Congress After Dark: An Insider’s Guide to the Hot Spots

By Justin Rood

Feb 27, 2007 11:36am

Where do your lawmakers go at night when they’re in Washington, D.C.?  Given the pressure to raise money for re-election, it’s a fair bet they’ll be at a fund-raiser, for themselves or for a colleague.  And you can be sure that lobbyists, who buy many of the high-price tickets for such events, will also be in attendance. Recently, Roll Call newspaper crunched numbers from CQ Political Money Line to determine what were the most popular venues for fund-raisers and campaign events in D.C. What were they? Take a look: Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. 8. The Monocle: A clubby restaurant/bar just a few steps away from most Senate offices, this is a favorite haunt for members of the upper chamber.  Perhaps that’s because, as its Web site boasts, it was the first restaurant on Capitol Hill to feature real tablecloths.  Its reputation isn’t all high-class, however: Former Sen. John Tower, R-Tex., who had a reputation as a world-class womanizer and imbiber, once held a regular booth there. 7. Tortilla Coast: This Tex-Mex watering hole would be at home near the campus of any large university. Just a stumbling distance from (or to) most House offices, the themed joint is a regular meeting place for staffers and others.  Cheap food and drink have made it an easy spot for lawmakers and lobbyists alike to entertain. 6. Bobby Van’s Steakhouse: The first D.C. location of this high-end steak house opened in 2000. Its downtown location makes it convenient for many industry lobbyists whose money helps fuel campaigns.

5. Oceanaire Seafood Room: The D.C. location of this rich, art deco-themed seafood restaurant franchise has been a staple on the lobbyist power-lunch circuit and draws heavy hitters from Congress and K Street alike.  The chef orders two dozen varieties of fresh fish flown in every day. 4. La Colline: This famous Capitol Hill eatery shuttered last year after 25 years of service.  Its utility as a fund-raising locale was widely known; even Frommer’s guide called it "the perfect spot for that breakfast fund-raiser." It’s been replaced by a seafood joint, Johnny’s Half Shell, but don’t expect the fund-raising traffic to slow. Johnny’s is co-owned by a Republican fund-raiser and an insurance industry lobbyist. 3. The Caucus Room: The venerable wood paneling at The Caucus Room, co-owned by two big D.C. power brokers, is just one of the details giving this downtown steak-heavy restaurant a cultivated air of importance, which is a likely draw for some of its powerful customers. A case in point: In 2003, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Tex., lit up a cigar after eating dinner at another restaurant. When his waiter told him federal law required him to extinguish his cigar indoors, DeLay reportedly proclaimed, "I am the federal government!" and retreated to the discreet comfort of The Caucus Room.  While DeLay resigned from Congress last May amid several scandals, The Caucus Room is still around. Washington, D.C. has banned all smoking from restaurants. 2. The Capital Grille: Yet another high-end steak house that’s convenient to lobbyists and Capitol Hill alike, this joint has been made famous by the Duke Cunningham scandal.  Alleged Duke briber Brent Wilkes kept a wine locker at the Capital Grille, along with his lifelong friend Dusty Foggo, formerly the executive director of the CIA.  Both men were recently indicted for fraud. Mitchell Wade, who’s pled guilty to bribing Cunningham with cash, favors, a boat and a Rolls Royce, also dined regularly at the restaurant. Coincidentally, the Capital Grille is also walking distance to the D.C. federal courthouse, where many federal bribery cases are heard.

1. Charlie Palmer Steak: According to Roll Call, political campaigns dropped nearly $400,000 at this king of official Washington steak joints last year.  Considered one of the best steak houses in Washington, it’s also one of the most expensive – entrees run up to around $60, and it boasts a wine collection of over 10,000 bottles.  Long a GOP stronghold, control of this sleek-and-stylish steak house may be shifting: a clutch of Democratic operatives invaded the bar area on election night last November, according to a Roll Call report. The group cheered as they received news of Democratic victories from the restaurant’s television and their personal Blackberries. Check out photos of these political hot spots.

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