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Nov 7, 2007 05:23 PM

Historic Restaurant

I am looking for a historic/local favorite restaurant in the DC area. Preferably moderately priced and low key.

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  1. Old Ebbitt Grill on 15th street. Dates to the earlier century. And, for what it is, is actually rather good.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Joe H

      Those who go back know that the Old Ebbitt was a hole in the wall on G Street off Fifteenth. Although the name was appropriated by the Clyde's Restaurant Group, I wouldn't say that it is still a historic place.

      My recommendation is Martin's Tavern in Georgetown which goes back to right after Prohibition ended.

      1. re: BookGuy

        And I believe this is where JFK proposed to least I think this is the place that my bf told me about. Kind of a fun little fact...especially if you have a date with you! :)

        1. re: BookGuy

          Old Ebbitt is a NEW name for what was once Rhodes Tavern, established in 1799 at 15th and F, very close to the current location. Local developer Oliver Carr bought the place and a 7-year legal battle began with local preservationists who tried to stop him from tearing it down.

          It's probably the only restaurant in DC that ended up with a ballot referendum in 1983, which won citizen approval, only to be overturned by the courts.
          Carr tore the building down in the middle of the night in 1984 and built the current Metropolitan Square Building in which Old Ebbitt is located. He preserved the original Rhodes Tavern wooden bar and many of the artifacts which are installed in the current place which has been renamed.

          So there is a good Washington story behind Old Ebbitt. There is a plaque on the building commemorating Rhodes Tavern. It was paid for with pennies collected from DC schoolchildren in 1999.

            1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

              Yeah, all this was before I got involved with preservation issues so my details are a little foggy but if I remember, the actual Rhodes Tavern building ended up being used as a drugstore in its final sad years. The Old Ebbitt was a watering hole to the end and the old wooden bar was packed up and stored until it could be installed in the new place in Metropolitan Square.
              Metropolitan Square combined a couple of old office buildings, including the RKO Keith Theatre, with some new construction to fill that entire city block.

          1. re: BookGuy

            As for "going back" I saw Goldfinger at RKO Keith's in '63 which is either adjacent to or part of the original building that the Ebbitt has been moved to. While they gutted the interior they did save the facade. I believe that the actual Keith's theatre filled part of the area that the new building occupies. Over the years I've hosted countless people for dinner in D. C. as part of my business, often wanting to take them to a restaurant that was unique to here as well as good. Old Ebbitt has never been my first choice fora business dinner or entertaining (Prime Rib, Kinkead's, Vidalia and Maestro when it was open along with the Lab). Still, the Old Ebbitt always got a very good reaction. It FELT like D. C. just as a drink around the corner in the Bird's Nest of the Willard FEELS like D. C. Unfortunately there are far too many places that have closed including Reeves; at least the Old Ebbitt-in one form or another-is still around, in a building that brings back memories although they are from a great movie theater and not a restaurant. Still, when I walk in there I do feel like I'm walking into part of D. C.'s past.

            Addendum: I believe the entrance to Keith's was actually to the left of where the Ebbitt is now. Still, because of its proximity I feel as if it is/was the same building.

            1. re: Joe H

              I feel the same way about OEG. It's very DC and feels special. I haven't been to the Robin's Nest in ages. I'll have to do something about that ;-)

        2. Luigi's has been around since 1943. Pizzas and pastas are still pretty good.

          Sign of the Whale opened in the late 1960s; it used to be an old gentlemen's club. It also was a hippie hangout for Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda.

          Both moderately priced and lowkey.

          1. When you say histroical I automatically think 1789. But that's not really moderatly priced or low-key. Neither is Prime Rib, another place that came to mind.

            But how about Eastern Market, in particular the counter at Market Lunch.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Elyssa

              Intersting. Everyone, including me, thinks of 1789 as historic. Part of it is the name, of course, and past of it is the sort of colonial ambiance. The restuarant opened in 1960 and nothing of a historic nature has occurred there. Of course in this town I suppose if a restaurant has been open continually for 47 years that may indeed be historic in itself!

              Of course, the only thing historic about the Old Ebbitt Grill is its name. It is now a touristy place in a different location with a different interior.

              1. re: Dakota Guy

                Yes but it FEELS historic and very Georgetown :)

              2. re: Elyssa

                Even though 1789 may have only opened in 1960, the building is alot older and the entire experience screams old world. Plus, it's one of the few places left where you can STILL get the trifecta: reliably great service, pretty darn good food, and lovely ambiance. And the pulling up to the door and having 2 or 3 valets run out to take your car in "no parking" G'town is the icing on the cake! Still can't wait til Ris opens her new place next year but 1789 still has it going on. And when you think about it, the prices are pretty much the same as any of the "nicer" places in DC that don't have nearly the atmosphere or service or even the food. And who doesn't love a drink in tiny Pino's bar? you feel like you are doing something a little clandestine, sitting there and having a predinner toddy don't you??

              3. I think you'd love Gadsby's Tavern. It goes back to 1770 and had been visited by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among others.

                It's in Old Town Alexandria


                3 Replies
                1. re: monavano

                  That is a GREAT recommendation. Also a great idea for Thanksgiving [one that I wish I had remembered earlier !].

                  1. re: monavano

                    A silly little factoid about Gadsby's is that the dark masonry circle on the sidewalk near the corner of the street is the outline of the old ice cellar. The tavern used to buy chunks of ice in the winter and spring, brought down from the north in ships, and store the ice in the cellar nearly the year round... All this for a cold drink in July.

                    1. re: Ziv

                      Very interesting. I'll have to look for that next time I'm in the area.

                  2. I think of the restored Willard Intercontinental you could get drinks at the round robin or a meal in the bistro. It's restoration was quite amazing. To see what they found under stuff was amazing.

                    I don't think historic and local favorite go together. Except maybe if you have an iron stomach you may be a local at Ben's Chili Bowl.