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The District’s Seats of Power: Where to Eat, See and Be Seen

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Ted’s Bulletin dishes favorites such as grilled cheese and a variety of milkshakes.

Dear returning politicos: If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to raise your profile, consider adding these local hospitality hot spots to your dining rotation in 2012.

701 Restaurant

701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Average entree: $21 to $30    $$$
Open for lunch and dinner daily

The Scene: This temple of artful dining provides a slew of stages for different schmoozing ventures, be it a collegial chat at the modish bar, a cordial meal in the window-lined main dining room or a discreet meet-and-greet behind the beaded curtain-wrapped inner sanctum.

The Score: Chef Ed Witt (the walking piece of art emblazoned, literally, from head-to-toe in tattoos) marries seasonal spoils with epicurean whimsy, producing wildly complementary pairings such as mouthwatering pork-cheddar sausage nestled in beer-braised cabbage, bourbon-braised lamb astride sweet pureed pumpkin and duck-fat-poached salmon flanked by plum-wine-infused sticky black rice.

In the Mix: Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.).

Cafe Milano

3251 Prospect St. NW
Average entree: Over $31     $$$$
Open for lunch and dinner daily

The Scene: Pull up a chair at this Georgetown standby and try to guess where Iranian Quds forces purportedly planned to snuff out Saudi Arabian Ambassador Adel A. Al-Jubeir last fall. In the glass-enclosed, fresco-adorned sunroom? At the Z-shaped, marble-topped bar perpetually outfitted with bowls of tempting marinated olives? Or the fishbowl-like, semiprivate dining room tucked away at the far end of the restaurant?

The Score: Pumpkin and butternut squash appear to be the gourds of choice, making appearances across the culinary spectrum (soups, ravioli filling, woven into risotto, incorporated into cheesecake), while braised veal headlines the most savory options. A salad of herb-crusted swordfish, crisp chickpeas and piquant red onions drizzled in olive oil transported us to the Mediterranean without the jet lag. Sultry broccoli rabe sauteed in
anchovy-chili oil invades every contour of squishy, dimpled orecchiette.

In the Mix: Vice President Joseph Biden, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Carmine’s

425 Seventh St. NW
Average entree: $21 to $30     $$$
Open for lunch and dinner daily

The Scene: The reigning “power dining” perch is all about volume. Everything, from the vermouth-laden 23-ounce “punchbowls” of Italian-style sangria to the family-sized dinner portions (designed to serve no fewer than three people), is all about sharing. And really, isn’t that what Congress is all about?

The Score: Featured proteins fly solo; adding a side of pasta to any non-noodle-based meal comes with a $9 up-charge. Make your personal trainer cry by polishing off the spiedini alla romana, featuring toasted, crustless country-style bread hugging mouthwatering slices of melted mozzarella drizzled in decadent lemon-caper-butter sauce. Country-style rigatoni weaves hearty Italian sausage, creamy cannellini beans, onions, garlic and salty prosciutto into a bear of a meal.

In the Mix: Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio); Reps. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), Dan Benishek (R-Mich.), Rick Berg (R-N.D.), Dan Boren (D-Okla.), Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), John Carter (R-Texas), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), John Dingell (D-Mich.), Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Tom Latham (R-Iowa), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio); Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.); and Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and John Thune (R-S.D.).

Johnny’s Half Shell

400 North Capitol St. NW
Average entree: $21 to $30      $$$
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily

The Scene: This Southern charmer undoubtedly hosts more lawmakers than all the Congressional cafeterias combined, buzzing from morning to night with lobbyists/fundraisers wishing to cozy up to solons on both sides of the aisle.

The Score: Creole/Cajun food and seafood are what you’ll want. (Staff actively campaigned against our ordering the barbecue pork ribs.) Oyster pan roast summons an open-faced sandwich of sorts, smothering toasted French bread with an oyster stew forged from heavy cream, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms and a generous helping of the titular bivalves. Shrimp étouffée reveals a half-dozen spice-laden crustaceans swimming in fiery roux.

In the Mix: Sens. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Reps. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

Old Ebbitt Grill

675 15th St. NW
Average entree: $13 to $20     $$
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily

The Scene: Presidents come and go. This dean of D.C. dining has been in continuous operation, at one location or another, since 1856. The walls are plastered with political memorabilia, including some rather fetching hunting trophies that hang above the main bar. “Teddy Roosevelt killed them,” an in-the-know barkeep informs a group of camera-toting tourists spellbound by the stuffed walrus and antelope heads. (Showoff.)

The Score: The flagship of the Clyde’s Restaurant Group dishes out all manner of edible Americana, including rotating specialty salads, assorted gourmet burgers and jumbo lump crab cakes (to name a few). The main attraction, however, is the raw bar, which corrals briny specimens from up and down the Eastern Seaboard; plump, buttery East Beach Blondes (R.I.) and pungent Wellfleets (Mass.) are our current favorites. The Senator does not filibuster on flavor, packaging mountains of shaved turkey and ham, dulcet-roasted red peppers, peppery arugula and boursin into a terrific sandwich.

In the Mix: Any Cabinet member/administration official you might want to “accidentally” bump into.

Ted’s Bulletin

505 Eighth St. SE
Average entree: $13 to $20       $$
Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night dining daily

The Scene: This Rat Pack-worthy playground is personified by hand-carved marble, reclaimed wood and exposed brick, with vintage black-and-white movies replayed on a constant loop serving as the de facto entertainment.

The Score: Chef Eric Bannon loves to play with expectations, offering up standards such as gooey grilled cheese with tomato soup (decent) and “shake-and-bake” fried chicken (terrific brine; needs more crunch). He takes greater liberties with his burger carte: The Hawaii 5-0 blends grilled pineapple, Spam and teriyaki sauce, while the peanut-butter-bacon burger ties together creamy peanut butter, sweet tomato jam and smoky bacon. The pastry case is full of wildly tempting goodies, including homemade Twinkies (traditional, red velvet or carrot cake) and Pop-Tarts (blueberry-cheesecake, brown sugar-cinnamon, strawberry), oatmeal cream pies, mini Bundt cakes, cookies and more.

In the Mix: Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), President Barack Obama and D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells.

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