Fundraising is a major component of politics in Washington, and you can get in on the action. Politicians seek and attain their billions in donations by meeting with lobbyists (all 11,504 of them) in a handful of Capitol Hill restaurants and bars. Here are some of our favorite spots to watch the action in real-time.
JOHNNY’S HALF SHELL (AKA THE “80S HOCKEY PLAYER’S SWEATY CRAB SHACK.)
Johnny’s Half Shell, a seafood restaurant just blocks from the Capitol, is one of the most political in Washington. In a recent episode of “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver poked fun at the restaurant that has slowly become the most political in Washington. According to the Sunlight Foundation (a government watchdog in DC), 948 congressional fundraisers have been held at Johnny’s Half Shell over the last ten years. Politics aside, the service and food at Johnny’s are excellent, especially the grilled lobster, shrimp and grits, and charbroiled oysters. What we always go back for-the crabcakes, some of the best in the city.
Johnny’s Half Shell. 400 North Capitol St NW. 202-737-0400
Bullfeathers is an old-time Hill institution and a welcome departure from the exclusive hangouts around the neighborhood. With 31 beers on tap and reliable bar food (try the fried calamari or the buffalo mac and cheese), this much loved bar draws Hill staffers and lobbyists looking for a no-frills time. The appeal makes sense, considering the restaurant’s name comes from Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite and much used euphemism for “bullshit.” so things can’t really get too fancy.
Bullfeathers. 410 First St SE. 202-484-0228
This relative newcomer to DC’s fundraising scene opened in 2005. Because of its close proximity to the Capitol, private dining spaces, and its early adoption of using naturally-raised local ingredients, Sonoma has become a mainstay with DC’s power drinkers. Political maneuvering aside, the restaurant is a perfect place to explore the art of pairing locally sourced food with even better wine alongside DC’s political power brokers.
Sonoma. 223 Pennsylvania Ave SE. 202-544-8088
The Monocle is an institution. Founded in 1960, it was “the first tablecloth restaurant on Capitol Hill.” A favorite of Congress, staff and travelers, The Monocle does not try to impress with over the top offerings. It holds tight to the classics (think steak and potatoes, burly old-fashioneds, crabcakes, and really good chicken tenders) but it does so without seeming fussy or elitist. Because of its unparalleled proximity to the Hill, this is one of DC’s best places to dine alongside lawmakers and lobbyists, who have made this a career-long hangout.
The Monocle. 107 D Street NE. 202-546-4488
Steps from the Capitol and Union Station, Bistro Bis is a modern (and pricey) take on the classic French bistro. With menu items like steak tartare, beef bourguignon, and the most wonderful apple tart, a satisfying meal is assured. This seems to be a favorite spot of democrats, even though Paul Ryan recently spent $350 on a bottle of Pinot Noir here. The best time to see elected officials and lobbyists? In the morning. For a true DC power breakfast, this is your spot.
Bistro Bis. 15 E Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. 202-661-2700