Heard on the Hill

Members’ Dining Room embraces 21st century — sort of

Recess time will be open to the public, via OpenTable

The House Members’ Dining Room in the Capitol is open to the public during recess. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Quite some time has passed since the Capitol’s Petinaud and Bennett rooms opened their doors as the Members’ Dining Room in 1858, but walking into the House-side restaurant, with its red carpet and 20th century chandeliers, you’d hardly notice — unless you booked a reservation on OpenTable.

And when Heard on the Hill found out the dining room was opening to the public this recess, that is exactly what we did. Once a haven of exclusivity, the eatery can now enjoy a global presence outside Congress with the reservation-booking app.

As of Tuesday, 60 reservations have been booked for 180 patrons for the remainder of the week, according to Kyle Anderson, a spokesman for the Chief Administrative Officer of the House. The CAO is in charge of House dining contracts and management.

The move is just the latest to make the House hideaway more available to non-members. In 2018, Hill staffers with ID badges were allowed to lunch in the Members’ Dining Room. Before that, it was exclusive to members and their guests.

For fall pilgrims, current menu options tout a $15 Autumn Cobb salad and $6 pumpkin bread pudding. Items will be “rotated quarterly coinciding with the seasonal calendar,” Anderson said.

(Kathryn Lyons/CQ Roll Call)
The current Members’ Dining Room menu. (Kathryn Lyons/CQ Roll Call)

However, any Pelosi paparazzi should pump the brakes. Tourists will only be able to book a reservation while the House is not in session.

And when the boss is away, staffers will play. HOH, ahem, heard whispers of staffers gathering in the Members’ Dining Room for “social” hours (and perhaps drink specials) — of which now outside visitors can partake beginning as soon as Friday at 4 p.m.

Diners may still spot some recess-time VIPs, but members in town during recess still have the option to dine in a private members-only room in the restaurant.

On Tuesday, about three dozen diners filled the dining room, including Chief Administrative Officer Philip Kiko.

HoH was greeted with attentive service from dining room staff and a welcome history lesson from the manager about a unique painting that was relocated from the House chamber to the dining room.

The history of the dining room itself is on display, with a menu from 1944 and custom dinnerware from the early 20th century up on the wall.

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