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Power Restaurants


Kanishka
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With the conversation about Signatures and this Washington Whisper in US News (scroll to the bottom), I thought it would be interesting to hear what others think the new "power restaurants" in DC are. Charlie Palmer, The Monocle, and the Capitol Grille all come up as popular with the right, with La Colline taking the top spot there. Where do the left go to make deals -- the same places? Old Ebbitt? Just curious, especially since I'm not in D.C. during lunch time to see what goes on downtown... is The Palm still a "power" destination?

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is The Palm still a "power" destination?

I like to think that any place where we Rockwellians choose to gather is -- ipso facto -- a "power" destiination. smokin.gif

Screw false modesty

Edited to add: Yipee the cool emoticons that DC Mark's friend provides work! Kewel! For those who haven't seen the site Click here

Edited once again to get back to topic:

What defines a "power restaurant?" Is it the patrons? Is it what transacts during meals? Is it the press who bestow the description? I guess in DC because of the mono-typical nature of this government town, there are a few places where key players gather which have become known as power restaurants. Does this apply in other, larger, cities?

Edited by FunnyJohn
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With the conversation about Signatures and this Washington Whisper in US News (scroll to the bottom), I thought it would be interesting to hear what others think the new "power restaurants" in DC are. Charlie Palmer, The Monocle, and the Capitol Grille all come up as popular with the right, with La Colline taking the top spot there. Where do the left go to make deals -- the same places? Old Ebbitt? Just curious, especially since I'm not in D.C. during lunch time to see what goes on downtown... is The Palm still a "power" destination?

What must have surely been the biggest Power Dinner in the history of the United States took place one evening when I was at Citronelle Lounge. Secret Service agents were everywhere, and I mean these were 25-year-old sharpshooters standing around in trenchcoats, hands plunged into their pockets, ice running through their veins. Why all the fuss? Having dinner downstairs were George Schultz, Alan Greenspan, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. I felt like I could have gotten shot for picking up a french fry too quickly.

[Please keep this thread non-political. Thanks! Rocks.]

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As with Citronelle and other really top notch restaurants the kind of clientele likely to be attracted is, for want of a better description, the creme de la creme of our Washington society. But these are not really power restaurants IMO. They are places where people who can afford to are drawn because the food is so damn good. True power restaurants -- at least in this town -- have a certain kind of menu, usually heavy on the beef, are located in certain parts of town, either near the Capitol, the White House or K Street, convenient for the power players and are open for lunch.

Edited by FunnyJohn
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What defines a "power restaurant?" Is it the patrons? Is it what transacts during meals? Is it the press who bestow the description? I guess in DC because of the mono-typical nature of this government town, there are a few places where key players gather which have become known as power restaurants. Does this apply in other, larger, cities?

I'm sure there are Hollywood power restaurants for the red carpet crowd, Madison Avenue and Conde Nasty power restaurants in NYC and all sorts of shady spots in Las Vegas for the high rollers. Probably has to do with the clientele of the restaurant being closely linked to what makes the city tick... for DC, for the most part, that's the Federal Government.

Mainly, I'm curious: Where did Terry McAuliffe dine (its pretty clear Dean has a different style going)? Where does Rove eat? I've never had a run in (though a friend did with Mrs. Clinton at Galileo) but am curious. According to that US News tidbit, the info was easy enough to find...

Out of curiousity, has anyone ever been to the Monocle? I've heard not-so-great things about La Colline...

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Out of curiousity, has anyone ever been to the Monocle? I've heard not-so-great things about La Colline...

Yep, been to the Monocle, not that great, but sure is convenient for the Senate side of Capitol Hill. La Colline has got or at least used to have better food than Monocle and is also conveniently located. Bistro Bis when we had a DR.Com HH there a few months ago seemed to be attracting the movers and shakers.

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Yep, been to the Monocle, not that great, but sure is convenient for the Senate side of Capitol Hill.  La Colline has got or at least used to have better food than Monocle and is also conveniently located.  Bistro Bis when we had a DR.Com HH there a few months ago seemed to be attracting the movers and shakers.

How many Senators did we see come through the door that eveing for a private event at Bis? I recall Baucus and Snowe, I think there were one or two others.

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I know that most important people eat lunch away from their little mouses and keyboards, away their secretaries and that you generally don't see them waddling around the corner with a clear plastic Subway bag and Baked Lays. Yes, the business district at lunch time is full of important people and we should be happy that they are here to stay, pillars of the local economy. As a lunchtime hostess in the past and as veteran office-dweller, I've seen my share of these types.

Some important people wear suits and ties everyday and have drivers idling outside when they dine. They might carry a handheld Crackberry and are capable of shooting you an e-mail as a fluffy bite of ravioli rests on their tongue. Some of them wear green outfits and straw hats and have suitcase-sized handbags and matching leather slippers. Many of them are at home at places like The Four Season, The Mayflower, The Madison or perhaps The Willard because their security team doesn't have to scramble if they're already staying there. Or because the service can be raised a notch with less hustle.

Places like Equinox and The Oval Room (proximity to the White House), Kinkead's and Taberna del... ( State Department), Bistro Bis, CP (House and Senate). The Irish Times (proximity to Ireland), for old school leather-necked drunks, some of whom are secretly very important in this town.

And not that all people with an IFB and microphone are important, but I bet people like Tim Russert get driven somewhere good since they need to stay clean for the camera ...or those CNN and NBCs guys go Chef Geoff's because of their colleague Nora O'Donnell.

You know, it's a real shame. Some people are just too important to surf the net all day long and think about the next happy hour. But at least they can say they help support the economy and the industry, and that's not a lie.

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Since the demise of Sans Souci (which morphed into a MCDONALDS :P:wub::P ), there hasn't been real "power" restaurant. Maybe the Palm qualifies. And Cafe Milano in the evenings, but, and I am dating myself here, no other restaurant has taken its place. It used to be THE place to go for lunch. Part of it was the location (near the White House), but the most important part seems to have been its Maitre d' (Paul something). Much was written about him and then he was lured away--I believe to the Jockey Club, but I could be wrong. After he left, Sans Souci went down the tubes. So much for the food. During the 1970's, there just wasn't any other place to compare. I think that many restaurants have opened around there with hopes of becoming THE place, but it hasn't happened. Of course the question has always lingered: could a Maitre d' matter so much? Apparently.

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The place where I've seen the most power players was the deli on the first floor of the CNN building just north of Union Station. Everyone makes it through there. Not a "power restaurant", but chock full of big names.

BTW -- Robert Reich really is that short. He almost needed a step stool to see over the counter. Wolf Blitzer on the other hand is a really big guy. About the height and build of our own Jacques Gastreaux.

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Since the demise of Sans Souci (which morphed into a MCDONALDS :P   :wub:   :P ), there hasn't been real "power" restaurant.  Maybe the Palm qualifies.  And Cafe Milano in the evenings, but, and I am dating myself here, no other restaurant has taken its place.  It used to be THE place to go for lunch.  Part of it was the location (near the White House), but the most important part seems to have been its Maitre d' (Paul something).  Much was written about him and then he was lured away--I believe to the Jockey Club, but I could be wrong.  After he left, Sans Souci went down the tubes.  So much for the food.  During the 1970's, there just wasn't any other place to compare.  I think that many restaurants have opened around there with hopes of becoming THE place, but it hasn't happened.  Of course the question has always lingered:  could a Maitre d' matter so much?  Apparently.

His name was Paul Delisle.

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I saw Sen. Dick Durbin at Montmartre recently -- good to know some of the power types also like the smaller, quality neighborhood joints.
(Laura Bush allegedly checked out Sonoma with some ladies a few weeks ago, too.)

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Also spotted at Sonoma [during my one and only visit there]: CIA Director Porter Goss.

At Ardeo's brunch, I've seen Greta van Susteren and Senator Joe Lieberman. Apparently the former is a regular; the latter presses and starches his jeans. :P

Next door at Bardeo, I once witnessed Campbell Brown dining (and chain smoking) with Harvey Weinstein.

Michael Jordan used to frequent Cafe Milano. I was there with my parents and a couple of friends for my birthday in 2002 when suddenly the lights were dimmed dramatically and the previously soft music was switched to something more urban. MJ was led to his table not ten feet from mine. It was all I could do to stop my mother from racing over for a pic. She knew that I had met him before and wanted to remind him of that (and after only two martinis). I restrained her with words and a sharp, sharp look.

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I know Bush senior loved Peking, but I can't imagine health conscious dubya eating the duck!! I went there a couple years ago. The food was great but even with a reservation we waited an hour.

And Campbell Brown chain smoking would account for her thinness and inability to participate in physically challenging segments on the Today show! Also, anyone ever see her fumble through EVERY cooking segment as if she'd never made a piece of toast before? It's always amusing.

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I think Speaker Hastert gets around - I saw him (and a Secret Service entourage) leaving Southside 815 in Alexandria on a weeknight around 10:15. I wouldn't call Southside a power restaurant, but they do serve hearty portions :P

Saw him again a few weeks later departing the association/think tank building across the street from Tortilla Coast on the Hill. Not sure where he was headed, but it was prime reception/happy hour time.

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I think Speaker Hastert gets around - I saw him (and a Secret Service entourage) leaving Southside 815 in Alexandria on a weeknight around 10:15.  I wouldn't call Southside a power restaurant, but they do serve hearty portions  :P

Saw him again a few weeks later departing the association/think tank building across the street from Tortilla Coast on the Hill.  Not sure where he was headed, but it was prime reception/happy hour time.

If you mean across D St. -- the big White building next to the Capitol Hill Club -- that's the Republican National Committee HQ -- homebase for the Speaker and other GOPers. When the House is in session anytime between 5 and 9 that block will be thick with Members and Lobbyists taking advantage of the free food and booze being distributed at fundraisers, receptions, etc.

chase.gif

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That reminds me - doesn't the RNC have a "Republican Club" restaurant or something like that in their building? That would probably be a pretty powerful spot.

The DNC has the National Democratic Club adjacent to its building around the corner on South Capitol Street, but I'm not sure it sees the traffic that the Republican one would. My few meals there were completely forgettable.

Edited by bilrus
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That reminds me - doesn't the RNC have a "Republican Club" restaurant or something like that in their building?  That would probably be a pretty powerful spot. 

The Capitol Hill Club - I'm not sure it's fully connected to RNC HQ, but they do share a loading dock. There's a lot of Important Person traffic around mealtimes. Ironically, the one time I attended an event there, Molly Ivins was the speaker. :P

They did have awfully good bacon.

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The Capitol Hill Club - I'm not sure it's fully connected to RNC HQ, but they do share a loading dock.  There's a lot of Important Person traffic around mealtimes.  Ironically, the one time I attended an event there, Molly Ivins was the speaker.  :P  

They did have awfully good bacon.

The Capitol Hill Club is REPUBLICAN! The fact that Molly Ivins was invited to speak there just shows that some of us will listen to just about anyone. Apart from the bacon, which I haven't sampled, the food there is appallingly mediocre - which shows that some of us will eat just about anything :P . Any chefs out there looking for work.... :wub:

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This is an interesting topic. I don't think there are power restaurants in DC like there was when I first moved to DC in 1993. Now don't get me wrong, there are a variety of places that you may see Administration, Hill types, and the national press at, but I think that with DC becoming a much better city to eat in, that has changed over the years. And for that, we should all be thankful! I remember when I first moved to town and there was basically steakhouses and French restaurants.

I would say for members of the House and Senate and their staffs, there really aren't that many restaurants that have good food close by, so it seems that they are willing to travel. I agree that both the Capitol Hill Club and the National Democratic Club serve totally forgettable food. Obviously, La Colline and the Monocle are frequented due to their proximity and out of the two, La Colline is hands down the better place to eat. Both Bistro Bis and Charlie Palmers are on the list of hotter places for both lunch and dinner due to not only their locations but also their cooking. You will also often see large number of members at the Caucus Room and The Capital Grille, so the fascination with red meat continues. And it is surprising the number of members that eat as far away as Mortons (both downtown and in Georgetown).

Talking about running into people out at dinner, one of my favorite stories involves a good friend who was made the number 2 person at one of the federal departments. We were going out to Ristorante Tosca to celebrate his Senate confirmation and as we walked to our table there was a splattering of applause. We sat done and my friend says, wow, who know they would even know who I am. At about that precise moment, Madeline Albright walks by on her way out of the restaurant after finishing her meal. It was fun to watch him eat a little crow at an Italian restuarant;-)

As for the security that the leaders of Congress receive, that is actually provided by the Capitol Hill Police Department.

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If you mean across D St. -- the big White building next to the Capitol Hill Club -- that's the Republican National Committee HQ -- homebase for the Speaker and other GOPers.

No, it was on the other corner (southwest corner). He very well could have been headed across the street to the RNC or on to another free food event. It doesn't look like he misses too many meals... :P

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The Capitol Hill Club is REPUBLICAN!

Well, yeah; I meant *physically* connected - I looked on the way to the Metro today, and there's a covered hallway thing over the loading dock, but they're technically separate buildings. I wonder if that's so the club can host nominally bipartisan receptions (like the one I went to) without Democrats having to set foot in RNC HQ. :P

My opinion of the bacon was probably colored by the fact that I'd had 2 wisdom teeth out the day before and was fairly well medicated.

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The Congressional dining rooms in the Capitol are of course candidates for "power restaurants". I had lunch at the House dining room a while ago. It was like being transported into a distant past, and not necessarily a better one. Our waiter was an elderly black gentleman who had been a porter on the railroads back in the fifties. I couldn't help thinking of all he must have experienced in his long life.

A fat, pink-faced politico was yakking on a phone at another table. The food was worse than mediocre: warmed-over vegetables reeking of the steam table; tough, gristly steaks; and for some reason, bad American plonk when this country can do so much better. But the worst was seeing "Freedom Fries" on a menu for the first time. The entire room (like the entire Capitol) is a derivative of European art and architecture. As I looked at the dados along the walls, the dentil molding, the ornate ceiling rosette, and every other little "Euro" element of my surroundings, I had to laugh at the notion of "Freedom Fries."

What's really scary is to think that most restaurants in Washington were at one time like the House dining room: pompous places without culinary substance or taste, for fat cats who didn't know any better and cared even less.

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Our waiter was an elderly black gentleman who had been a porter on the railroads back in the fifties. I couldn't help thinking of all he must have experienced in his long life.
What's really scary is to think that most restaurants in Washington were at one time like the House dining room: pompous places without culinary substance or taste, for fat cats who didn't know any better and cared even less.

Reminds me of an awful, awful lunch I had a few years ago at the Metropolitan Club. The gentleman I was with (client/author) referred to the aging African American gentleman as "Dawkins" the whole time... pretty uncomfortable experience for a 23 year old second gen immigrant (me) and my co-worker (a Brit).

Oh yeah, and the food sucked.

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Reminds me of an awful, awful lunch I had a few years ago at the Metropolitan Club. The gentleman I was with (client/author) referred to the aging African American gentleman as "Dawkins" the whole time... pretty uncomfortable experience for a 23 year old second gen immigrant (me) and my co-worker (a Brit).

Oh yeah, and the food sucked.

Clubs...now there's a whole topic of its own. Must food at such institutions always taste institutional? I know that people don't covet membership at these places because of the food, but still... I had a pallid, overcooked lunch with my former boss at the Cosmos Club a few years ago, and the whole time I kept asking myself, "Why are we here?"

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As with Citronelle and other really top notch restaurants the kind of clientele likely to be attracted is, for want of a better description, the creme de la creme of our Washington society. But these are not really power restaurants IMO. They are places where people who can afford to are drawn because the food is so damn good.

Which is why I was sitting not six feet away from Steve Case two nights ago at Citronelle. A diner such as this is dangerous: Not only could he purchase Citronelle, but he could also buy the Georgetown Latham Hotel, and also acquire a major stake in Blackstone Group LP, owners of the hotel. Of course, Michel Richard might be happy at such a prospect, but that's another story for another thread.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Which is why I was sitting not six feet away from Steve Case two nights ago at Citronelle. A diner such as this is dangerous: Not only could he purchase Citronelle, but he could also buy the Georgetown Latham Hotel, and also acquire a major stake in Blackstone Group LP, owners of the hotel. Of course, Michel Richard might be happy at such a prospect, but that's another story for another thread.

Cheers,

Rocks.

More importantly, how was the meal?
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Saw Obama sitting down for a casual dinner at Ceiba two Wednesdays back, with Secret Service strategically placed all around what was a pretty busy restaurant at 10 PM on a school night. I do not go much as I am not a fan of the cuisine (and certainly not of the prices), but Ceiba appears to be a very popular spot for movers and shakers these days.

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Sonoma is occasionally the go-to place for celebrities who have business on the Hill, either for making a movie or testifying for some cause or another. Recently Djimon Hounson (of Blood Diamond fame) and Lance Armstrong were there within a couple days of each other. Woody Harrelson was there some time ago in connection with a scene he was filming next door to the restaurant. Then of course there's Laura Bush and her big-haired peroxide entourage, as well as the usual coterie of Washington hacks and pols. Thankfully, in the main Sonoma has not succumbed to the all too Washingtonian temptation of treating such people differently than any other.

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Sonoma is occasionally the go-to place for celebrities who have business on the Hill, either for making a movie or testifying for some cause or another. Recently Djimon Hounson (of Blood Diamond fame) and Lance Armstrong were there within a couple days of each other. Woody Harrelson was there some time ago in connection with a scene he was filming next door to the restaurant. Then of course there's Laura Bush and her big-haired peroxide entourage, as well as the usual coterie of Washington hacks and pols. Thankfully, in the main Sonoma has not succumbed to the all too Washingtonian temptation of treating such people differently than any other.
Condi dined there a couple of Fridays ago, too. [Mrs. Bush and the girls are fans of Drew's -- they have also been sighted at Mendocino.]
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This is going to be a very odd query, but I was wondering if the members of this board could help me come up with some usual suspect restaurants where one might find power-brokering politicians and their kind.

Oval Room and Bombay Club come to mind, also Tosca and Charlie Palmer Steak.

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:)

No, less bangle, more cigar.

Prime Rib, although I'm not sure about how many politicians (as opposed to old-school diners) actually frequent it; I've seen more politicians in Citronelle than any other restaurant. Not sure why you're asking, but if you want to maximize chances of a sighting, go for proximity to the White House (Bombay Club, Oval Room) or Capitol (Charlie Palmer Steak) during lunch hour. Maybe Capitol Grille on Pennsylvania Avenue as well. Either that or Good Guys after 1 AM. :D

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Not sure why you're asking, but if you want to maximize chances of a sighting...

Just about choked on my own spittle.

Oh, Don, I thought you knew me better than that. The last thing I want to do is eat where THOSE people eat. Honestly, I'm just getting a little rusty on my D.C. power scenes and needed a refresher. I have conjured in my mind scads of places that fit the example I'm looking to make, but no particular names or specific dining rooms are surfacing.

I mean, I suppose the Monocle is a bit divey. And the Capitol Hill Club is only for members of one side of the aisle.

The Round Robin is almost perfect, except it's way too much bar and not enough restaurant.

The problem is, the current administration is making those clubby places out of date in a way that they never were before.

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Just about choked on my own spittle.

Oh, Don, I thought you knew me better than that. The last thing I want to do is eat where THOSE people eat. Honestly, I'm just getting a little rusty on my D.C. power scenes and needed a refresher. I have conjured in my mind scads of places that fit the example I'm looking to make, but no particular names or specific dining rooms are surfacing.

I mean, I suppose the Monocle is a bit divey. And the Capitol Hill Club is only for members of one side of the aisle.

The Round Robin is almost perfect, except it's way too much bar and not enough restaurant.

The problem is, the current administration is making those clubby places out of date in a way that they never were before.

All of those places you mention were out of date 20 years ago. Has nothing to do with the current administration. And good guys has nothing on royal palace...

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All of those places you mention were out of date 20 years ago. Has nothing to do with the current administration. And good guys has nothing on royal palace...

Camelot tends to be the more likely sighting spot. Not at lunch time, though.

Or so I have read...

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