News & Politics

Best Places To Spot a Celebrity in Washington

DC stomping grounds for Jessica Simpson, Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, and more

Where can you see stars such as Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Jessica Simpson when they’re in town? Photographs of Simpson and Freeman by Newscom; Jolie and Pitt by Adriana M. Barraza/

Time was, when you wanted to get a peek at a visiting celebrity all you had to do was stake out Cafe Milano in Georgetown. These days, after an NPR fundraising meeting-turned-scandal at Milano and a wealth of new upscale restaurants, stalking VIPs is more interesting. We trawled through gossip columns from the past year to find the surest celebrity-spotting grounds, with one surprising contender.

W Hotel

515 15th St., NW
Since the former Hotel Washington reopened as the W in 2009, it’s become the go-to place for visiting celebrities. The rooftop POV bar has hosted everyone from rocker Dave Navarro to Second Lady Jill Biden, while actor Jeremy Renner and singer Jessica Simpson have also been spotted taking in the scenic views. Visitors to the hotel’s J&G Steakhouse have included celebrity chef Bobby Flay, Nats outfielder Jayson Werth, and Washington’s most prolific VIP diner-around-town, Michelle Obama.

The Source
575 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Wolfgang Puck’s flagship Los Angeles restaurant, Spago, has long been a mecca for hungry celebrities, so it was only a matter of time until his DC outpost, the Source, made its presence felt. Visitors have ranged from the stratospheric (Paul McCartney) to the political (senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, former DC mayor Adrian Fenty, and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg). Other diners have included actor Harrison Ford and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, but the Source’s status was cemented when the First Couple chose it to celebrate Michelle Obama’s birthday this year.

The Palm

1225 19th St., NW
Washington Post Reliable Source columnist Amy Argetsinger recommends the Palm as a reliable celebrity-spotting location: Warren Buffett, Morgan Freeman, Caroline Kennedy, and Alex Rodriguez have all been seen at the power-dining locale. If you fail to see a famous face, you can always console yourself by checking out the celebrity portraits adorning the walls.

Four Seasons Hotel
2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
As DC’s only Forbes five-star hotel, the Four Seasons in Georgetown regularly has a star-studded guest list, from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to Dave Grohl and the Jonas Brothers. The hotel’s Michael Mina–helmed restaurant, Bourbon Steak, has also seen its share of famous faces, with Oprah Winfrey, director Steven Spielberg, and actor Owen Wilson all having dined there.

Buck’s Fishing & Camping
5031 Connecticut Ave., NW
It might have a location away from the heart of DC, but Vickie Reh’s outdoorsy, nature-inspired restaurant has hosted an unexpected variety of hungry celebrities, from Robert Redford and Jon Bon Jovi to chef and food activist Alice Waters. No word on whether any visiting VIPs have ducked into Comet Ping Pong, a few doors down, for after-dinner entertainment.

This article appears in the July 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

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