfortunate as I have to meet somebody there for lunch today), and they are completely incapable of making a cocktail more involved than a gin and tonic. If you stick to drinking beer or whiskey, however, you can make out ok, particularly if you know the bartenders so they serve you promptly.

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I would not call the food at OE "generally terrible"; certainly not cutting edge but far from awful. I do stick to the tried and true, however and I'm mainly there for the raw bar. They were very accomdating with the wines I brought in last visit, even decanting the red per my request.

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What is the per-oyster price at Ebbitt these days? Curious about regular and HH pricing if anyone recalls. Agree I've had decent raw oysters there in the past (though not rest of menu) but haven't been in a long time with spots like Pearl Dive and Rappahannock River rising in the oyster scene.

The happy hour raw bar is *the* way to go here (the only way, in my opinion). I've been twice in recent months, and have just fallen in love with the Kusshi oyster. I'm certain I mentioned this somewhere else, but forego the happy hour wines and beers, and ask for the full wine list and get a bottle of either the Muscadet (preferred) or the surprisingly stoney Pinot Grigio. I strongly prefer low brine (so you can taste the oyster; not sea water), and the Kusshi is both low brine and "buttery," as Old Ebbitt's menu describes them. They're as deep as they are wide. Kumamoto and Kusshi - small Pacifics are like Red Burgundy; large Atlantics are like California Pinot Noir: there is an ocean of difference between the two. As for Virginia oysters? They're like cooking wine, and are best when they're fried so you can't taste them. Let this be the first thing ever written to claim that "terroir" applies to oysters every bit as much as it does to wine, and if you're producing from a bad parcel of earth, J.C. himself couldn't do a thing about it: oysters aren't "made"; they're grown.

Direct any and all hate mail to donrockwell@dcdining.com.

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...I strongly prefer low brine (so you can taste the oyster; not sea water), and the Kusshi is both low brine and "buttery," as Old Ebbitt's menu describes them. They're as deep as they are wide. Kumamoto and Kusshi - small Pacifics are like Red Burgundy; large Atlantics are like California Pinot Noir: there is an ocean of difference between the two. As for Virginia oysters? They're like cooking wine, and are best when they're fried so you can't taste them. Let this be the first thing ever written to claim that "terroir" applies to oysters every bit as much as it does to wine, and if you're producing from a bad parcel of earth, J.C. himself couldn't do a thing about it: oysters aren't "made"; they're grown.

There's definitely merit to the concept, though I don't think it's the first thing written on the topic. The March/April issue of Departures magazine includes an article about Charleston Chef Mike Lata and his new restaurant, The Ordinary. He takes the concept a step further and refers to "merroir".

The article is behind a subscriber firewall, so the link may not work, but here's an excerpt:

“The secret to an oyster is to serve it quickly,” he says, prying one open for himself. “That way there’s no time for it to lose its sense of place. A great Charleston oyster should taste like Charleston.”

Lata calls this “merroir,” and it’s the buzzword behind his new seafood restaurant, The Ordinary, which opened in December in a 1920s-era bank building on Charleston’s King Street. Like terroir in wine, “merroir” is a fancy way of saying that he wants to highlight the places where his seafood comes from—especially this place, the Lowcountry. Lata believes that some of the best-tasting wild oysters in the world come from this mud.

I'm also a fan of the Kusshi and Kumamoto; you're lucky to find them these days. They disappear quickly when they are available at Clyde's or Hank's.

Remember when they used to have oyster happy hour at Georgetown Seafood Grill and you could get them for something like fifty cents?! Those were the days ^_^

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They went up recently - now $15.95 for half dozen, $25.95 full dozen, with half off during oyster happy hour. I asked why the sudden jump (a half dozen went up three bucks in one hike) and was told they were losing a few bucks a dozen during happy hour, and that at the volume they sold the loss was adding up. I would think for a place that charges north of $5 for a miller lite at a time when other bars have good happy hour drink specials nearby, that would make up the difference, but they seem to have forgotten to ask my opinion...

Hmmm. That's a bit too much unless you're doing a dozen or more. General pricing for oysters at retail should be between $1.50 and $2.25/oyster. $2.65 per oyster on the half dozen is high though $2.16 per oyster on the dozen is in line with other spots around town. I'm an oyster hound. Could write several paragraphs on the why and how but maybe okay just to assert that. Oysters. Yeah, those too. :)

The happy hour raw bar is *the* way to go here (the only way, in my opinion). I've been twice in recent months, and have just fallen in love with the Kusshi oyster. I'm certain I mentioned this somewhere else, but forego the happy hour wines and beers, and ask for the full wine list and get a bottle of either the Muscadet (preferred) or the surprisingly stoney Pinot Grigio. I strongly prefer low brine (so you can taste the oyster; not sea water), and the Kusshi is both low brine and "buttery," as Old Ebbitt's menu describes them. They're as deep as they are wide. Kumamoto and Kusshi - small Pacifics are like Red Burgundy; large Atlantics are like California Pinot Noir: there is an ocean of difference between the two. As for Virginia oysters? They're like cooking wine, and are best when they're fried so you can't taste them. Let this be the first thing ever written to claim that "terroir" applies to oysters every bit as much as it does to wine, and if you're producing from a bad parcel of earth, J.C. himself couldn't do a thing about it: oysters aren't "made"; they're grown.

Direct any and all hate mail to donrockwell@dcdining.com.

No way that's anywhere near the first time terroir and oysters have been likened to wine. Aside from the lit, that's why serious oyster places usually have varieties from the big 4 locations (NE/Canadian Islands, Mid Atlantic, Gulf, Pac NW) on the menu. The only part of the above I'd challenge (with a smile--not a lick of "hate" here :) ) is the VA oyster slam. Low brine is a personal preference. Many oyster aficionados prefer medium or even high brine. And, which I've had some definitely forgettable VA oysters, I've also had many great ones. Rappahannock only has VA oysters. Hard to imagine even you'd say they're all only worth anything fried; especially since one or two are lower brine. Now where do I find a 3D printing app that can send enable the transmission of wild flowers and local honey to that email address above? :D

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The happy hour raw bar is *the* way to go here (the only way, in my opinion). I've been twice in recent months

Hm, I was wondering if they still had the 1/2 price raw bar. I can find no mention of it on their website. Their oyster menu mentions 2 bucks off two or three items during "Oyster Hour", not half off, and there's no reference to any deal on the oysters. I certainly agree that the 1/2 price raw bar is the only thing that would ever draw me to Old Ebbitt. Since they don't seem to advertise it, maybe they don't want me to come.

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Hm, I was wondering if they still had the 1/2 price raw bar. I can find no mention of it on their website. Their oyster menu mentions 2 bucks off two or three items during "Oyster Hour", not half off, and there's no reference to any deal on the oysters. I certainly agree that the 1/2 price raw bar is the only thing that would ever draw me to Old Ebbitt. Since they don't seem to advertise it, maybe they don't want me to come.

Everything is half-off during happy hour, save for the prices denoted in parentheses. It's sad that when they started, the lobster was also half-off, but now it's crept up to its almost normal price. They do advertise the happy hour on their oyster menus in the restaurant, but it's probably best that they don't do any further promotion. I went to the Gallery Place Clyde's late last fall for the happy hour, but was informed that they called it off because they were losing too much money on it. I would hate to see the same thing happen at Old Ebbitt.

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Everything is half-off during happy hour, save for the prices denoted in parentheses. It's sad that when they started, the lobster was also half-off, but now it's crept up to its almost normal price. They do advertise the happy hour on their oyster menus in the restaurant, but it's probably best that they don't do any further promotion. I went to the Gallery Place Clyde's late last fall for the happy hour, but was informed that they called it off because they were losing too much money on it. I would hate to see the same thing happen at Old Ebbitt.

Wait, the Gallery Place Clyde's doesn't do the happy hour any more?! Nuts. The Sunday afternoon half-priced raw bar was one of the best weekend deals around.

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Everything is half-off during happy hour, save for the prices denoted in parentheses. It's sad that when they started, the lobster was also half-off, but now it's crept up to its almost normal price. They do advertise the happy hour on their oyster menus in the restaurant, but it's probably best that they don't do any further promotion. I went to the Gallery Place Clyde's late last fall for the happy hour, but was informed that they called it off because they were losing too much money on it. I would hate to see the same thing happen at Old Ebbitt.

Thanks.

I thought the deal was always to draw people in with the half-price oysters, and make money by selling them full-price drinks. It doesn't make sense to keep it a secret. If it makes money, do it. If it loses money, stop doing it. Doing it but hoping not many people show up so it only loses a little money is just bizarre. (I imagine, by the way, that the profit margin on full-price drinks is much larger than it is on even full-price oysters.)

Another thing that I don't find on Old Ebbitt's website is the times for oyster happy hour. It used to be Monday through Thursday, 3-6 pm (plus after 11 pm on I forget which nights). Is that still true?

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Thanks for providing current information. Their website does list the happy hour again, but notes it's only available at the bar. Also interesting is that the deal is good on Sunday afternoons, which I don't think is the case at Old Ebbitt. Can anyone confirm that?

Their 1/2 price happy hour was always restricted to the bar (for obvious reasons). The Sunday happy hour is indeed at Gallery Place only and is a fantastic way to spend a late weekend afternoon.

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Their 1/2 price happy hour was always restricted to the bar (for obvious reasons). The Sunday happy hour is indeed at Gallery Place only and is a fantastic way to spend a late weekend afternoon.

The 1/2 price happy hour at Old Ebbitt always used to be available anywhere in that enormous establishment, not just the bar(s). Does anyone know if that's still true?

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The 1/2 price happy hour at Old Ebbitt always used to be available anywhere in that enormous establishment, not just the bar(s). Does anyone know if that's still true?

I got 1/2 price oysters last Sunday at about 3pm at Old Ebbitt. I'm admittedly confused by the thread here. Is there question about Old Ebbit's happy hour offering? Or Clyde's Gallery Place?

Whatever - doesn't matter. Cheap oysters are my cup of tea. Of course, having my 2 top so close to another 2 top that our conversations were always on the same track because we could overhear each other....that meant their cup of tea was mine too. And I should have ordered even more tea because the burger ordered medium well was cooked to a grey dryness. It was edible...with tea. Next time order medium or medium-rare.

Also next time I want to sit nearest the door where the oysters come out. Wherever that is.

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The most remarkable thing happened at Old Ebbitt Grill yesterday.

After the coolest White House Tour ever (Christmas decorations, special rooms open, an orchestra playing the Peer Gynt Suite in the East Room), it was a weird hour: 3:15 PM. Do we have an early dinner, or go back, probably not returning downtown? For me it was an easy call - we had street parking, and it was time to take advantage of it.

On a Sunday, Old Ebbitt Grill had a 15 minute wait for a table at 3:15 PM! This place is unbelievable. We nabbed the last side-by-side barstools.

I wasn't feeling the raw seafood thing, but how do you not take advantage of half-priced raw bar? I ordered a Walrus Platter #2 ($27.95$13.98) with six oysters (Kusshis, of course), six clams, and two of Old Ebbitt's huge shrimp. Our bartender, a pleasant young woman, overheard Matt and I saying neither of us was really in the mood for raw seafood. "You can get the clams steamed," she said. Great!

Sipping on a Diet Coke ($3.00, refilled without asking), our plate arrived with the oysters (for me) and the shrimp (for him) which we devoured in about three minutes. The clams, I figured, would arrive in due course.

Right as we finished our seafood, our main courses arrived. For Matt, a Fried Oyster Po' Boy Sandwich ($13.95) with french fries; for me, Eggs Chesapeake ($17.95), an irresistible sounding combination of two poached eggs, jumbo lump crab cakes, on a split English muffin with "Chesapeake sauce" and home fries.

The Po' Boy was mostly bread, lettuce and mayo, with just a few fried oysters on it. The Eggs Chesapeake was the better of the two dishes, but the English muffin was irretrievably hard for some reason - to the point where it was even difficult to cut with a knife - my home fries were three little potato wedges. The crab cake was very mediocre, and the dominant flavor in both dishes was cheap mayonnaise.

But while the food itself was ordinary at best, I found myself in that state where you don't realize just how hungry you are until you're about three bites into your meal - I was starving, and the food was eaten quickly.

About halfway through, I concluded the clams (remember them?) weren't coming, so I asked our bartender:

"Do you think our clams got lost?"

She immediately nodded her head and said "Yes," and went straight to the end of the crowded bar and talked with a runner.

We finished our meals, and the clams still hadn't arrived. The bartender said she'd like to buy us a dessert for our trouble, and presented us with a menu. Okay, why not. We looked over the menu, and both of us decided things just weren't worth the calories. When the bartender returned, we thanked her for the gesture, but told her it was okay.

When the clams still didn't arrive, we were both just sitting there. After a brief huddle, we decided we were full enough, and so we told our bartender not to worry about the clams. "No," she said, "I'm going to worry about it." She went back to the end of the bar, and I heard her asking for a manager.

She walked backed past us, and I said "Really, this is not a big deal." She said, "It's a big deal to me."

I got into a brief conversation with Matt, then looked up and saw our bartender again. "You guys are taken care of," she said.

"Huh?"

"Yes, you're set. You shouldn't have had to wait like you did."

"This is a nice gesture, but I don't want a free meal."

"There's no bill."

"Could you at least bill me for a cup of coffee?"

She gave me a bill for $3.50. I didn't know what to do - I've never been comped like this in my life. So I left her a $20 tip, thanked her, and we were on our way.

Incredible.

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So Don:  After that experience would you recommend Old Ebbitt?   Would you suggest it to others?   Would you return as a diner?

Food, it seems was very mediocre to poor.   The half price deal sounds great on value.   Service was at its most responsible and best.   What is your verdict?

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So Don:  After that experience would you recommend Old Ebbitt?   Would you suggest it to others?   Would you return as a diner?

Food, it seems was very mediocre to poor.   The half price deal sounds great on value.   Service was at its most responsible and best.   What is your verdict?

You just wrote my verdict for me. :)

As desperately as I want to, I can't lie to you and say the food was great - even the Kusshis were not in good shape. This is *not* a complaint! I've been to Old Ebbitt Grill a dozen times before and I knew exactly what I was in store for: it is a massive restaurant for masses of people, many of whom are tourists.

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it is a massive restaurant for masses of people, many of whom are tourists.

When I was hosting a group of many out-of-towners, they kept advocating for restaurants like Chili's or Applebee's for our dinner. I pushed and insisted on Old Ebbitt, figuring that if we were going to do that style of food, let's at least do some place local.

It was a huge hit and the service was great. The food...it was okay (for me) but for my guests, they were ALL happy.

I don't often go there but like Don said, when you do, you know what you're in for. (And I have had some fun there on very late night happy hours, but that's as much the company as anything else...)

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Set your expectations accordingly, and you'll be fine with OEG.

It's always on the list of where I take out-of-towners, along with Ben's Chili Bowl. It just doesn't get any more "Washington"....

The Happy Hour raw bar is the best deal in town. Even if you stick to the shrimp cocktail, it's the best half-price deal in town. And despite an occasional speed bump, the Clyde's Group buys and turns over more oysters than any resturant enterprise around, so they're going to be fresh. (Mark Center is my "go-to" Clyde's for oysters).

You CAN walk into OEG and have an inkling that you want an omelet, or shrimp and grits, or grilled rockfish -- whatever ingredients are available, any time of day, the kitchen staff is instructed to make your "off the menu" dish happen. And there are no more gracious managers at any restaurant in town.

(I once walked into the Tysons Corner Clyde's in August or September, and a cornucopia of fresh local veggies was displayed near the entrance. When the waiter approached, I said "I'll have that" and pointed to the veggies. What arrived was a very pleasant succotash accompanied by some spicy grilled corn on the cob and a few variations on that theme. Who needs a menu?)

Whenever I'm in the area and it's not Happy Hour, I go there for a good beer or decent wine, a competent protein, and the occasional star-watching. That's where I set my expectations, and they are always exceeded.

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So here's an interesting question: would you call Old Ebbitt Grill a "tourist trap?"

On paper, it meets *all* criteria:

1) It's in a touristy location, and is the busiest restaurant in DC

2) It's *very* expensive for what you get (HH notwithstanding)

3) The food is not good - it's not "horrible," but it's not good

4) A major selling point is its history, having opened in 1856

5) It's right next door to the very kitschy White House Gift Shop

But even meeting these criteria, I don't feel comfortable calling it a tourist trap, and I'm not sure why not. This is not a restaurant I would *ever* go and pay full price for, except in very specific situations (like Sunday was).

I guess the service and atmosphere compensate for the food and prices.

The Great Pretender, P.J. Clarke's, doesn't measure up to Old Ebbitt Grill.

Carmine's, while not in the exact area, is a competitor and is much worse.

Both of these awful restaurants are indeed what I would call "tourist traps."

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I'd say it can be a restaurant geared towards/suited for tourists but without being a tourist "trap."  The food would have to be a lot worse for that.  I think of a tourist trap as a place where you feel that you've gotten ripped off.

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So here's an interesting question: would you call Old Ebbitt Grill a "tourist trap?"

On paper, it meets *all* criteria:

1) It's in a touristy location, and is the busiest restaurant in DC

2) It's *very* expensive for what you get (HH notwithstanding)

3) The food is not good - it's not "horrible," but it's not good

4) A major selling point is its history, having opened in 1856

5) It's right next door to the very kitschy White House Gift Shop

This is a really good question. To your list, I might add that it must be a place that locals don't frequent. That criterion fits those horrible seafood barns at the beach or Lombardi's in New York or that "South of the Border" playground of glitz and mediocrity in S. Carolina. Or the regrettable "Pat's" and "Geno's" in Philly, where arguably the sandwiches wouldn't crack the top 100 of any self-respecting Philadelphia local.

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I work nearby. I have to say I LOVE going to Grant's bar (the one in the back) at lunch, sitting at the bar, and having a beer and either a walrus burger, fish and chips, or chicken sandwich. It's not gourmet but it is tasty, the bartenders are great to talk to, and it's a nice place for a bar lunch with a colleague for less than $20, all in. it's also got great DC atmosphere and is great for parents, out of towners, etc. It serves a purpose very well, and I'm not sure why people disparage it.

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I've spent many late night evenings at OEG enjoying the half priced raw bar and beer. Definitely a good deal in town for late night dining. Also, the bartenders always provide good service and conversation as well.

The raw bar definitely separates it from the others in the Clyde's Restaurant group but the overall food is not much different from the Great American Restaurant group.

These kind of restaurants are all what they are, and it is just a higher quality level 'convenience' meal, but that does not make it a tourist trap. Rather just not destination restaurant quality level.

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So here's an interesting question: would you call Old Ebbitt Grill a "tourist trap?"

On paper, it meets *all* criteria:

1) It's in a touristy location, and is the busiest restaurant in DC

2) It's *very* expensive for what you get (HH notwithstanding)

3) The food is not good - it's not "horrible," but it's not good

4) A major selling point is its history, having opened in 1856

5) It's right next door to the very kitschy White House Gift Shop

But even meeting these criteria, I don't feel comfortable calling it a tourist trap, and I'm not sure why not. This is not a restaurant I would *ever* go and pay full price for, except in very specific situations (like Sunday was).

I guess the service and atmosphere compensate for the food and prices.

The Great Pretender, P.J. Clarke's, doesn't measure up to Old Ebbitt Grill.

Carmine's, while not in the exact area, is a competitor and is much worse.

Both of these awful restaurants are indeed what I would call "tourist traps."

I believe OEG is a level better than (or maybe escapes) the tourist trap moniker because you leave feeling some draw to bring you back...and that they cared if you do come back.  While there, you feel that at least some of the people there are regulars - and they likely are.  Tourist traps don't do that.  You look around and see sensible shoes and shopping bags on EVERYONE in a pure tourist trap.

I believe they accomplish that through a few main differences:

1. A focus on employee training and "mission" that goes beyond just turning tables as fast as possible.  They care somewhat about pacing, about refreshing your drink, etc.  They will spend a little extra time and food/beverage to ensure your meal was (overall) successful and worthy of a return.  Pure tourist traps work under the premise that returns are unlikely, or will be 3 years later at best.  So there's no sense in a tourist trap trying to wow you, or ever "making up for it" if things don't go well.  OEG has a long-term outlook that actually translates to the individual diner and not just the bottom line, though I suspect the bottom line is fine too - these things go hand-in-hand.

2. Along with that, I suspect the employees are trusted and given some authority to decide things.  This in turn makes them more caring about your experience, as they hold both the responsibility for it and the authority to make it happen.

3. They are consistent.  Now - so is McDonalds...which is (IMHO) the main reason they have become SO huge.  The food is consistent, the service, the experience.  You can safely go to OEG when your objective is to avoid risk....like when taking fussy parents out to dinner or on a business lunch.  Tourist traps really don't sweat it too much if you get a good or bad experience, as they don't expect you'll come back, at least not for a long time.

4. I find that in a tourist trap, there's an almost comical focus on cutting costs but being sneaky about it, where you don't see it until you're in the trap.  So they'll tout the greatest beef sandwich...and serve it on a sheet of newspaper.  Or a cup of water costs money but it doesn't say it on the menu.  Or iced tea refills cost money (is there a drink, other than water, that is cheaper than unsweetend iced tea?) and the cups are really small.  Or the catsup is watered down.  Stupid stuff like that where you leave feeling like a second class citizen.

There was a place in Union Station called "America" that was the quintessential tourist trap to me - 50 menu items, one from each state...indifferent service...very low value....no reason for me to return.  A tourist might have thought it novel, enjoyed eating a South Dakota specialty and then remembered their day for the memorials and monuments, not the meal.  That's a classic tourist trap.  OEG isn't down at that level.

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It's worth noticing that all the modest appreciation mentioned above also seem to involve dining at one of the four bars.  I work nearby and may end up at OEG more than any other restaurant in the area due to convenience, but it's also because it is an extremely comfortable place to have a drink after work or on a weekend afternoon.

Don asks if it is a tourist trap - while I've rarely had a bad experience at one of the bars, of the dozen or so times I've tried to sit in the dining room, things haven't gone as well.  Tables in some parts of the restaurant are crammed together, it is extremely loud, the atrium seating section lacks the "charm" of the rest of the restaurant, and the service is often lacking - in other words, you get all of the liabilities of a mass-serving establishment without the benefits of the personal service from the bar tenders and the more relaxed environment.  I can very much appreciate the lack of cost-cutting measures so many other restaurants fall into, but it does seem in the last 2-3 years the food quality has decreased - less seasonality, much tastes pre-made (the crab cakes are still awesome in July when the special is occurring, but often taste stale and fishy at other times).

Of course, at the same time, the beer list has gotten much more interesting, so I'll be keeping my bar stool.

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Over many years (decades actually) I have heard friends rave about old ebbitt. I think the consistent theme has been that they are younger and first earning more money and dining in fancier aand more expensive restaurants. Those comments have been consistent since the eighties and continue to this day. I think OEG is a popular destination for huge numbers in this area besides tourists as are all the clydes'.

I was wowwed by it in the eighties in that context. Last time I was there was with out of towners. In retrospect I would have chosen a place with a better more interesting menu.

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The place that leaps to mind is Old Ebbitt Grill, and mostly because it's so old "” it's one of the oldest places to eat in the city "” and so drenched in history. It's immensely popular for tourists for that reason.

Presidents Grant, Johnson, Cleveland, Harding and Roosevelt (Teddy) are said to have availed themselves of the bar. Roosevelt "” and who knows whether this is true, or whether it just sounds as if it could be true "” bagged animal heads there.

I really enjoy Todd Kliman's work, but this answer from his chat kind of annoys me. Old Ebbitt Grill is neither old nor historic (at least not that old). It was built in 1983, in a different building and location than the Old Ebbitt Todd describes. The original was torn down in favor of development. The current location has many of the artifacts from the old location, including the bar where the presidents are said to have visited, but not one of them have ever set foot in the building. It should be called the "Old Ebbitt Grill Museum," because that's what it is. I feel better now.

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On our first visit to DC in 88, we ate at the Old Ebbitt.  It was smaller, intimate and heartfelt.  Reminded me of the old historic bars in San Francisco like Swan Oyster Depot.

Now I go to the new one only for late night oyster happy hour.  And the last few visits, the clams have far outshone the oysters.  But the lobsters have been stellar that last two I have had.

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I decided to walk to lunch today, and stopped at OEG when my face froze.  I never expect OEG to have the greatest food, but I do feel like lunch is solidly reliable to grab a sandwich or some soup.

After asking for a recommendation, ordered the Oyster Gumbo (cornmeal-crusted and flash-fried oysters, andouille sausage, scallions) for $10.99. The oysters were great - plump, crispy, perfectly fried.  The rest of the bowl was so bad as to be odd.  The sausage was nowhere to be found (nor was any other discernible flavor but salt).  No okra, so spice whatsoever, no rice or bread.  I'm not sure what it was, but it wasn't gumbo and it wasn't good.

The bartender, who I've known for years and is a better bartender than this, didn't ask why the bowl was going back full.

May be time to downgrade OEG off the reliable lunch list.

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Capture.PNG.46fe28db9d83400251b9a5f005cdf79f.PNG

I had the orca platter during happy hour this weekend.  Pretty incredible deal still.   $70 (half off from $140 regularly), plus tax and tip (so comes out to about $110) for the following:  1# lobster (two claws and a split tail), 6 Jonah crab claws, 6 clams, 24 oysters, 12 shrimp.   Everything was fresh and delicious and the barstaff was friendly and accommodating.  Washed down well with a well-poured Guinness.

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I have to admit, with the arrival of the Hamilton just across the street, I frequent OEG less often than I have in the past. My most recent dining experience there was with Lady KN, and we enjoyed a lovely half-priced orca platter and a bottle of wine prior to a concert at DAR Constitution Hall, a mere 3 blocks away. No complaints.

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39 minutes ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

I have to admit, with the arrival of the Hamilton just across the street, I frequent OEG less often than I have in the past. My most recent dining experience there was with Lady KN, and we enjoyed a lovely half-priced orca platter and a bottle of wine prior to a concert at DAR Constitution Hall, a mere 3 blocks away. No complaints.

Same boat. After frequenting OEG as a late night dining option in DC, completely switched to the Hamilton. The main dining room at the Hamilton is much more pleasing and conducive for conversation with others versus the OEG. Though I do miss the Orca platter after 11pm on Sundays for half price, too. Great deal! 

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On 5/15/2019 at 2:32 PM, Kibbee Nayee said:

Lunch today was merely OK. I was excited to order the soft shell crab, and for $16.99, it seemed like a good deal. But what arrived was a scant little crab on a spare bed of watercress salad. Everything was delicious and went together quite well, but it was a kiddie portion. Nonetheless, I will return again and again to enjoy the baseball-themed art gallery, probably at happy hour.

I had the soft shell sandwich at Ebbitt yesterday and the crab was surprisingly large with a light, crisp cornmeal batter - one of the better soft shell's I've had in awhile.  We may be getting to the point where the size is getting more reasonable - others I saw were similar size.  

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For my birthday, Lady KN and I decided that an oyster attack was an appropriate celebration, and Old Ebbitt Grill during raw bar happy hour is still the best deal in town. And so it was today, as we dove into a dozen each of their four oysters on the menu -- Duxbury Select, Model T, Standish Shore, and Osprey. I tried to find a muscadet on the menu, and none was to be found, so I selected a moscato from Italy. It's not the perfect match for an oyster like muscadet, but it worked. It provided a slight effervescence with some mild sweetness, which went nicely with the shiny, briny bivalves. I also note that the shucking was top-notch, as there wasn't a trace of shell fragment anywhere on the massive platter.

I tend to be a minimalist, with the first oyster of each type tasted without anything on it, and then a few drops of lemon and Tabasco on the others, followed by a full slurp. Lady KN tends to go with a spare seafood fork dipped in cocktail sauce and horseradish, and then stabbed into the oyster, with no slurping.

Raw bar happy hour used to be half-priced, but now it's just heavily discounted. It's still the best price in town, but the happy price of $24/dozen (regular $38/dozen) is still the best deal in town. We followed the oysters with Maine Blue Mussels for Lady KN and a single crabcake for me. We hadn't intended to eat anything but oysters at OEG, but in our post-oyster glow we went with the mussels and crabcake. I'll admit that the crabcake was good enough to order again, and the accompanying fries were freshly cut and fried to a nice crisp. The crabcake was mostly lump crab, and although I've had better in Baltimore and Annapolis, I've had many, many, many that were far worse.

Even with about 50% capacity, with intentional empty tables here and there, the wait for people to get in the door was an hour and a half on a Memorial Day Saturday afternoon. Definitely score a reservation, and definitely go for raw bar happy hour.

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4 hours ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

For my birthday, Lady KN and I decided that an oyster attack was an appropriate celebration, and Old Ebbitt Grill during raw bar happy hour is still the best deal in town. And so it was today, as we dove into a dozen each of their four oysters on the menu -- Duxbury Select, Model T, Standish Shore, and Osprey. I tried to find a muscadet on the menu, and none was to be found, so I selected a moscato from Italy. It's not the perfect match for an oyster like muscadet, but it worked. It provided a slight effervescence with some mild sweetness, which went nicely with the shiny, briny bivalves. I also note that the shucking was top-notch, as there wasn't a trace of shell fragment anywhere on the massive platter.

I tend to be a minimalist, with the first oyster of each type tasted without anything on it, and then a few drops of lemon and Tabasco on the others, followed by a full slurp. Lady KN tends to go with a spare seafood fork dipped in cocktail sauce and horseradish, and then stabbed into the oyster, with no slurping.

Raw bar happy hour used to be half-priced, but now it's just heavily discounted. It's still the best price in town, but the happy price of $24/dozen (regular $38/dozen) is still the best deal in town. We followed the oysters with Maine Blue Mussels for Lady KN and a single crabcake for me. We hadn't intended to eat anything but oysters at OEG, but in our post-oyster glow we went with the mussels and crabcake. I'll admit that the crabcake was good enough to order again, and the accompanying fries were freshly cut and fried to a nice crisp. The crabcake was mostly lump crab, and although I've had better in Baltimore and Annapolis, I've had many, many, many that were far worse.

Even with about 50% capacity, with intentional empty tables here and there, the wait for people to get in the door was an hour and a half on a Memorial Day Saturday afternoon. Definitely score a reservation, and definitely go for raw bar happy hour.

How do they not have Muscadet? :(

Moscato is as different from Muscadet, as Pinot Noir is from Pinot Gris. 

Damn.

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11 hours ago, DonRocks said:

How do they not have Muscadet? :(

Moscato is as different from Muscadet, as Pinot Noir is from Pinot Gris. 

Damn.

Someone with some stature (hint) should point it out to them.

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From the Ask Tom chat yesterday:
 
Old Ebbitt Grill
(Kibbee Nayee)
 
11:25 a.m.
My wife and I enjoyed my birthday oyster feast at OEG last Saturday during their raw bar happy hour, and it remains the best deal in the city on oysters. However, the classic wine pairing for oysters is musacadet, and it cannot be found on the OEG wine list. Why would a restaurant that sells so many oysters not have a muscadet to accompany?
 
 
 
avatar
 
Tom Sietsema
Food Critic
Beats me. You should inquire! Or register a request. (I like sancerre or chablis with my bivaves. )
 
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