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You can enjoy steak and seafood at the Occidental Grill & Seafood or have brunch, breakfast or French bistro favorites alfresco at Café du Parc — both of the restaurants at Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C. are wonderful.
The Occidental was opened next to the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel in 1906, and has hosted hundreds of statesmen from nearby Capitol Hill during that time. Many of their photos line the walls of the restaurant — a who’s who that earned the Occidental its slogan, “Where Statesmen Dine.”
Executive chef Rodney Scruggs started his culinary career as a line cook at the Occidental when he was just 18. He stayed until 1993, having worked his way up to executive sous chef, and moved on to work at restaurants around the Washington area and Maryland's Eastern Shore, and as a private chef for the president of American University.
Scruggs returned to the Occidental as executive chef in 2005, and imbued the restaurant with his food philosophy: “Keep it simple, Scruggs.” His dishes stress simple, fresh local ingredients, and his side dishes are a delicious steal. Try the sautéed Brussels sprouts with pancetta or the lobster mashed potatoes, which have more buttery lobster than a Maine lobster roll. For an interesting drink, try one of the Occidental’s barrel-aged cocktails. Like an aged whiskey or rye, these drinks take on the flavors of the barrel they are aged in. On our visit we had a curiously strong Manhattan made with Maker’s Mark whisky, vermouth, bitters and brandied cherries.
At Café du Parc, grab a table outside on Pennsylvania Avenue to enjoy blooming cherry blossoms, spring breezes and people watching as tourists come from the nearby National Mall and Capitol Hill workers head home or to happy hour. The cocktail menu changes seasonally, and features classic cocktails like mint juleps and Manhattans alongside French favorites like champagne cocktails flavored with wild hibiscus flowers. Chef Antoine Westermann, once a chef at Le Buerehiesel in Strasbourg, France, brings serious street cred to the French bistro’s menu. He favors slow-cooked recipes that mimic “Grandmother’s cooking,” and helps fill the menu with unfussy but delicious offerings ranging from French onion soup to seasonal favorites like the sous vide-braised pork shank flavored with lemon and fennel.
Willard InterContinental has several restaurants including: Café du Parc (French bistro); Occidental Grill & Seafood (steak and seafood); Round Robin Bar and Le Bar (bar menu only); and Afternoon Tea along Peacock Alley (seasonal).