Corner Bar at the Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington DC.

October 2014.

I went to this place twice in a 3-day stay in town because I liked the atmosphere which was (no doubt falsely) clubby and raucous. The bar is off the side of the grill, the latter being the more formal restaurant, one of a group of several fairly good eating places in this 15th Avenue location adjacent to the east aspect of the White House. Just down the street is another relic from the 19th century, a tobacconist where a guy can buy an expensive cigar and smoke the thing sitting along a bench with a bunch of other men reading newspapers.

I had a half-dozen oysters the first time and a Reuben sandwich the second time, both delicious and perfectly prepared. The oysters somehow better than usual swallowed down with mignonette made with a good grade of vinegar. And the sandwich packed with more smoked meat than you can almost get your mouth around, lots of butter and perked up with a crisp salty sauerkraut.

You can get Samuel Adams beer on tap just about anyplace in DC, and there was certainly nothing exotic about those two snacks, but the atmosphere seemed genuine and unaffected (although there are people I respect who would find it the opposite). There is an eye-level glass case containing half a dozen shotguns (the action of all of which will unquestionably have been removed in this wildly security-conscious town) on the way to the bathroom, and decoys and sculptures of realistic looking birds in flight hanging from the ceiling to improve the dark hardwood walls and furniture with their brass accents. The mix of clientele along the bar reinforces unaffected eclecticism: three middle-aged guys speaking German, a classy 40-ish black lady by herself who is happy to chat, and a disreputable drunk (not me) slurping a bowl of clam chowder

One server is an efficient polite young man, and later a loud over-the-top thirtysomething girl who if she’s not a lesbian is doing a good imitation. Prices are predictably on the high side for what you get but not ridiculous.

It seems to me that this unique city focuses on other things than fine dining, but you can certainly find good traditional American fare in impressive traditional American surroundings. I would return to this eatery if I were ever back in town. Food 8.1, service 7.7, ambience 8.7, value 6.0.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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