It is called The Old Ebbitt Grill for good reason, as it is Washington D.C.'s oldest saloon. The building that houses the grill was once an old boarding house where an amazing number of important Americans passed through its halls. President McKinley lived there and Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and Warren Harding are reputed to have enjoyed a drink at its expansive bar.
The menu currently features classic seafood dishes with modern farm-to-table preparations that use seasonal and local ingredients. The Old Ebbitt Grill is one of the most popular places in the city to oyster fans. The oysters at Ebbitt are from a diverse set of locations but always fresh. It helps that Ebbit has one of the best oysters happy hours in town with half-price oysters from 3 to 6 p.m. and again from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m for eaters who are night owls.
The chefs at Old Ebbit Grill take a dish that everyone in town is doing and make it unique. Calamari is one example. The calamari here is shallow fried and crisp with pickled cherry peppers and watercress tossed with lemon vinaigrette. For dinner, a local favorite is the fried chicken sandwich, chicken thigh soaked in buffalo sauce on a buttered bun with extra creamy coleslaw on top. The pasta at Old Ebbit Grill is all handmade right before being served, and the classic linguine with mussels is a great chance to experience fresh seafood in a traditional preparation. For dessert, the peanut butter pie gets rave reviews and is a satiating way to end a great meal.
It's possible to jump to the conclusion that something touted as "the oldest" anything in a city could be a tourist trap. Not The Old Ebbit Grill. It is living proof that some classics just get better with age.
Cover photo courtesy of Marie-France Latour via Unsplash.