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Considering its location as the nation's capital, it's no wonder that many of Washington, D.C.'s restaurants are known as "power dining" hotspots. The three-martini-lunch may have gone out of favor with the recession, but there are stil plenty of wine-and-dine places in the city for a powerhouse meeting.
In a town known mostly for its buttoned-up appearance, cuisine here is anything but boring. While steakhouses have long been a staple, restaurateur Ashok Bajaj, owner of power lunch favorites The Oval Room, Bombay Club and Bibiana Osteria Enoteca, says that diners are craving more diversity for all meals, including lunch. That much is evident from the success of his restaurants, which range from contemporary American to Indian and Italian.
A presidential pit stop can often make or break a restaurant’s reputation. If that’s the case, then Old Ebbitt is one of Washington’s most acclaimed, with a history dating back to 1856. Originally a boardinghouse, President William McKinley even lived there during his tenure in the United States House of Representatives. Presidents Johnson, Grant, Cleveland, Roosevelt and Harding were known to frequent the bar. Of course, the restaurant has its fair share of celebrity devotees too, everyone from The Grateful Dead to Sean Penn and Harrison Ford.
Guests dine on freshly-shucked oysters from the popular raw bar and comfort food like crab cake sandwiches under turn-of-the-century glass chandeliers in a clubby yet casual atmosphere. From touristto Tom Hanks (another celebrity regular), everyone is welcome.
The Caucus Room
Located in restaurant-centric Penn Quarter, The Caucus Room has long been known as one of DC’s premier power dining establishments. The seafood and steak-heavy menu has been pushed out in favor of more casual bar bites at the newly-revamped front bar, now dubbed, somewhat accurately, Social Reform Kitchen & Bar, but the fine dining menu is still available for private parties and groups.
The Oval Room
The Oval Room is the closest most people will get to the Oval Office without an election. Serving contemporary American fare, a veritable “who’s who” of political and media types dine here regularly – Condoleezza Rice has even admitted that it’s her favorite spot in DC. Just watch out for the secret service – the restaurant is so popular that you’re bound to catch at least a few senators and congressmen each weekday.
Long considered DC’s best power dining destination for lunch or dinner, clubby steakhouse has good reason to brag. Every president since Richard Nixon has dined at the Dupont Circle restaurant, which features photos of VIPs and frequent guests on its walls. The steak is naturally a highlight, but oversized lobsters are also favorite items. Want to know who the biggest politico or lobbyists of the day are? Just look inside one of the restaurant’s four booths, which are generally reserved for power players.
Wolfgang Puck’s first restaurant in Washington has been attracting power players of the political, media and Hollywood variety since its opening. Of course, that’s not surprising – the sleek glass-fronted restaurant and lounge is attached to the Newseum, the museum of the news. Acclaimed equally for thefood and the see-and-be-seen ambiance, political types ranging from Lindsey Graham to A-lister Paul McCartney. Michelle Obama even chose the restaurant for a birthday dinner.
Day diners choose the restaurant for its convenient location—it’s located between Capitol Hill and downtown. Popular dishes include spicy tuna tartare cones and pan-roasted rockfish with red thai curry shrimp.
Named one of Bon Apetit’s best new restaurants of 2012, chef Fabiola Trabocchi’s first owned restaurant in DC (he previously helmed the kitchen at the now-closed Maestro as well as NYC’s Fiamma) takes the trattoria concept and elevates it to fine dining. There’s even a special power lunch menu at the sleek Penn Quarter dining room, where favorite items include house-made pappardelle pasta, smoked potato agnolotti, hearty ahi tuna burgers and grilled branzino. Boldfaced diners in the restaurant’s first year have included governor Chris Christie and Hollywood darling Katherine Heigl.