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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Weekend Watering Hole: Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington, D.C.

As a regular weekend feature, Lyke2Drink will visit some of the world's great watering holes. This week we head to Washington, D.C., to hit a place where a few Presidents have tossed back some drinks.

Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20005

The Old Ebbitt Grill is said to have served as a favorite of U.S. Presidents Andrew Johnson, U.S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Warren Harding and Theodore Roosevelt, but today you are more likely to bump into a tourist from your hometown. They are there for the same thing you are, the chance to soak up some powerbroker atmosphere, good food and drink. You will see lobbyists and the odd member of Congress, along with assorted staffers and bureaucrats from nearby government offices. This is Washington, after all.

The Old Ebbitt traces its roots back to 1856 when William E. Ebbitt ran a boarding house in the Chinatown area of Washington. The Old Ebbitt has made a few other stops before landing at its current location in 1983. The company that runs Clyde's of Georgetown, another decent bar in the nation's capital, purchased the Old Ebbitt during the 1970s at an auction to settle an unpaid tax lien. The story goes that Clyde's owners first bid on a collection of beer steins at the Old Ebbitt. The sale was not producing very many bids and before they knew it they owned the Old Ebbitt for $11,200.

I have made a few stops at the Old Ebbitt during my visits to Washington over the years and I've never been disappointed. It is a few blocks from most of the places anyone on a vacation in Washington would have on their list to see, so it makes a great choice when you start feeling hungry or thirsty. The Old Ebbitt serves breakfast, but I've never been to the place at that hour. I think lunch or happy hour are the best times because of the crowd and the atmosphere. There is plenty of art in the restaurant and great wood, marble and glass accents.

If you like oysters this is a great place to try a few different kinds. The lunch menu has some bargains for a big city like Washington. You can get a grilled ribeye steak for $15.95 or steamed Maine muscles over linguine for $12.95. At dinner selections include seafood paella for $16.95 and New York strip steak for $23.95. The wine list has earned eight consecutive Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence and the Old Ebbitt has four different bars on premise, so you won't go home thirsty.

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