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2011 
 
 
Top 40 Power Restaurants

 
They're known as the places where deals are closed, business meetings are held, clients are impressed, and the bigwigs and high rollers hang out. Now, we're giving them the Bisnow seal of approval. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to present our first ever power restaurant rankings.
 
The Source

#1: The Source
575 Pennsylvanian Ave., NW

The Source by Wolfgang Puck is the total power restaurant package. It's location between the Hill and the White House draws movers and shakers in politics, business, and media. Top notch modern Asian cuisine from chef Scott Drewno will impress clients and colleagues. Plus, the restaurant oozes big name patrons like Wolf Blitzer, Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan, Nancy Pelosi, Elena Kagan—not to mention the President and First Lady. For a discrete business meal, ask for Table 21 in the corner nook of the upstairs dining room. To see and be seen, sit downstairs at the "Jack Valenti Table," a circular corner booth (it's where we found GM Rikka Johnson) that provides a direct view of everyone entering and leaving the restaurant.

Cafe Milano

#2: Cafe Milano
3251 Prospect St., NW

Flip to a random page of The Wall Street Journal. Or US Weekly. Or Sports Illustrated. Chances are there's a photo of someone who's frequented this Georgetown Italian establishment. This celeb-spotting Washington institution is known as a destination for diplomats, journalists, lobbyists, politicians, actors, musicians, all-star athletes, and at least one pope.

Seasons at The Four Seasons

#3: Seasons at The Four Seasons
2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and at Seasons, it's not just because you get your daily dose of protein in the bacon and eggs. Mornings at this Georgetown Four Seasons restaurant are prime time for business meetings. Early-rising power players discuss deals over coffee and plan for presentations over pancakes.

Equinox chef Todd Gray

#4: Equinox
818 Connecticut Ave., NW

Equinox doesn't just bring farm to table; it brings power to table. Blocks from the White House, Chef Todd Gray's 12-year-old restaurant draws a loyal crowd of Washington insiders. Big names who've dined here include David Axelrod, sports personality Tony Kornheiser, AOL co-founder Jim Kimsey, Mayor Vincent Gray,George Bush Sr., the Obamas, and Bono. The most loyal regulars even have dishes named after them: Personal Care Products Council CEO Lezlee Westine has a pulled chicken salad, lobbyist and political campaigner Mike Berman has a vegetable assortment, and the late Burton Wood (a former Mortgage Bankers Association lobbyist) is the namesake of a dessert trio. Todd Gray, above, was recently named Chef of the Year by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

The Palm

#5: The Palm
1225 19th St., NW

You know you've truly made it when your caricature appears on the walls of The Palm. Washington's most prominent figures have dined here over the course of nearly four decades. The steakhouse is particularly popular among political and media types, but celebs like Mohammed Ali, George Clooney, and Bill Murray have also eaten here. The city's most famous maitre d', Tommy Jacomo (above), has greeted them all since the restaurant opened in 1972. In that time, he's seen history unfold. He tells us Pro Football Hall of Famer John Riggins was signed here and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein wrote notes for All The President's Men in one of the back booths.

 
Charlie Palmer Steak House

#6: Charlie Palmer Steak House
101 Constitution Ave., NW

Political transparency manifests itself at Charlie Palmer Steak House through the giant front windows with a direct view of the lobbyists, members of Congress, and other Hill staffers dining inside. Squint extra hard and you might see what brings them there: top-quality steaks, seafood, and an extensive all-American wine list. (Hey, at least we know Congress is doing its part to keep vineyard jobs in America.) The rooftop terrace sets the scene for larger receptions with one of the best views of the US Capitol. If you want to get any closer to political power, you'll have to sit on John Boehner's lap. And we imagine that's not nearly as comfortable.

 
Bourbon Steak Chef Adam Sobel

#7: Bourbon Steak
2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

If we had a bottomless expense account, we'd hit up Bourbon Steakfor a power breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (Is there such thing as a power dessert? If so, we'd take that too.) The restaurant is extremely discreet about who frequents the wood-paneled dining room, but we can say Oprah, Angelina Jolie, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brad Pitt, and Rahm Emanuel have all been spotted here. Sure, it doesn't hurt that Bourbon Steak is located in Georgetown's Four Seasons, a favorite of visiting dignitaries and celebs. But the Michael Mina restaurant has more appeal than its penthouse suite proximity. Chef Adam Sobel (above) and his team know how to impress the most pampered palettes with favorites like lobster pot pie and butter-poached steaks.

 
BLT Steak crowd

#8: BLT Steak
1625 I St., NW

The only cuts you have to worry about at BLT Steak are those to your 22 oz. rib eye. But this power spot between K Street and the White House is anything but a one-note steakhouse. Chef Victor Albisu supplies some of the best modern American cuisine in the city, and the downtown business crowd knows it. It's no surprise the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington named it Power Spot of the Year in 2010. Bonus points: BLT Steak has hosted many Bisnow breakfast panels (as seen above) and CEO roundtables. We can't get enough of the popovers.

 
The Capital Grille

#9: The Capital Grille
601 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Capital Grille is the quintessential mahogany-paneled, lobbyist-filled Washington steakhouse. Lobbyists used to treat legislators and their staff to meals here, but because of HLOGA rules, they now dine separately. Still, the restaurant remains a hotspot for political gossip and glad-handing. Hefty steaks, just like the federal budget, require portion control. Personalized wine lockers provide the ultimate status symbol.

 
Central's Michel Richard

#10: Central
1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Super chef Michel Richard's American bistro with a French twist is always buzzing. Business men and women in suits clink glasses at the bar, and politicos mmm over lobster burgers in the constantly-packed dining room. The less stuffy alternative to Michel's Citronelle sits on the power strip known as Pennsylvania Ave, but it's particularly close to the Mayor's Office, the Ronald Reagan Building, and FBI, so don't be surprised if that guy with the gougeres is an undercover agent.

 
Blue Duck Tavern

#11: Blue Duck Tavern
1201 24th St., NW

The menu may be seasonal, but Blue Duck Tavern is a favorite spot for a business meal year round. Chef Brian McBride's award-winning rustic American cooking draws a crowd from nearby K Street, Embassy Row, and beyond. The West End spot is known for it's open kitchen, which will make you consider knocking down your own office walls. The semi-private dining room (above) hosts a family-style Chef's Table for group meetings or celebratory business meals.

 
Georgia Brown's

#12: Georgia Brown's
950 15th St., NW

If you need some proof that lawyer-laden K Street has a soul, look no further than Georgia Brown's. The restaurant serves up a side of Southern hospitality with its fried chicken and Carolina gumbo and feeds Washington's elite without feeling elitist. The sidewalk patio, blocks from the White House, provides prime people watching too.

 
Bombay Club Maitre d' Irfan Ozarslan

#13: Bombay Club
815 Connecticut Ave., NW

The real reason the Salahis crashed the White House State Dinner for India? They couldn't get a table at Bombay Club. OK, maybe that's not true, but it could be. You'll find the same first class Indian cuisine and possibly some diplomats, celebrities, or presidents in this elegant dining room. The Clintons, George Bush Sr., Madeleine Albright, Dick Cheney, Alan Greenspan, Maureen Dowd, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, and Anthony Hopkins have all frequented the Bombay Club. And if you're extra lucky, Maitre d' of 20 years Irfan Ozarslan (above) tells us you might catch Stevie Wonder giving an impromptu performance on the restaurant's white piano when he's in town.

 
Lafayette Room at the Hay-Adams

#14: Lafayette Room at the Hay-Adams
800 16th St., NW

Early bird catches the latest political gossip and business dealings at the Lafayette Room in the Hay-Adams Hotel. The restaurant opens up to Washington's movers and shakers as earlier as 6:30 am on weekdays. A table near the window offers a direct view of Lafayette Square and the White House, while those in the back are secured for discrete conversations. Greater Washington Board of Trade president Jim Dinegar tells us the Lafayette Room is his go-to business meal destination for its attentive staff, elegant atmosphere, and cream of wheat.

 
Black's Bar & Kitchen

#15: Black's Bar & Kitchen
7750 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda

Black's Bar & Kitchen proves there's more to power dining than a Pennsylvania Avenue address. Chefs Jeff and Barbara Black offer raw bar, small plates, grill, and extensive wine list for the growing business community in Bethesda. Maryland power patrons have been converging here since the restaurant's multi-million dollar renovation in 2006. Black's also has power of a different kind: It's powered 100% by wind energy.

 
Occidental Grill & Seafood

#16: Occidental Grill & Seafood
1475 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

They don't call it the place "Where Statesmen Dine" for nothing. Occidental has been serving Washington's cultural and political elite—from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Amelia Earhart—for more than a century. The restaurant even brags that it helped play a role in avoiding possible nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1962, ABC News correspondent John Scali lunched at Occidental with a Soviet agent, who passed on a Russian offer to withdraw missiles from Cuba. We can only imagine what other deals have been made here that we don't know about.

 
Teatro Goldoni

#17: Teatro Goldoni
1909 K St., NW

If Teatro Goldoni was in fact a theatre, the power crowd would have season tickets. The modern Italian restaurant sets the stage for countless business meals and charity events. Over the years, Teatro Goldoni has hosted the likes of Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Russell Simmons, Deepak Chopra, Eric Holder, Oliver Stone, and even cast members of Glee. For the clients you really want to impress, check out the chef's table. The $75 seven-course meal is prepared by the chef at a special table in the restaurant's kitchen.

 
Old Ebbitt Grill

#18: Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th St., NW

Old Ebbitt Grill embodies the phrase "very Washington." The historic saloon-turned-restaurant claims to have been a favorite of Presidents Ulysses Grant, Grover Cleveland, Warren Harding, and Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, the walrus head on the wall was supposedly snagged by Teddy. Political insiders, journalists, and business people continue to occupy the restaurant's cozy booths, crowded bar stools, and private rooms from breakfast until dinner. Stephen Colbert even held an afterparty for the Rally to Restore Sanity here last year and climbed on top of the fountain in the atrium to give a speech.

 
701 Restaurant

#19: 701 Restaurant
701 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

For those tedious treks between Capitol Hill and the White House, power brokers can rest their Ferragamos at 701 Restaurant. The fine dining spot has been attracting Washington's elite for two decades. (That's four administrations, if that's your preferred unit of time). While you may no longer be able to impress clients at the caviar bar(a victim of the recession), rest assured that the white tablecloths provide excellent color contrast for that black Amex. For the bargain-hunting power diner, 701 also offers a $15 lunch, which includes a glass of wine or soft drink, at the bar on weekdays.

 
Ris

#20: Ris
2275 L St., NW

Award-winning chef Ris Lacoste lures a cuff-linked and business casual crowd for lunch and dinner with her gnudi, mussels with chorizo, cheeseburgers, and other modern American fare. Her West End dining room is within blocks of a number of embassies (Germany, Spain, Tanzania, Qatar) as well as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Fortunately, you don't need a giant monetary fund of your own to dine at Ris; the restaurant offers a $15 "Power Hour" lunch with entree and drink at the bar on weekdays. Wi-Fi access means your boss won't know you left the office.

 
Oval Room

#21: Oval Room
800 Connecticut Ave., NW

Chances are if you've been in that oval room, you've been in this one. But since we probably won't be briefing the President about job creation policy any time soon, the plush red chairs here are a worthy alternative. Though the restaurant still awaits the Obama seal of approval, George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton have both dined here, and Condoleezza Rice once declared it her favorite restaurant. Manager Todd Ashline won't name other high-profile patrons, but Secret Service agents sweep the restaurant a few times a week.

 
Market Street Bar & Grill

#22: Market Street Bar & Grill
1800 Presidents St., Reston, VA

Breakfast-heavy deal-making goes down among tech start-ups at Market Street Bar & Grill at the Hyatt Regency Reston. You'll find entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from nearby Reston Town Square and the office parks on Sunrise Drive. Whereas members-only Tower Club (#34 on out Power List) draws an older fed-tech crowd, Market Street is a hub for tech types who prefer to dine without jacket and tie.

 
DC Coast

#23: DC Coast
1401 K St., NW

Waves of power players hit DC Coast daily for fresh seafood. There's superb people watching too—both inside and outside. Big windows provide a view of the action on K Street, while a perch at the bar allows you to scan the room for prominent figures eating crab cakes or gumbo. For regulars, the restaurant group's loyalty program doles out points toward rewards like eight-course tasting menus, private cooking classes, Champagne receptions, and more.

 
Good Stuff Eatery's Spike Mendelsohn

#24: Good Stuff Eatery
303 Pennsylvania Ave., SE

For power players of the recession era, burgers are the new steak. Politicians and business people who once flocked to steakhouses, now can't afford (or at least can't afford to be seen) splurging on a three-course lunch. Instead they get their fill of red meat from Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill. Who has time for a lingering mid-day meal, anyway? Hill staffers check their Blackberries while grabbing a quick bite from Top Chef star Spike Mendelsohn. Occasionally, the First Family stops by. Michelle has made multiple trips with her daughters and staff, and President Obama treated staff who worked on debt negotiations to some burgers and shakes last month.

 
J&G Steakhouse

#25: J&G Steakhouse
515 15th St., NW

Socialites swoon, power brokers pow-wow, and foreign dignitaries dig in at J&G Steakhouse in the swanky W Hotel. Celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's food is worthy of blowing that bonus, while generously-spaced tables in the high-ceiling dining room mean that private conversations stay that way. It's also perhaps one of the best places in town for some celeb-spotting. (In other words, "Hollywood for Ugly People" actually feels like Hollywood here.) Head up to the hotel's POV Rooftop and Terrace Lounge for a view to impress.

 
Plume at the Jefferson

#26: Plume at the Jefferson
1200 16th St., NW

Every business proposition looks good in the light of glittering chandeliers and a glowing fireplace. The Plume at the recently-renovated Jefferson Hotel is known for its elegance and discretion. The scenes from Monticello hand-painted on silk-covered walls transport you to a time long before the debt ceiling crisis and 24/7 news cycle. If you're looking to pop a cork after sealing a deal, the sommelier (formerly of The French Laundry in Napa Valley) can guide you through the more than 1,300 labels in Plume's wine cellar. Your only concern? Remembering which fork to use . . .

 
Ben's Chili Bowl

#27: Ben's Chili Bowl
1213 U St., NW

What can we say that hasn't been said before? Ben's Chili Bowl is an institution. Like the Washington Monument and Smithsonian—but with half smokes. This is the place to go if you want to demonstrate your DC cred while showing visting colleagues and clients around town. What used to be the domain of Nat King Cole, Bill Cosby, and Miles Davis is now a must-visit destination for local and international politicians and celebrities who couldn't care less about calorie counts. President Obama made headlines when he stopped in not long before his inauguration with then-DC mayor Adrian Fenty, and last year, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy swung by, too.

 
Silver Diner in Tysons Corner

#28: Silver Diner in Tysons Corner
8101 Fletcher St., McLean, VA

Silver Diner is a Tysons favorite among the hipper, younger tech crowd (the ones who adopted Twitter so early that their handles are simply their first names). Rather than bother with the fuss of a fancy restaurant, they pull into the crowded parking lot at this '50s style diner and run in for a quicker, livelier meal. Dress code? Mark Zuckerberg chic (t-shirt, hoodie). Don't forget to check in on Foursquare.

 
Bisto Bis

#29: Bistro Bis
15 E St., NW

French toast and financial talk, poisson and political gossip make the perfect pairings at Bistro Bis. Tucked between Union Station and the Capitol in Hotel George, the modern French bistro is a go-to spot forpolitical movers and shakers from breakfast until dinner. Celebrities with a cause and members of Congress have also been known to dine together here: Sean Penn with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Alec Baldwin with Rep. George Miller, and Chevy Chase with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Is there a secret "bring a celebrity, get a free drink" deal we don't know about?

Ristorante Tosca

#30: Ristorante Tosca
1112 F St., NW

Lobbyists meet lobster risotto at Tosca. Power brokers hold regular tables along the back wall and get greeted by name. One prominent Republican lobbyist once told The Washington Post that the modern Italian restaurant was his "company cafeteria." And according to legend The New York Times, Tom Daschle (a Tosca regular) urged then-Senator Barack Obama to run for president over dinner at the restaurant's chef table in 2006. Apparently pappardelle is persuasive.

 
Chef Geoff Tracy

#31: Chef Geoff's Downtown
1301 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Just blocks from the White House, Chef Geoff's is a happy hour haven and unpretentious business meal spot for the 9-to-5ers around Federal Triangle. It doesn't hurt that chef/owner Geoff Tracy is married to CBS chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell. The power couple inevitably attract powerful friends. Chef Geoff's in Tysons Corner also deserves a shout-out. It was nominated for "Power Spot of the Year" at this year's RAMMY Awards.

 
Adour

#32: Adour
923 16th St., NW

For the times when you want to savor foie gras and say, "What recession?" there's Adour. Famed chef and restaurateur Alain Ducasse's sleek dining room at the St. Regis Hotel serves top tier French food and wine at top tier prices. At least your meal isn't as expensive as the billable hour of the lawyer at the next table, right? 
Bring clients here to turn a skeptical "hmm" into a delighted "mmm."

 
Morton's steak

#33: Morton's DC
1050 Connecticut Ave., NW

Morton's and business dining are like beef and Bearnaise sauce: everyone just knows they go together. Combine hefty steaks and a location off-K Street, and watch the suit-and-tie crowd roll in. After all, Morton's is the kind of place you conjure up when you hear the word "steakhouse," and the chain can always be counted on for consistency and hospitality. This location's patio provides the perfect perch for spying on the steak-less (and therefore less fortunate) passersby.
 
The Tower Club

#34: The Tower Club
8000 Towers Crescent Dr., Suite 1700, Vienna, VA

When tech titans in northern Virginia aren't meeting on Skype, they meet at Tower Club in Tysons Corner. The members-only restaurant has been a hub for government contractors and tech entrepreneurs since 1988. The power diners here carry iPhones, not Blackberries, and talk about the GSA like it's the NBA. The cloud, to them, is not the thing you see out of the restaurant's 17th story window.
 
The Monocle

#35: The Monocle
107 D St., NE

The Monocle might as well be an annex to the US Capitol given the number of Hill staffers that file in and out each day. When the restaurant opened in 1960, then-Senator John F. Kennedy andRichard Nixon were regulars. Half a century later, The Monocle is still one of the best places in town to eavesdrop on discussions of the latest Senate votes—before they happen. The American steak and seafood restaurant, known for its crabcakes, also hosts more political fundraisers than the Playboy Mansion hosts pool parties. If you don't recognize a fellow patron from the nightly news, you're not watching enough CNN the photos covering the walls serve as a reminder of the political elite who dine here.
 
The Caucus Room

#36: The Caucus Room
401 9th Street, NW

They may not agree on the debt ceiling, Social Security, or which presidential nominees have the best hair, but Democrats and Republicans can all agree to a good burger at The Caucus Room. You can even find bipartisanship among the restaurant's partners, who include prominent Democrat Tom Boggs, former Republican National Committee chair Haley Barbour, and Carlyle Group's Ed Mathias. Just in case you need one more reminder that you're in Washington, there's a "Social Reform Menu" with items like The Speaker (a Caprese salad), The Lobbyist (a burger with truffle cheese and red wine reduction), and pulled pork (actually, that's exactly what it sounds like). The only financial crisis in this establishment is who picks up the bill.
 
Carmine's

#37: Carmine's
425 7th St., NW

The private rooms at this family-style Italian restaurant are as plentiful as the plates of pasta marinara. There are nine to be exact—the scene for hundreds of political and business events since the restaurant opened in Penn Quarter a year ago. Ted Leonsis, Jon Stewart, and DC Chief of Police Kathy Lanier have all dined here as have Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The restaurant likes to joke that there are often enough members of Congress on site for a quorum. Perhaps that's why the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington recently named Carmine's Power Spot of the Year. (Above, the Carmine's team accepts the award.) Menu tip: The only thing too big to failhere are the meatballs.
 
Bibiana
#38: Bibiana
1100 New York Ave., NW

It may be the baby in restaurateur Ashok Bajaj's empire of power restaurants (701, Bombay Club, Oval Room, etc.), but two-year-old Bibiana has quickly become one of the most fashionable places for a business meal—and not just because you'll feel like you should wear Armani in the Milano-chic dining room. Don't be surprised to see Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia or Ruth Bader Ginsberg while you savor your strozzapreti with pork ragu. They've been known to eat there as have Jill Biden, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Michael Bloomberg.

 
Ray's Hell Burger

#39: Ray's Hell Burger
1725 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA

Long before Bobby's Burger Palace, Shake Shake, and BGR, there was Ray's Hell Burger. The Arlington eatery still draws loyal legions for a quick working lunch. Even President Obama knows that. He famously chowed down on cheeseburgers (medium-well) with VP Joe Biden, and later, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev (above) joined him for a mid-day meal leading up to a joint news conference at the White House. Warning: Try not to splatter ketchup on your white button-up shirt.
 
The Oceanaire

#40: The Oceanaire
1201 F St., NW

Some people say oysters are an aphrodisiac, but at The Oceanaire, you should consider them for closing deals of another kind. The seafood standby, with a dozen locations around the country, attracts a business crowd for lunch and dinner. After all, nothing says "let's make that a five year contract" like a lobster. We suggest acquiring some crab cakes and merging them with your stomach.
 
Written by Dining Editor Jessica Sidman, dining@bisnow.com.
 
 
 
 
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