1226 36th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Cuisines: Modern, American
Open Monday through Thursday 6 to 10 PM, Friday 6 to 11 PM, Saturday 5:30 to 11 PM, and Sunday 5:30 to 10 PM.
Nearby Metro Stops: Rosslyn
Price Range: Very expensive
Noise Level: Intimate
The menu changes frequently, but recent hits have been veal cheeks with bits of preserved orange over celery-root purée; broiled Gruyère-topped oysters; a rack of lamb with white beans; pork chop with cider jus; Nantucket bay scallops in any preparation;
Appetizers, $9 to $16. Entrees, $23 to $38. Three-course prix-fixe menu (served after 9 PM Sunday through Thursday and after 10 PM on weekends), $35. Three-course pre-theater menu (served weekdays before 6:45 PM), $35.
Special Features: Kid Friendly, Valet Parking Available, Party Space
You might guess that the growing interest in dinner as theater eventually would spell the demise of a place like 1789, a restaurant where men show up for dinner in a jacket and where a prefeminist code of manners obtains among the bow-tied, fiercely competent staff—the bill is rarely if ever set down in front of a woman.
While the old ways still apply, generations of politicos, legions of Georgetown students (buttoned-down for proper dinners with parents or for courtly dates), and tourists flock to the historic townhouse.
But even institutions need a shot of energy now and again. Chef Nathan Beauchamp and his bosses at the veteran Clyde’s Restaurant Group have aimed to reposition 1789 as a fresh restaurant without sacrificing its appeal as a sometimes stuffy special-occasion destination.
Caught between old and new, Beauchamp straddles the middle. The approach mostly works, as Beauchamp shops wisely and concentrates on updating and lightening French bistro classics, from a robust but unheavy steak tartare to an escargot tart to an almost country-style pork chop that won’t weigh you down. There’s even a quietly daring lamb-tongue salad, a revelation for a restaurant whose signature dish has long been its rack of lamb. You’ll also find dishes that don’t live up to their risk and dishes that taste as generic as any wedding banquet’s.
The star of the menu remains the rack of lamb. It’s no gastronomic epiphany, just a very well-cooked and gratifying plate of food. And, for the restaurant’s many longtime fans, a reassurance.