Interior of Mastro’s Steakhouse, Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.

Where to power lunch in Washington, D.C.

When a city regularly hosts politicians, lawyers, business executives, celebrities and world leaders, power lunches are a way of culinary life. In fact, in Washington, D.C., power lunching could be considered an Olympic sport. For those times when you absolutely must score the funding, convince the politician or secure the endorsement, here are the places to wine and dine during your next hour of power

The Oval Room

Where to eat close to the White House

Just about every upscale restaurant situated near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue becomes an automatic power lunch spot. The Oval Room, just across the street from the White House grounds, is one of the closest to the action. Chef Bryan Moscatello’s signature style is modern American cooking with a Mediterranean influence; his dishes include rabbit meatballs with pickled mushrooms, and carrot pasta with hazelnuts and charred Chinese broccoli. Relative newcomer Mirabelle radiates sophistication with its glam dining room and equally pretty plating. At lunch, crowd-pleasers such as the chef’s burger share menu space with an appetiser called the foie gras Fabergé egg, which is graced with duck confit, dark chocolate and pistachio. Look out for big names in quiet conversation.

Empress Lounge

Where to impress a contact

At the Empress Lounge, the décor – both inside and on the patio outfitted with fire pits – is suitably opulent enough to show someone you think they’re a big deal. Red and gold-splashed velvet furniture provides both table seating and sofa lounging for the executives and politicians who flock here for salads, sandwiches and afternoon tea. In addition, India-inspired newcomer Punjab Grill, located just north of The Mall, has won rave reviews for both its food and over-the-top elegance.


For modern Italian chic

Red-checked-tablecloth restaurants might be easily found in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, but D.C. does Italian on a grander scale. Centrolina, in the CityCenterDC development (home to outfitters including Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Dior), is a natural lunch spot for the city’s high rollers. Chef-owner Amy Brandwein is not only a master of pasta but also wins plaudits for the meat and fish cooked in the wood-fired oven. Try the dry-aged rib-eye sourced from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley or a lighter lunch of grilled wood-roasted vegetables served with creamy white beans and a sunny-side-up egg. Restaurateurs Fabio and Maria Trabocchi own several Italian fine-dining spots in D.C., but their Georgetown gem, Fiola Mare, offers pristine seafood with a backdrop of the glimmering Potomac River. Order the lobster ravioli with ginger and chives and bathed in a buttery sauce to sample one of the most iconic dishes in the city.

Mastro’s Steakhouse

For a truly private meal

Everyone values space for a private conversation, but it comes as no surprise that in Washington, D.C. there’s a demand for restaurants that can guarantee total confidentiality. Several establishments have hidden spaces and secret entrances for just that purpose, including Mastro’s Steakhouse, which caters to D.C.’s sports royalty seeking $10,000 bottles of cognac in addition to business wheelers and dealers. When VIPs seek steak and lobster with a side of secrecy, they enter through a hidden door that leads straight to a private room. Diners on the down-low gather at Ris as much for chef-owner Ris Lacoste’s signature dish – the bright and tequila-laced scallop margarita – as for the restaurant’s private room and reputation for being reliably tight-lipped about its powerful clientele.

Joe’s Seafood

For old-school suave

Power lunches in the District were long considered to be the realm of steakhouses. Nowadays, diners often prefer to venture beyond meat and potatoes, but there will always be that potential client or business partner – or member of Congress – who is much more amenable to deal-making over a giant plate of perfectly cooked beef. Old guard dining rooms such as The Palm now compete to feed D.C.’s elite with newer classics such as BLT Steak, which keeps diners returning for its oversized popovers and beautifully cooked prime cuts. Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab not only sits near the White House but features a grand dining room with soaring ceilings and columns, hinting at its former life as a bank. Finish a meal here with a slice of pie… and perhaps even a newly signed contract.

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