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Lobbyists Dish on Where They Like to Woo Clients

[Photo: Central Michel Richard]

When it comes to fine dining, Washington lobbyists know how to wine and dine. After all, taking care of clients and building relationships to sway policy are what these professionals in the influence business do best. So what better way to discuss energy reform with clients, go over talking points of an upcoming meeting with a senator or melt away stress from an all-day hearing over food and drinks?

Lobbyists who talked to Eater DC for Whale Week dished out a variety of their favorite restaurants to hosts these power lunch and dinners. Many certainly are familiar haunts to the city's high rollers.

Annie Chavez, a lobbyist for a trade association, offers The Capital Grille to clients who are not familiar with Washington's dining scene. This traditional power lunch spot, located a few blocks from The Capitol building, is always bustling during weekday lunch. "You want to give them a sense of the scene," she says.

Out-of-town clients visiting Hunter Moorhead of Crossroads Strategies also prefer this powerhouse staple. "They always want to go to The Capital Grille because it's social," he says.

Proximity to the office or meeting locations, and, of course good food are also major factors when it comes to entertaining a client or wooing a prospective one. Chavez prefers a venue close to her office: "I'm very Pennsylvania Avenue-centric, like Capital Grille, Central and Del Frisco's."

Their menu offerings, which she says serve her personal favorites, also cater to her clients' diverse palates and diets. "You want a good selection of meat and vegetable options for them. Somewhere that has a variety," she says.

For Malcolm Grace of Wexler & Walker, convenience to his office is also helpful. His favorites include Oceannaire, The Hamilton, Georgia Brown's, Ceiba and Central, which are all within walking distance from his Penn Quarter office. But Grace will also go the extra mile for good food. "I often go to Vidalia. Their sweetbreads and waffles are the best in the city," he says of the award-winning DuPont Circle establishment.

Vincent Eng, founder of The Veng Group, is another lobbyist who will venture further west for a unique experience. He goes to Unum, a year-old restaurant in Georgetown co-owned by Laura Schiller, an aide to Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. "The food is exceptional and it's very reasonably priced," he says. Another reason he likes this eatery is chef Phillip Blaine's personal touch: He comes out of the kitchen and talks to the diners. "That's another added experience to the dinner," Veng says.

Lydia Borland also prefers treating clients to non-conventional power restaurants. "I like to find gems," she says. Borland names Italian restaurants Siroc and Al Dente, as well as Ambar, a new venue serving Balkan cuisine.

Borland, who mostly works on U.S.-Turkey relations, also goes to Turkish restaurants such as Café Divan and Agora. For the Turks visting from abroad, she treats them to Sushiko and Sushi Taro, which serve fare not commonly eaten in their native country.

When they want a quieter setting to dine and discuss, some lobbyists often have their own special spot. Moorhead likes to go to Montmarte on Capitol Hill. "It's a hidden spot from people who are traveling here. It's quiet," he says. "It's a good place for lunch and dinner." When he wants to hold "sensitive type of conversations," Eng goes to Adour at the St. Regis Hotel. He also treats new clients at this French restaurant. Despite the high-priced menu, he says the atmosphere and excellent service are worth the expense.
—Kat Lucero

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923 16th Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20006 (202) 509-8000 Visit Website

The Hamilton

600 14th Street Northwest, , DC 20005 (202) 787-1000 Visit Website


1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC, DC 20004 Visit Website


701 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005 202 393 3983


2917 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007 202 621 6959


2309 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington DC, DC 20007 (202) 333-4187 Visit Website


523 8th Street SE, Washington, DC 20003

Sushi Taro

1503 17th Street Northwest, , DC 20036 (202) 462-8999 Visit Website


1990 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20036 202 659 1990 Visit Website

Al Dente

3201 New Mexico Avenue Northwest, , DC 20016 (202) 244-2223 Visit Website


1527 17th Street Northwest, , DC 20036 (202) 332-6767 Visit Website