Old Ebbitt Grill
I don’t usually submit myself to massive doses of tourist restaurant but having spent the morning wandering around the hugely impressive monuments of DC I was glad that I’d booked lunch at the Old Ebbitt Grill.
DC’s oldest restaurant, it’s bang in the middle of both tourist land and the seat of government meaning it has a strong crossover crowd. It felt like the place you would bring your parents when they visited you in your first Washington job.
I was promptly seated in the characterful dining room and brought both lunch and drinks menus.
My waitress soon enquired after my country of origin then took great pleasure in sharing details of her connection back to Robert the Bruce. Scotland is a great common currency in that regard.
It seemed pretty clear that I should either jump on the seafood train with the only possible deviation involving taking them at their grill name and sampling their burger. But having somehow missed eating crab cakes in Baltimore, I embraced a seafood fate.
This started with oyster stew. This comprised four lightly battered and fried oysters in a deeply meaty and seafoody sauce with a topping of oyster crackers. I really quite enjoyed it. It was punchy if a touch unsophisticated.
The main course of jumbo lump crab cake lost a little in translation as it wasn’t particularly jumbo. The dish came either as a single of double and whilst the portion was entirely filling enough, the solitary cake I’d opted for was overwhelmed on the plate by the skin-on fries.
What’s more, it was pretty ordinary stuff. The crab was plentiful in the mix but this was rather a weakness as it didn’t come together as a unified cake or really work as a dish. The accompanying slaw was OK and the tartare sauce decent, but it was an unimaginative use of a high quality central ingredient.
So it was rather a mixed bag at the Old Ebbitt Grill. I suspect this institution has seen better days but it still ticked several boxes on the tourist charm scale. The food could use a little refresh to make things a little more appealing, but the place is completely bulletproof and as such could be serving things to a much poorer standard and still packing them in, so for that I suppose we must be thankful.
Blythe scores Old Ebbitt Grill
3/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 14/20
I ate: oyster stew, jumbo lump crab cake
I drank: Riesling, water
I wore: new McCartney shirt
Total bill: $45.73
Address: 675 15th Street NW, DC 20005