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Sep 27, 2010 05:33 PM

Old Ebbit Grill - Washington

We're visiting Washington and more than one person has suggested a few of the older taverns and we've been more than just a little disappointed. This morning we were told my people we met on a city tour that the Old Ebbit Grill would not disappoint. Any local opinions to support that recommendation? Thanks.

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  1. It's just ok food and a really good raw bar happy hour. Don't expect anything special (including the ambience). As you may already know, every tourist and their mother has already discovered the place so if you don't mind plenty of noise and having to fight through the crowd in the lobby in order to go to the bathroom, you will probably get something unthreatening to eat at a modest price. But you don't have to go on a foodcentric bulletin board to find out about the place, and the idea of going out of your way to eat here means you are probably passing by a lot of better food.

    For example, the potato gratin with pork belly at Brasserie Beck is no more than $12 for what is really enough food for an entire meal. So it is surprising to me that anyone would pass by a great restaurant in order to eat from a corporate casual menu that you could probably execute at home. Anyone with enough gumption to inquire on Chowhound could do much, much better.

    Brasserie Beck
    1101 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

    1. OEG is fine if you're in the area, and want a drink and a snack, and if you sit in Joe's bar and Joe is there. It is very touristy, though less so in Joe's bar (the one on the NW corner of the restaurant). For "older taverns" you might consider Billy Martin's tavern in Georgetown, where allegedly JFK proposed to Jackie. I also like the Chadwick's in Georgetown, which has a very "old tavern" feel though I've never had food there. Long bar, lots of wood, close to the water.

      You might also try the Tabard Inn, which has a good restaurant and a very cozy feel. It's on N Street near Dupont Circle. It is an old inn (still operating as such) so feels "tavern-like."

      Tabard Inn
      1739 N St NW, Washington, DC 20036

      2 Replies
      1. re: dcandohio

        Chadwick's had some decent bar food once upon a time, like onion rings, potato skins, or steak salad. Nowadays food at the Georgetown branch is desperate.

        1. re: Steve

          I've never eaten at Chadwick's. But I do like it for a drink in a place that seems to escape some of the Georgetown preciousness.

      2. I like Old Ebbitt more than most people here. Great raw bar, great burgers, great local atmosphere, and I've even had great liver and onions there.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

          I hope you have a macro for the word 'great.' Would save you a lot of typing!

          1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

            I like it too. They do a good job, however, though it is an historic name it is not an historic place. The building it is in is relatively new (70s perhaps).

            1. re: ChewFun

              I think they built the building around what was there- I believe Ebbitt itself is much older than the building around it.

          2. I do like Old Ebbit, and I've taken family there when they've come in from out of town, really just for brunch, but that's just because it's in a really convenient location. It's owned by the same people who own Clyde's, and it's basically Clyde's. Not that there's anything wrong with Clyde's. If you're walking by, it's a good choice, but I wouldn't ever tell anyone to make a special trip, if that makes sense.

            DC just doesn't do very well on the whole "older taverns" thing. If you're looking for atmosphere, think classier and head to the Round Robin at the Willard, or maybe Off the Record at the Hayes-Adams (where Obama stayed before moving into the White House).

            1 Reply
            1. re: Raids

              DC does have many find private taverns/bars that are great- the most obvious being the Tavern Club on M St. in Georgetown. Just need to know a member, though some clubs, like the National Press Club, has an interesting (not very old but neat) bar.

            2. If you do go (and I don't recommend it because it's no better than an Applebees or TGIFridays, food-wise), then ask the waiter/waitress for recommendations. He/she will most likely steer you towards the staples on the menu, such as the crab dip appetizer and the burger or steak.

              Don't order any fish dish (unless fried, possibly) and don't even think about the ribs (speaking from persona experience).

              16 Replies
              1. re: yfunk3

                For brunch, I can definitely recommend the breakfast club and I had some kind of asparagus benedict-like thing that was pretty decent. Crab cakes are totally fine.

                1. re: yfunk3

                  Come on, it is way better than Applebees or TGIFridays. I would never argue that it is a super special place, but I've always enjoyed the food at the Clyde's Group. It is somewhat classy, with good service, and more than decent food. It is not cookie cutter food like at Applebees or TGIFridays.

                  1. re: ChewFun

                    Maybe I just picked the wrong food to order, then (though I have seriously had better food at Applebees). But I think Clyde's in Gallery Place has much better food at much better prices. Old Ebbitt is generally about location and ambiance.

                  2. re: yfunk3

                    It is a step above Applebees and TGIF Fridays both in terms of ingredients and preparation. There are better choices- and much shorter lines-- but you aren't being fair. I've eaten regularly at the takeout express when I worked in the area and it is a tasty, well put together, reasonable price place- far better that food court food or the salad bars in many office buildings.

                    1. re: ClevelandDave

                      I still stand by my opinion. The ribs, cornbread, salmon, veggies were worse than what I have eaten at Applebees and didn't taste like the quality of the ingredients or preparation was much above Applebees or TGIF (and I've been to some crappy TGIFs). Maybe it was just an off night (a Tuesday), but it just wasn't good to me. To be honest, I really only tried it because it HAD gotten such good reviews here and on Yelp, and I was really surprised at the lack of effort that went into everything. The crab and artichoke dip is good, but it wasn't better than the various rich dips you'd get at any chain, and there was a distinct lack of crab and artichoke. The ribs were just tough, not a lot of meat on them, flavorless (not even any salt), the sauce on them was flavorless except for the salt, the salmon was overcooked and rubbery, the sauce on the salmon was salty as heck, the vegetables were either overcooked or frozen and warmed up, the cornbread was dry, crumbly and flavorless. Fries came with my ribs and those were okay, but obviously the frozen kind which are kind of hard to mess up.

                      Like I said, maybe it was because I didn't order the burger or steak (and I'm not a fan of raw oysters) or other simpler items. Whatever it was, I'm not really interested in going back and trying to find something that IS good enough to be deemed "pretty good". I do find the fact that people keep trying to convince me that the food is better than what I experienced amusing, though. I don't think I'm being unfair because I'm just stating my own experience with these dishes that I've had, and I'm not actively saying that Old Ebbitt is the biggest rip-off in town or anything like that. Go if you want to go and if you like it, then great. It's a good, convenient location and the space is great for happy hours or if you want a little of that classic, historical ambiance.

                      1. re: yfunk3

                        I hear you yfunk3.

                        Old Ebbitt was a big disappointment on my most recent visit a few weeks ago. [Not a tourist - lived here for going on three decades.] Ordered a dozen "mixed" oysters on the half shell while waiting at the bar for our table to be ready. They came out without any explanation of which were which, and three of the oysters were so puny and mutilated - they looked as though bits had stuck on with the abductor muscle after it had been shucked. I complained to the bartender (which I don't often do) and I got a shoulder shrug and a comment to the effect that it was just the luck of the draw. Um no. It may be OEG's luck of the draw, but it shouldn't become a diner's luck of the draw.

                        The rest of the meal was forgettable - over cooked fish, overcooked burger, rushed service. Too many customers and not enough time for any kind of quality control.
                        Acadiana is not too far away (it was closed for a private party that evening) and will now be the go-to for a casual good American meal in that part of DC.

                        901 New York Ave NW Ste 200A, Washington, DC 20001

                        1. re: crackers

                          Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I've been to OE more than both of you combined, and to almost all the other lunch places in the area, and for an $8-15 lunch there are few other better, consistent and flavorful meals. There are a few- Breadline, on 17th and Penn that I would say are comperable. And some sandwich places do a fine job, such as the small Phillips chain, but otherwise you are looking at either spending more money (and getting something considerably better) or spending the same amount and getting something far worse. The only issue I've got with OE at the price point is the lines which are horrible if you want to sit in the main restaruant and not too bad for the takeout. If you haven't tried OE and you are in the area, it is worth a visit.

                          1. re: ClevelandDave

                            I'm not sure what your post has to do with this thread. The OP is from out of town, not working in the neighborhood. No strict price limits mentioned. For all we know, they would have to make a special trip by taxi or metro to eat there. OP has already been disappointed by eating at similar 'historic' taverns.

                            Are you saying that the food is outstanding compared to Martin's in Georgetown? Or other taverns in other cities? Seems to me the OP is in line for more disappointment by making a special trip to OEG.

                            Someone staying in the Penn Quarter, for example, might be able to choose from over a dozen better places within an easy walk, instead of hopping on the metro only to face long lines and weaker food.

                            1. re: Steve

                              Absolutely. Not worth a special trip. Lots of places in Georgetown and Penn Quarter that are better-- even at the same price points.

                              Simply responding to those who say OE is dregs a la Applebees- it isn't.

                              Want a great meal in the area no expense considered? Try the buffet at the Willard. Try St. Regis. Drop by the Washington Hotel. Go to the Oval Room. All great and interesting. I forgot to mention The Polo Lounge and Teaism in the OE range that are nearby and decent. For a ten buck lunch or a moderately priced dinner nearby the WH it isn't bad, that's all.

                              2009 R St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                            2. re: ClevelandDave

                              "I've been to OE more than both of you combined"
                              How can you possibly know that?

                              I stand by my evaluation of my most recent meal. Not only would I not consider it a destination restaurant for chowhoundish visitors, I no longer even consider it one of my "let's-grab-an-early-dinner-at-the-bar-while-we-wait-out-rushhour" places.

                              1. re: crackers

                                Your right. I don't know how many times you've eaten there. I've been there 50 times. So, have you been there more than that? I mean neither of you like the place so I assume you went once or twice (or forced to go there a couple more times) and never went back. Having been there 50 times I've tasted a great many things on the menu and I stand by my opinion. I don't think for what it is it will dissapoint as a decent place to eat in the pricerange, in the area.

                                1. re: ClevelandDave

                                  Cleveland Dave...........I'm with you. I have been there quite a few times myself but not 50 times. I think it's a grand restaunt. The problem is the locals have been there so many times between themselves and all posted it here that they are tired of tourist's trade causing problems in service and food quality. I could care less. It's a fine place to dine.

                                  1. re: Littleman

                                    I'm just going to ask because I'm seriously curious: If the tourists are indeed causing "problems in service and food quality", how does that make it a restaurant worth going to for anyone, including the Chowhound tourists who ask if it's actually a good place to dine or overrated?

                                    I'm just so damn tired of having to defend not liking a restaurant that has fans that willingly admit that the food and service aren't that great, but would still recommend it to Chowhounds, tourists or not. For the record, I have no criticisms about the service because the service I received from everyone at Old Ebbitt was great.

                                    1. re: yfunk3

                                      No doubt: a good reason not to go is that it is crowded and that does change the experience- still, on average the food is good, the atmosphere (if you like a bustling atmostphere) is nice and the service is consistent and good at this price point.

                                  2. re: ClevelandDave


                                    I go regularly for the oyster happy hour though less so as recently I have not thought the owsters up to their former level. During these many trips, I sometimes get something off menu or sometimes am given freebies by our generous batrtender. These items are enough to convince me that the Applebee's comparisons are fair. I have had salad dressing with lumps from sitting around too long, vegetebles with brown spots, chemical filled desserts, undercooked chicken etc. As to you opinion, plese do stand by it. But we have every right to comment on it based on our experiences.


                                    Are you seriously stating that folk are putting up false impressions of OEG just to scare away tourists? Well, let me tell you, Michey Mouse isn't really a mouse and Snow White may not be a virgin. Now the next time I go to Disneyland, I will have it all to myself. Mwahhh Haaaa Haaaaa Haaaa!

                                    Just remember that in every market they are in in the US, one of the businest restaurants is Cheesecake Factory (usually its number one) and Mickey D's is the largest seller of "restauant food" Do why are we not inlcuding these temples of gastronomy is our chow lists? Theyare packed with locals too!

                                    1. re: fudizgud

                                      As for the first graph, we agree to disagree. I think the place is, for the volume of business, pretty consistent with a high turnover of food.

                                      As for the second and third graph, I simply don't understand what you are saying.