Power Restaurants Aren’t Real. Stop Talking About Them.

Fiola Mare attracts bold-faced names—and foodies with its magnificent seafood. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Every so often, some news outlet trots out a story about DC’s “power dining scene” and pretends to be amazed that a CNN anchor, the vice president, and a Republican senator might have all eaten in the same place at different points in time.

The New York Times is the latest culprit to fall for this cliche with a story headlined “The Dish on the Washington Power Dining Scene.” I’ll sum it up for you: people in positions of power sometimes like to eat out at cool restaurants. Surprise!

It’s time to bust this myth: There is no such thing as a “power restaurant.”

In a different era, maybe, the concept was more clear-cut. Up until the past decade or so, DC’s dining scene was relatively small, and certain clubby dining rooms—The Palm, Capital Grille, The Monocle—could attract larger concentrations of political influencers by their mere vicinity to the White House or Capitol. No one cared that much about whether the food was good.

In today’s food-obsessed era, so-called “power players” (whatever that means) simply like to eat at good restaurants, no matter the location. Of course politicians and pundits are dining at Fiola Mare and Le Diplomate. Anyone who gives a damn about food in DC is also eating there. There’s no grand conspiracy that brings “important” people to the same bowls of pasta.

If your definition of a power restaurant is that the clientele includes bold-face names, practically every restaurant in DC is a power restaurant. Good luck naming an establishment around that hasn’t had a visit from some congresswoman, ambassador, Supreme Court justice, or White House staffer. Michelle Obama has basically eaten the entire city.

These people happen to live in DC, and they like to eat out—just like the rest of us.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.