News & Politics

Best of 2004: Martin Garbisu

This maitre d' of old is a dying breed -- but Garbisu is a legend.

He–it was almost always a he–greeted regulars by name, always found them a table, and knew their food and drink preferences by heart.  We're talking about the maitre d'.

For 16 years, Martin Garbisu defined the legend at DC's Jockey Club. He was equally at home with politicians, Washington cavedwellers, and celebrities, juggling their demands seamlessly. Nancy Reagan could lunch in view in the front dining room with full confidence that Garbisu would protect her privacy. "Martin was aware of his power," says Vivian Deuschl, who did public relations for the hotel, "but he never abused it. He liked gracious people. Obnoxious people were likely to find themselves in Siberia."

After leaving the Jockey Club, now closed, in 1992, Garbisu turned up for brief periods at restaurants around town, but he seems at last to have found a comfortable berth at Charlie Palmer Steak (101 Constitution Ave., NW; 202-547-8100), the sleek new Capitol Hill eatery. Martin's well-honed political skills make the man and the restaurant a perfect fit.

Washingtonian staff contributing to this section were Chuck Conconi, Sherri Dalphonse, Susan Davidson, Mary Clare Fleury, Cynthia Hacinli, Thomas Head, Stephanie Jones, Ann Limpert, Drew Lindsay, Chad Lorenz, Leslie Milk, William O'Sullivan, Cindy Rich, and Jeremy Stahl.  Also contributing were writers Cathy Alter, Ann Cochran, and Jenny Sullivan.