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Politicians and Their Palates: Where to Spot Lawmakers in DC
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Restaurants & Bars

Politicians and Their Palates: Where to Spot Lawmakers in DC

Alex Thomas
Published 3 months ago

Any serious swamp-dweller is armed with a handful of stories about spotting one of our city’s lawmakers or White House aides. In a city flowing with gossip, bars and restaurants where the political heavy hitters chow down have become destination spots that definitely beat out the endless Segway tours plaguing Pennsylvania Avenue. We decided to take a look at some of the eateries where you might spot a face that you just saw on the front page of this morning’s Washington Post.

The first and best advice for catching a glimpse of a legislator is to stay near Capitol Hill. Tucked into the north side of the iconic neighborhood are a string of pubs where you’re almost sure to bump into a politician. Take a trip up F Street to The Dubliner, an Irish-themed bar that opened its doors in the ‘70s and has entertained a score of big wigs.

Obama famously swigged a pitcher of Guinness at the establishment on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012. Or drop in next door at Kelly’s Irish Times. When Congress is in session, Kelly’s happy hour swells with staffers and their bosses frequently drop in for a bite.

Their beers are some of the best deals in town and you can never go wrong with the grilled reuben. We were there last week and managed to bump into two sitting senators and a former governor. For bonus points, remember most lawmakers wear the congressional lapel pin that designates them as one of the city’s most powerful.

If you’re looking for something classier, but still want to stay on the Hill, venture over to The Monocle. During the Obama administration, the world-class seafood spot was well-trafficked by the 44th president’s cabinet. For many of our favorite politicians, it’s something of a second home. You might spot even spot a former speaker of the house in one of the back booths, his fork hovering above a plate of juicy scallops.

If you’re looking to dine out in style and spot one of our famous faces, try one of Georgetown’s dynamo restaurants. The neighborhood that earned its glamour in the Camelot Era is still a preferred haunt of the political elite. But don’t expect to see that face from CNN on the main strip; instead, take a detour down a side street to Cafe Milano.

Just be prepared to spend a little more than you might in another area of town and if you’re unsure of what you’re in the mood for, their rotating seafood selection is one of the most impressive in the city with sauteed mussels and roasted sea scallops. While you’re lingering along our iconic cobblestone streets, treat yourself to a cupcake from Baked & Wired.

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When searching for the faces of the White House, the best bet it to stay near 1600 Penn. The Hamilton is less than two blocks away and rarely goes a night without hosting a West Wing employee. Don’t stick to beer—get creative with a cocktail. We recommend the Hamilton's Mule, an unequaled take on the Moscow Mule that uses fresh juices and is perfect for savoring while you’re rubbing elbows with the movers and shakers.

And, of course, you’re not an in-the-know Washingtonian unless you’ve spent some time at Off-The-Record—previously named by Forbes as one of the best hotel bars. You’ll find it across from the White House, in the basement of the historic Hay-Adams Hotel. The red velvet upholstery hushes the conversations that take place between the most powerful men and women in the nation and the bartenders are the best in the district. Like The Hamilton, you’re best choosing a cocktail at Off-The-Record. It’s also a favorite destination for Washington’s hundreds of journalists, so don’t be surprised to see more than a few notebooks peeking out of pockets.

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Also near the White House, you can’t go wrong with Ocean Prime. The upscale eatery serves delicious seafood in the city and is another Obama favorite. The steaks at Ocean Prime are so juicy, you can almost smell them across the river in Virginia and they have nearly as many wines as the National Gallery of Art has paintings.

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If you want to hang with the locals, but still hope to spot a famous face, make your way over to 14th street where the watering holes and eateries are always bustling. Le Diplomate boasts French cuisine and you almost feel like you’re on the left bank with their superb drink selection.

Across the street, you’ll find Barcelona, a fabulous wine bar where the house red is never a bad choice.

Our wonderful metropolis is populated by the most powerful people in the world and they’re always up for a night on the town. The political class loves to shake hands, so don’t be shy about asking to snap a photo with your favorite legislator if you spot him or her between conversations. After all, the city that eats together, votes together.


The Dubliner Restaurant,
The Monocle Restaurant,
Cafe Milano,
Baked & Wired,
The Hamilton,
Off the Record,
Ocean Prime,
Le Diplomate,
Barcelona Wine Bar 14th Street

About the Author

Alex Thomas

Alex is a DC-based freelancer scribbling about politics. He spent two years as a staff writer for Cox Media Group and is an editor at the Washington Examiner and a contributing writer for The Daily Dot and Playboy.