Esquire may have been talking about dining in Manhattan when it coined the term “power lunch” back in 1979, but D.C. is where this tradition really lives. Here, politicians and movers and shakers in every realm sit down for extended midday meals where big decisions are made and even bigger steaks are eaten. Here are the best places to spot powerbrokers while downing a martini — or three.
The Palm opened in 1972, at the behest of then-UN Ambassador George H.W. Bush, who was a fan of the New York original, and it’s been a go-to for the city’s most powerful players ever since. Cartoon caricatures of these diners—politicians, journalists, athletes — peer down at you from the walls as you dine on jumbo lump crab cakes and New York strip steaks.
Celebrities and politicians alike (the Obamas, Oprah, Brad Pitt…) flock to this chic steakhouse from chef Michael Mina, located in the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. Indulge in a butter-poached and wood-grilled Wagyu rib eye or put your hands on the double-stacked American Wagyu burger. While your fellow diners may be solving the world’s problems, the biggest decision you need to make is whether to order the duck-fat fries. (The answer is yes.)
The Oval Room
Just steps from the real Oval Office, this modern American restaurant has been hosting presidents and dignitaries for more than 20 years. Condoleezza Rice even named it her favorite restaurant during an interview with Tom Brokaw on NBC. Reserve a seat in the elegant dining room and feast on shrimp and grits while trying to eavesdrop on the senators seated one table over.
The Bombay Club
Celebrated D.C. restaurateur Ashok Bajaj opened the Bombay Club in 1988 when Indian food was a rarity in the city. But his clubby fine-dining spot struck a chord with Washington’s elite, instantly becoming a go-to spot for presidents and Indian ambassadors alike (Bajaj now runs 10 restaurants in the city, including The Oval Room).
To get a little taste of everything, order the Club T hali, which provides small servings of chicken, fish and lamb curries, plus dal and raita served on a silver platter.
The Occidental first opened in 1906, and everyone from FDR to MLK dined there until it shut its doors in 1971. Fifteen years later, it reopened and reclaimed its rightful place on the city’s power lunch list, serving up lobster bisque and braised short rib for VIP patrons and D.C. doyens on Pennsylvania Avenue, just steps from the White House.