It’s been called the most important meal of the day. Yet too many in this town breeze right by it, vowing to make up any missed calories at lunch, dinner or fourthmeal.
No más. We put together this guide to morning meals on both sides of the aisle for every budget, whether you’re a penny-pinching intern, a stable staffer or a well-to-do member.
Intern: Market Lunch
Weekend crowds swoop in for the coveted blueberry buckwheat pancakes. But this venerable carryout serves up equally enviable goodies every morning.
Fueled by flour power? Market Lunch prepares flapjacks and French toast like clockwork. Each stack of fluffy but filling griddle cakes tastes even better with a slow-melting scoop of creamy butter and shot of warm syrup.
Prefer protein? Fried fish platters include your choice of cod, haddock or whiting flanked by grits, eggs, potatoes and bread.
Light in the wallet? Go straight for the side of fried whiting, featuring twin strips with zesty tartar sauce for less than you’d spend on a gourmet muffin elsewhere. Or you can get a single egg or plain toast for 95 cents each.
225 Seventh St. SE; open for breakfast Tuesday through Sunday.
Staff: Tune Inn
No matter the hour, you’re bound to find someone (and likely, someone you know) bending the elbow at the Tune Inn. And what do the inebriated like to do most? Gossip.
So, just keep your head down while polishing off something hearty — biscuits and gravy summons four halves of buttermilk goodness bathed in spiced sausage-studded cream, while the cheddar-chili omelet (splurge on jalapenos!) delivers eggs, beans, beef and molten dairy by the forkful — and drink in the local color.
Totally out-of-context gems we recently collected:
“I heard Jimmy got out of jail.”
“Ohio just sucks!”
“How long do you figure a cat can live without eating?”
331 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; open for breakfast Tuesday through Sunday.
This well-known wine bar now caters to early risers; the restaurant rolled out a gourmet breakfast service in late January targeting Capitol Hill’s most discerning palates.
Small-plate lovers can conquer mornings via “breakfast charcuterie” spreads featuring lusty cured meats and organoleptic cheeses accompanied by focaccia and pickled vegetables.
An eponymous frittata folds caramelized onions, stewed peppers and herb-laced sausage into puffy eggs, crowning the entire production with a mound of heavenly Parmesan-spiked ricotta. The end product is more than an oeuf.
A breakfast-dessert mashup reveals spongy blocks of French toast bread pudding seasoned with hazelnut spice and drizzled in boozy sambuca sauce.
223 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; open for breakfast Monday through Friday.
Intern: Nothing but Donuts
If money’s tight, you can always opt for a single doughnut — $1 for your choice of a dozen different flavors baked fresh daily — and perhaps a cup of Seattle’s Best ($1.78).
But if you’re feeling flush, try some of the oversized dining options. Our favorite is the knotty apple fritter, which features pull-apart dough dotted with chunks of actual fruit, and a glazed exterior. Others were spellbound by the chocolate-covered “dinosaur” doughnut. “Why are they so big?” a colleague marveled while attempting to hack off a slice of the sugar-glazed and chocolate-frosted carb bomb. The specialty items cost a little more ($2.49 to $4.59). But it might be worth it to be regarded as the office hero by hungry colleagues.
40 Massachusetts Ave. NE; open for breakfast daily.
Staff: Jimmy T’s
A vintage lunch counter, Jimmy T’s doesn’t do trends. It just serves the community.
Which means the folks who pour in each morning likely already have their favorite seat in mind, as well as a standing order. These people are brimming with institutional knowledge — not just about Congress or even Capitol Hill, but about life in general.
So pull up a chair and pick a neighbor’s brain while poring over cooked-to-order eggs, grilled half smokes, home fries and toast. Or savor a simple but sumptuous slab of grits, layered with shredded cheddar and coarsely chopped fried bacon. Show the world your sourest puss while spooning your way through a half grapefruit.
Just remember the house rules: “Do not sit at a dirty table. And if the cook looks busy, do not ask her for something.”
501 East Capitol St.; open for breakfast Tuesday through Sunday.
Member: Art and Soul
The crowd isn’t all business — tourists break bread alongside the lawmakers and lobbyists who take their meetings here. But there’s definitely an aura of power. And you pay for it.
Meals are reasonably priced, but the price to whet your whistle is steep — $4 for plain coffee?
The kitchen, however, does not disappoint.
Those minding their waistlines can follow the example of founding chef and owner Art Smith, who has carved out a trio of “healthy options” modeled after his own pound-shedding dining regimen. His toasted granola hits the absolute spot, binding together toasted pecans, almonds, steel-cut oats, shaved coconut and fruit with tangy Greek yogurt.
Carnivores should be sated by a fork-tender beef escorted by a rainbow of onions (grilled yellows, minced greens, pickled reds), golden brown potatoes and lacy fried eggs with silky, unset yolks, all drizzled with lemony bearnaise.
415 New Jersey Ave. NW; open for breakfast Monday through Friday.
James Jones, communications director for DC Vote, tapes a "DC Constituents Service Day" sign on the wall as he stands with other DC residents outside of Rep. Andy Harris's office on Capitol Hill to protest Harris' actions against D.C.'s marijuana laws on Thursday, July 24, 2014. DC Vote encouraged DC residents to bring their complaints about city services to the Maryland congressman.