Off the Record is located in Washington, D.C.’s The Hay-Adams hotel. // © 2015 The Hay-Adams
Feature image (above): The Jefferson is four blocks from the White House and a hot spot for its staffers. // © 2015 The Jefferson
Election year is here, and the spotlight has shifted once again to our nation’s capital. As the buzz coming from “the Hill” hits a fever pitch, clients might feel compelled to take a trip to see Washington, D.C. politicos in action — or to live out their “Veep” and “House of Cards” television fantasies firsthand.
I recently returned from a five-day trip to D.C., and while blanketing the letter streets (doing the unofficial Claire Underwood jogging tour), I spoke with restaurant hostesses, hotel concierges and one “Deep Throat”-like Washington, D.C. insider to get the inside scoop for you.
From those whispers, I have put together this roundup of spots where clients are more apt to see political big shots. (Don’t forget to vote!)
Nicknamed “The Jeff,” this was my hub during my trip because my insider told me it was “a classic D.C. hotel where diplomats and heavy hitters stayed.” The hotel is just four blocks from the White House, so that makes perfect sense. But convenience isn’t the top reason politicos gather here. The most likely explanation? The gorgeous hotel rooms, Quill bar/restaurant and the stunning centerpiece of the lobby, Plume Restaurant.
The fact that President Obama used The Jefferson as his fundraising headquarters for the 2012 presidential election is no surprise — there’s a boardroom off the lobby that looks like something former President Thomas Jefferson might have personally designed.
The hotel also serves up great privacy. Just check out the West and East Jefferson Cabinet Rooms — that’s where lobbyists can sway, influence and back channel uninterrupted.
In advance of my trip, my insider told me Fiola Mare was a place where she “inevitably runs into at least 10 people she knows from the Hill.” So I decided to test it out.
But, as it turns out, getting a table at Fiola Mare is not easy. Maybe that’s because the First Lady eats here on occasion, along with DC “dips” (diplomats) and Cabinet members such as Valerie Jarrett.
The owners Fabio and Maria Trabocchi, who founded the top-notch Italian seafood restaurant, call themselves the “Nation Capital’s most dynamic culinary couple.” Whether or not that’s true can be debated, but Fiola Mare certainly is one of the toughest tables to get in town — so make that reservation far in advance for your client.
Off the Record at The Hay-Adams
When I first walked into Off the Record, the hotel bar inside the basement at The Hay-Adams hotel, I was immediately struck by all the funny political cartoons lining the walls. The cozy red booths also stood out, adding a powerful swath of color between the seated black and gray-colored suits.
Off the Record, which is located across the street from the White House and is frequented by staffers, has the most pertinent bar name in town and the whispers of influence are palpable.
Want to know which politicos gets soused here after work? Have your clients generously tip the bartender and maybe, just maybe, he’ll talk.
Chris Matthews of “Hardball With Chris Matthews” was recently seen dining in booth No. 3 at Martin’s Tavern, the historic Georgetown restaurant where former presidents Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon were all regulars. But Matthews is hardly the most famous person to dine while seated at that exact booth — it’s also where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie Bouvier, also known as “Jackie” Kennedy Onassis.
When I was there, there was just a regular non-politico in booth No. 3, but that might have been because politicians today are more apt to hide out in “The Dugout” room (located in the back of the restaurant) these days.
Be sure to have your clients check out booth No. 1. — “the rumble seat” is where JFK read his paper after going to Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, also in Washington, D.C.
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
This restaurant is located in a former bank building, which makes sense given all the expense account dinners that take place here. Having opened in 2014, it’s the relative newbie in this power-dining bunch. There’s no shortage of quality politico celebrity sightings, however, given that Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab is located right around the corner from the White House.
From Senator John McCain to former House Speaker John Boehner to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, the restaurant caters to Washington’s VIPs with its succulent stone crab, steaks that’ll set you back more than $50 and, perhaps most importantly, sound-absorbent private booths behind curtains. Joe’s is power dining at its finest.