Where to Eat and Drink Like a Presidential Candidate in Washington, D.C.
The 2016 presidential race is in full swing, with frequent debates and a reality show-like cast of passionate politicians who drop away like forgettable stars of America’s Next Top Model. Who will run this country, and what will they drink? The mainstream media avoids the real issues, but we know the true foundation of our freedom: where to wine and dine in Washington, D.C.
Yankee exceptionalism is still the rage at throwback diner The Riggsby, where guests gather for ketchup-friendly American fare. Like Trump’s memory, the décor teeters through the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s—burnished leather seats, shiny red and green walls with mod lighting overhead. A stylish Manhattan-esque menu promises all the nostalgic classics that The Donald needs to make America great again. Vote “Yes” for crispy housemade potato chips, savor the signature deviled eggs (complete with fried chicken skin), then deport the jalapeño tater tots before diving into the herb and pepper-crusted côte de bœuf for two. Thirsty? Napa winery Chappellet describes its all-American 2012 Mountain Cuvée as “rich, supple and round,” which could double as a campaign slogan. Moving on, Trump may be one of the few human beings who can actually nail a seat at Barmini, José Andrés’ über-cool cocktail lab that caters to the city’s one-percenters. Think mixology-driven cocktail with ornate ice and floral essence matched with luxe bites like foie-gras bombs.
—Photo courtesy The Riggsby
Underground cocktail bunker Off the Record grants Hillary the swanky privacy she never had as Secretary of State. The brassy bar lies underneath the Hay Adams hotel, right across the park from her old house on Pennsylvania Avenue. Our would-be first female president would do best to sip a chilled flute of the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé before steering her motorcade over to the major donors living in Logan Circle. Le Diplomate offers the truest French cooking in the capital, and thanks to regular visits from Vice President Joe Biden, the restaurant holds spare tables in case the Secret Service show up! As a Democrat, Clinton may be shocked to find no pork (wink wink) on the dinner menu. Never fear, however: Like a piece of last-minute legislation, there’s plenty stashed away in the wild game pâté, best enjoyed with Domaine Cros’ 2000 Vieilles Vignes Minervois. “It’s very balanced,” says Sommelier Neil Blackwood. “Fruity and earthy, herbaceous—it’s a wonderful bistro wine.” And Hillary, save room for the milk chocolate pot de crème. Chase it with the $5 espresso and you’ll be all set for another all-nighter in the Situation Room.
—Photo of Off the Record courtesy Hay Adams
Not only is Wolfgang Puck’s The Source right inside the Newseum (celebrating Tea Party values like free speech and big headlines), it’s next door to the Canadian Embassy, which allows Cruz to run over for a copy of his birth certificate between plates of dim sum and littleneck clams. We recommend the stir-fried whole two-pound Maine lobster, since that’s the closest he will ever come to carrying that state. If elected president, Cruz should make Bad Saint—the most fabulous (and only) Filipino restaurant in the city—his first stop. And what pairs with plates of pancit and grilled tuna jaw? Gorrondona’s fizzy, mineral-driven 2014 Txakolina from Spain’s Basque Country—so breezy and light. More drinks are in order at the POV rooftop bar of the W hotel, which is close enough to living in the White House, right? Enjoy the best view in Washington while sipping on the Canadian Tuxedo.
—Photo by Farrah Skeiky, from Facebook
Kick off the New American Century with drinks at Macon Bistro & Larder, where craft cocktails feature small-batch spirits with plenty of housemade bitters—we recommend the Juarez Fights Back and the robust Blood & Smoke. Meanwhile, part-restaurant, part free-market mercato Centrolina dishes up Italian cuisine for the equivocating centrist. Start with the pan-fried tuna belly or smothered octopus, followed by the polletto (young chicken) and hand-rolled pasta. Pick a pour from the Italian-focused wine list like Vermentino from northern Corsica, or a red with more universal appeal like a ruby Nebbiolo. Should Marco get homesick, he can scurry on up to Mi Cuba Café for a sandwich (both the Cubano and media luna would pass Miami standards), although the ropa vieja (saucy, slow-cooked shredded beef) is the real money dish. Finally, way out in Virginia, Red’s Table exhibits the same suburban values and new Southern charm that Rubio loves, down to the buttermilk-fried chicken and cornmeal-crusted catfish with stoneground grits. It’s blue ribbon, red-state cuisine.
Photo courtesy Centrolina
Taiwanese-Cambodian mashup Maketto refuses to squeeze into any boxed labels. The Maketto “experience” includes an indie clothing shop, Asian restaurant and coffeehouse/bakery with lemon cookies for $1. Yes, it’s totally worth taking the socialist streetcar to H Street NE just for the steamed pork buns and the wok fried vegetables. You’ll find a lot more Bernie signs over in historic Shaw, and it’s easy to mistake a night at A&D as the Vermont primary. Communal dining at its finest, restless idealist interns order Donkey Punches off the secret menu and complain about student loan payments. As for wine, Bernie would do best with La Posta’s very ripe 2013 Pizzella Malbec, paired best with the gringo treats of Rosslyn cantina Pepita. Its spicy fruit flavors complement the smooth and sophisticated mole just as well as a shared bowl of queso fundido. Not to miss: barbecued goat tacos with candied habanero, or Cabra Diabla (“devil goat”), which we assume is Hillary’s nickname for her Democratic rival.
Photo courtesy Pepita, by Greg Powers
Ben’s Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C.’s most famous diner, was founded by Carson himself way back in 1958, right? Not really, but neurosurgeon Ben would still do well to visit Ben’s, located on U Street, given that it’s D.C.’s ultimate celebrity checkpoint. Be it Bill Cosby, Barack Obama or Bono, a stop at Ben’s is like shaking hands with the city. After the photo-op with a chili-drenched half-smoke, wipe your chin and head over to The Dabney, decked out in colonial wooden chairs and warmed by a crackling hearth—the perfect setting for sipping craft cider and telling tall tales. Like Carson’s positions, the menu shifts with the seasons, but it’s always fresh and on point, featuring the kinds of local farm ingredients they used to eat at Mount Vernon. The grilled cabbage in pork fat is sinfully good, the fish is tasteful and correct, and the vegetables are a joy. Wash it down with a bottle of the Virginia-grown RDV 2011 Rendezvous (59% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc and 18% Petit Verdot), steely and direct, yet deeply complex after breathing. One might even say it’s the smartest wine in the room.
Photo courtesy The Dabney, by Andrew Cebulka
- 1Donald Trump
- 2Hillary Clinton
- 3Ted Cruz
- 4Marco Rubio
- 5Bernie Sanders
- 6Dr. Ben Carson