10 Places to Spot Politicos in Washington, D.C.

When dining in D.C., keep your eyes open at all times.

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Cafe Milano

This Georgetown restaurant opened the same day President Bill Clinton was elected to office in 1992, which may or may not be a coincidence. The Italian hotspot is a popular haunt of Republicans and Democrats alike and constantly turns up in tales of Washingtonian intrigue. Plus, they do a great grilled calamari.

BLT Steak

In D.C., you never know who’s listening. Such was the case last September when a New York Times journalist dining at BLT Steak found himself seated near members of President Donald Trump’s legal team, who were speaking loud enough for him to overhear. The resulting story set off a firestorm in D.C.

Charlie Palmer Steak

This longtime D.C. haunt is the closest steakhouse to Capitol Hill, a fact that appeals to congressmen and senators who might have to dash back to work on a moment’s notice. Things have cooled here since ethics rules mostly barred lobbyists from wining and dining politicians, but you’ll still see plenty of familiar faces crammed in during lunch hours.

The Palm

Open since 1972, the walls of this Dupont Circle spot are plastered with cartoon faces of notable politicians and local powerbrokers. Look closely and you’ll spot no fewer than three different portraits of former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe. Beyond the usual politico spotting, come to The Palm for Italian-ish food, plus crab cakes and prime double-cut New York strip steaks sliced tableside.

Bistro Bis

Swing by upscale French spot Bistro Bis at breakfast to spot the big fish, who schmooze from 7 to 9 a.m. over Continental breakfast fares like omelets and fresh pastries. You might spot someone important at night, too: Rep. Paul Ryan is a regular, once laying out $350 for a top-notch bottle of pinot noir.

Johnny’s Half Shell

Though its sprawling Capitol Hill location, long a go-to spot for political fundraisers, has since closed, Johnny’s Half Shell remains a favorite of politicos with a predilection for briny bivalves. Owner Johnny Fulchino is tight-lipped about revealing his high-profile patrons, which likely contributes to the restaurant's popularity with the political set.

The Old Ebbitt Grill

Washington, D.C.’s oldest bar and restaurant opened up shop in 1856 and has been serving the city’s political elite ever since, with patrons ranging from Ulysses S. Grant to Theodore Roosevelt. Not for nothing is The Old Ebbitt Grill’s plum location just steps from the White House, which understandably makes it an appealing place to throw back a few shots or scarf down a burger.

Occidental Grill & Seafood

Around since 1906, this seafood-centric spot has been a favored hideaway for politicians for decades. Notable events in the Occidental Grill and Seafood’s history include a 1924 celebration marking the Washington Senators’ World Series victory, a 1962 meeting between ABC News correspondent John Scali and a Soviet emissary that led to the conclusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the 2013 filming of critical scenes for the Hollywood blockbuster Captain America.

Bourbon Steak

Restaurateur Michael Mina’s Georgetown restaurant, tucked inside the Four Seasons Hotel, draws an A-List crowd for its high-end steaks, expansive cocktail menu and discrete private VIP room. Bourbon Steak remains a particular favorite of the Obamas, who have celebrated multiple anniversaries here.


Celebrated modern Indian restaurant Indique, located uptown in Cleveland Park, is no stranger to Washington's political elite. High-profile guests skew liberal, and in the past have included Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Sen. Chris Van Hollen. The Embassy of India seems to be a fan, too: Other guests include numerous Indian ambassadors, the Defense Minister of India and the Chief of the Army Staff of India.