Curiously, this boutique restaurant straddles The Madison hotel. James Madison, once pals with Federalist Party founder Alexander Hamilton, later clashed with the Treasury Secretary about fiscal policy and attempted to fend off his government-centric policy prescriptions. Then he joined the other party.
Fast forward to today, when the only fighting we observed in the Federalist’s swanky dining room was over whose turn it was to treat after a business pitch meeting. (Silly venture capitalists.)
Chef de cuisine Harper McClure, who rose to prominence at a pair of award-winning local kitchens (Vidalia, Marcel’s), juggles familiar tastes and modern twists, sending out the likes of heartwarming beer and cheddar soup one day and pumpkin soup embellished with mouth-watering duck confit the next. He travels just as easily from Europe (tender pork schnitzel escorted by wilted kale and mustard-spiked spaetzle) to the Americas (clam chowder fortified with fatty pork belly) as he does from forest (truffle-stuffed rabbit roulade) to sea (butter poached Maine lobster).
Grilled calamari were good (smoky), their companion gnocchi better (bathed in garlic sauce). Herb-laced compound butter and gushy roasted tomatoes moisten flatiron steak.
The Federalist: 1177 15th St. NW; 202-587-2629; thefederalistdc.com Open for lunch Monday through Saturday, dinner daily, brunch Sunday.
This hipster watering hole plays its part to a T, inviting those in search of a respite to sink back into red pleather chairs, lose themselves in Pandora-supplied alternative rock and wash away their worries with cheeky coolers — their election 2012-themed beverages, the basil Barack berry and pomegra-Mitt, were just sugar-stacked, mojito knockoffs — devoid of cocktail couture.
The kitchen favors now-ubiquitous bar snacks (avocado-backed yellow fin ahi tuna, sausage- and wine-spiked steamed mussels) but manages a few welcome surprises.
Curried lentils proved to be the universal favorite. The vegetable-laden treat folds sauteed chard, diced carrots and onions and juicy raisins (bursting with sweetness) into a wealth of deliciously tender and pleasantly piquant beans.
“I used to work for Five Guys corporate, have tasted burgers all over the country. That’s legit,” one barkeep assured us when we asked about the gourmet sliders. His prophecy held true as we bit into mini-burgers capped with caramelized onions, truffle mayo, melted cheddar, a gloriously messy fried quail egg (outstanding) and rosemary potato straws.
Policy: 1904 14th St. NW; 202-387-7654; policydc.com Open for dinner and late-night dining Tuesday through Saturday, brunch Saturday and Sunday.
Busboys & Poets
The various Busboys properties dotting the local landscape don’t just talk the political talk, they dare everyone to get involved.
Restaurateur and activist Andy Shallal has fashioned a restaurant empire to mirror his progressive ideals: used cooking oil is recycled into biofuel, wind energy credits offset power costs, java junkies sip direct-trade coffee while patrons are plied with sustainable seafood, cage-free eggs and halal chicken.
The dining program is all-inclusive, tilting from standard fare to full-on vegan to gluten-free.
An order of harira summons a restorative brew of chickpeas, lentils, onions, celery and carrots swimming in spiced vegetable stock, as substantial as a batch of firefighter’s chili, but without the corresponding heartburn.