107 D St. NE
HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-midnight, Sat. 5-10 p.m.
COST: Most entrées more than $20
It’s hard not to stare when you’re dining at the Monocle; usually half the people in the dining room appear regularly on CNN and C-SPAN.
For more than 50 years, this old-school Washington power restaurant has managed to stay fresh and relevant, maybe because of its location—within spitting distance of the Hart and Dirksen Senate office buildings—or its attentive waitstaff that treats all patrons like they’re VIPs, including the lunching visitors in blue jeans.
The menu—simple, fresh fare such as steaks and chops, and heaping main salads at lunch, draws in those who have little time to cook or enjoy a meal at home.
The interior is pure Washington politics: Walls are plastered with photos of famous diners; beams and moldings are hand-stenciled with sage aphorisms (“If you want a friend in Washington—get a dog,” “An empty stomach is not a good political advisor”). Upstairs rooms are heavily favored for political strategy sessions and private celebrations.
The Monocle is not a place to eat if politics makes you ill. Its allure is the atmosphere; if you want to see how lawmakers spend their off-duty time, the opportunity is practically guaranteed.