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February 17, 2012 
Five Secret
Restaurant Entrances

For high profile diners that don't want to be seen, several DC restaurants offer back entrances to slip in and out without a trace. We take a look at five doors that most people don't even know exist.
Maria Trabocchi at the back entrance of Fiola

Where it leads: Through a short hallway and coat room to the private dining room in the back of the restaurant.

How to get there: Drive through the brick alley connecting Pennsylvania Ave. and C St. alongside Fiola. Exit in the courtyard between the office buildings, and the door is a few steps down the corridor on the left.

Who's passed through: Fiola's Maria Trabocchi won't name names but says: "If they use it, it's for a reason." Fiola lets anyone who books its private dining room choose to use the back entrance. Some people specifically request the room because of it. The Secret Service has used the door but don't always.

How often it's used: Once a month or more often depending on what's going on in the city.

DC vs. NY: Maria has found back doors to be more common in DC. "People in New York prefer to be seen. In DC, people like to be more private and rightfully so."


Where it leads: The back corner of one of Carmine's nine private dining rooms. Above, GM Kris Diemar peeks through.

How to get there: Sorry, top secret.

Secret Service approved: Before the restaurant opened, Carmine's CEO Jeff Bank sent his back door design plans to the Secret Service for review and comment.

Who's passed through: After being sworn in as Supreme Court Justice, Elena Kagan came straight from the White House for a quiet celebratory dinner with family. Mayor Michael Bloomberg also used the entrance during a DC visit to endorse former Mayor Adrian Fenty. Unnamed politicians, lobbyists, and dignitaries have also passed through.

How often it's used: Nearly every day during the holiday season. Otherwise, about once a week.

An exit too: Politicians and fundraisers sometimes like to come in the front door smiling and waving, but sneak out through the back. "They don't want to go back through the gauntlet," Jeff says.

They preferred the front door: Joe Biden, the Obama girls.


Where it leads: To the back of the main dining room, which can be partitioned off into a private room. It also provides a beeline for guests who want to sit at the discrete "power table" in the back corner or are heading for the secluded Federal Room or State Room.

How to get there: Pull up to the side of the restaurant along 23rd St. The drop off area is the valet spot for the Ritz Carlton residences next door.

Who's passed through: Political figures, ambassadors. Comedian Kathy Griffin used the entrance when filming an episode of her TV show My Life on the D List in the restaurant. She was in town lobbying against the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and held a dinner with LGBT leaders at Ris.

How it works: The Secret Service or security detail will typically sweep through the restaurant in advance. Assistant GM Leah Cheston (above) says about 60% of the time, they opt to use the side door for protected guests.

How often it's used: About once a week.

Seasons at the Four Seasons
Seasons at the Four Seasons

Where it leads: A private dining room seating up to 10 at the back of the restaurant.

How to get there: Drive up 29th St. and take the dirt trail behind the Four Seasons along the C&O Canal. A flight of stairs next to the Bourbon Steak vegetable garden leads to the door.

Secure entry: The hotel's security team typically works with the guest's head of security to coordinate the visit in advance. Most regulars with Secret Service already know the hotel inside and out. Also note the security camera in the right corner.

Who uses it: Presidents, ambassadors, members of Congress, movie stars.

How often it's used: "Often enough," PR director Liliana Baldassari tells us.

Private Cellar at The Jefferson hotel
The Jefferson Hotel

Hidden passage: See that painting in the back of the room? It's actually a door.

Where it leads: The Private Cellar, a 300 sq. ft. private dining room lined with wine display cabinets and private wine lockers.

How to get there: Again, top secret.

Who's passed through: The hotel won't disclose who has used the entrance or their affiliations, but a rep tells us it is reserved for the "upmost important of guests."

Extra privacy: The main entry doors to the cellar have frosted glass that can be turned on or off with the flick of switch.


Got a hot new tip? Send restaurant news and story ideas to Dining Editor Jessica Sidmandining@bisnow.com.

Want to advertise in or partner with Dining Bisnow? E-mail Stephen Ballstephen@bisnow.com.

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