17 Places You Must Go To Party Like A Big-Money D.C. Insider

The St. Regis WashingtonThe Washington Marriott Wardman Park made $179,694 from Democratic fundraisers in 2012.In Washington D.C., you’re only as good as your last fundraiser.

The centre for Responsible Politics released a report Tuesday revealing the most popular D.C. hotels and restaurants for D.C. politicos to host fundraisers, and how much money they spent at each. 

The top 10 lists for both parties reveal that in the 2012 election season, Democrats spent a total of $3.1 million at their favourite spots. Republicans clocked in at $4.6 million. 

The Republican National Committee, the Obama Victory Fund and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) all shelled out serious cash during 2012. It would appear that when politicians want to raise money, they almost always want to do it at a steakhouse.

If you’re looking to live the lifestyle of a Washington insider with a big-league budget, even if just for one night, we have your guide to the favourite dining rooms of Republicans and Democrats alike. And there is some overlap — three of the restaurants appear on the top 10 lists of both parties. Get ready to get dressed up and dip into your retirement fund. 

Reviews are courtesy of Yelp. For hotel fundraisers, reviews are based off the on-site restaurant. 

Acqua Al 2

PARTY: Republican

BIG SPENDER: Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio)

Price Range: $$$

REVIEW : 'Terrific place. My go-to business lunch location, but also a great place to hang out in the neighbourhood on any given evening. Attentive staff, great Northern Italian food, creatively prepared. These folks are doing the restaurant business right. Associated speakeasy, Harold Black's, upstairs is a secret.'

Amount Spent at Location in 2012: $143,028

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: Definitely get experimental with the steak sampler, which includes blueberry and balsamic filet mignon.

(between S North Carolina Ave & S C St)
Washington, DC 20003

Bistro Bis

PARTY: Democratic

BIG SPENDER: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee


REVIEW: 'How many of you have seen a lion sunning himself on a South African safari? Or seen a humpback whales breach in the Alaskan sea? Probably not many, but you take comfort in knowing that they are there. Somewhere. That they exist....for someone to appreciate or just for the sake of existing. That's how I feel about The Duck Hash at Bistro Bis.'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: Seems like the Duck Hash is a solid option, but the Beef Bourguignon, served with bacon lardons (small strips or cubes, for my fellow uncultured masses), onions, and buttered noodles also earns rave reviews.

(between N New Jersey Ave & N Capitol St)
Washington, DC 20001

BLT Steak

PARTY: Republican

BIG SPENDER: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.)


REVIEW: 'The food was excellent. As mentioned on all the other reviews, the popover bread is an absolute must. I ordered the bone-in rib eye and it was cooked perfectly and delicious. The sides were good, but nothing unique enough to stand out in my mind. I ordered the Mushrooms to be safe and they were good. I would have given 5 stars, but left some room for improvement for the ambiance itself. Don't get me wrong, it's nice. Just nothing particularly special about the décor or setup. BLT is a must try when you're in D.C.'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: Don't worry, you'll get the prized popovers automatically with the meal. When it comes time to choose, the braised short ribs are a winner, and the Hen of The Woods mushrooms on the side are not to be missed.

(between N 16th St & N Connecticut Ave)
Washington, DC 20006

Bobby Van's Steakhouse and Grill

PARTY: Republican

BIG SPENDER: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.)


REVIEW: 'Well, I had a moderately pleasant business lunch here. I will give them credit for an excellent English pea soup and lobster ravioli. If it's raining, and you can't go too far, and you are nearby - this is a pretty solid option - but if you wander a few blocks in almost any direction you wil find much better places.'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: Anything that comes with the garlic mashed potatoes, described as a 'garlic explosion to the mouth.' The roast pork chop should make a suitable companion.

WHERE TO FIND IT: 1201 New York Ave NW
(between N 12th St & N 13th St)
Washington, DC 20005

Capital Grille

PARTY: Republican

BIG SPENDER: Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.)


REVIEW: 'I love this Capital Grille location in DC. When you walk in, you can smell the power and see the suits working the room... I just love this place......full of Suits, Steaks, Whiskey and Cigars!'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: The lobster mac n' cheese is a popular specialty for seafood-lovers and comfort food enthusiasts alike. Follow up with the aged sirloin with shallot butter.

WHERE TO FIND IT: 601 Pennsylvania Ave NW
(at N 6th St)
Washington, DC 20004

Capitol Hill Club

PARTY: Republican

BIG SPENDER: National Republican Congressional Committee

PRICE RANGE: It's a private club, and membership fees run around $125 a month after a $1,000 dollar initiation fee, lowered to $300 for members of Congress and government officials, according to Harper's Magazine.

REVIEW: 'How to Crash the Capitol Hill Club:

When you enter into the club you're greeted by a large portrait of Bush Sr. on your left and the receptionist on your right. Walk fast and self assuredly to the back of the main floor and use the elevator on your right

Get off on the lower floor at the grill and find a table in the dining room or the lounge area that allows ample surveillance of the club and seats you next to people that will provide satisfactory eavesdropping.

When the server asks you if you want to put it on your account, tell him you want to use your Visa and order a pitcher of Yuengling.

Clearly the current economic situation even affects the Republicans so it's $5 to sample the buffet spread out around the bar. Go ahead, grab a plate or two, just try to look like you belong by not heaping to overflowing. The chilli is a-mazing. The guac is awful. Fill a plate with wings. Have some oysters if you dare and sit yourself back down and enjoy an hour or two of guessing which Congressman is sipping a dry martini a few seats from you.'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: The menu is pretty hush-hush but word on the street is that the sirloin steaks are enormous.

(between S C St & S D St)
Washington, DC 20003

Capitol Hill Hotel

PARTY: Republican

BIG SPENDER: Republican National Committee

PRICE RANGE: $$ (No restaurant)

REVIEW: The hotel has previously hosted the freshmen Congressional orientation.

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: We're dying to know what the RNC puts on their catering menu.

(between S 3rd St & S 2nd St)
Washington, DC 20003

North Gate Grill

PARTY: Democratic

BIG SPENDER: Obama Victory Fund

PRICE RANGE: The Grill ($$) is located inside the Capitol Hilton ($$$), the fundraiser location.

REVIEW: 'Good place to start your day even if you are not staying at the Capitol Hilton, just blocks from the White House, with good selection of plates and finger foods.'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: Just because Obama probably got catering, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy artichoke and goat cheese ravioli when you stop by this D.C. hotel.

WHERE TO FIND IT: 1001 16th St NW
(between N K St & N L St)
Washington, DC 20036

Charlie Palmer Steak

PARTY: Republicans and Democrats. Charlie Palmer is one of a handful of examples of dining bipartisanship on this list.

BIG SPENDERS: Obama Victory Fund and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.)


REVIEW: 'I enjoy a good steak every once in a while, but at Charlie Palmer I could eat it daily...it is that good. I went with my brother and we shared the porterhouse for 2. The steak was cooked to perfection and the way they managed to present the monster was even more astonishing. The best part...BYOB! We had a great meal with awesome service and all things considered it was reasonably priced. Looking forward to my next visit.'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: It seems like it would be a mistake to come here and not order a steak. Unless you're feeling sorry for the oft-overlooked rack of lamb, the New York strip is a popular option. Lots of reviewers complain about the sauce; might be best to ask for it on the side if you're picky.

WHERE TO FIND IT: 101 Constitution Avenue Northwest
(between N Louisiana Ave & N 2nd St)
Washington, DC 20001

Cure Bar and Bistro

PARTY: Democratic

BIG SPENDERS: Obama Victory Fund

PRICE RANGE: Cure ($$) is located inside the Grand Hyatt Washington ($$$), the fundraiser location.

REVIEW: 'It's rare to find a restaurant connected to a hotel that could completely stand alone. Cure is super tasty. Fair prices, all things considered. Lets just say.. the 'crispy Brussels sprouts' are totally worth the trip. Yummm. If it's suits your fancy, the beet and goat cheese salad was also delicious.. Overall, I was very pleased with Cure. They also have a really nice selection of wines.. and tea! It always touches my heart to see good tea on the menu. (The coco truffle tea was particularly pleasant and very tasty.)'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: The old fashioned chicken pot-pie sounds worth a try, and the crispy brussel sprouts get rave reviews, if that's your jam. Definitely get a cheese platter with your meal, Cure is known for their selection.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Grand Hyatt Washington
1000 H St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Article One American Grill

PARTY: Democratic

BIG SPENDER: Obama Victory Fund

PRICE RANGE: Article One American Grill ($$$) is located in the Hyatt Regency Washington ($$$), the fundraiser location.

REVIEW: 'Spacious, casual atmosphere & super friendly service. Perfect dining option for the family with small children. Their kids menu is unexpectedly good & reasonable. Your kids will enjoy as if they're eating at McDonald, while you and your spouse do some decent dining. The wine list is not as big as I hoped for, but what I had was pretty good and the price was right.'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: The grill's breakfast is super popular, featuring sticky bun french toast and a blue crab hash. In the evening, the campanelle pasta and buffalo mozzarella salad are both great options.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Hyatt Regency
400 New Jersey Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001

Johny's Half Shell

PARTY: Republicans and Democrats

BIG SPENDERS: Rep. Spencer Bacchus (R-Ala.) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)


REVIEW: 'Atmosphere was completely comfy.
Staff were quite professional.
Drinks were refreshing.
Foood.... well.... I be-rubbin my tummy aft'a lunch. Sooooo good, IiiiiiiiI mean...'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: Johnny's is the only place on the list specializing in seafood, so stick to things that swim. Or drift, in the case of mollusks. The crab cakes are a specialty.

WHERE TO FIND IT: 400 N Capitol St NW
(between D St & N E St)
Washington, DC 20001

Art and Soul

PARTY: Republicans and Democrats

BIG SPENDERS: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Republican National Committee

PRICE RANGE: Art and Soul ($$$) is located inside the Liaison Capitol Hill ($$$), the fundraiser location.

REVIEW: 'Fancy southern food.'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: Art and Soul is run by Art Smith, former personal chef to Oprah and specialist in southern food. Almost everything on the menu looks good, but the shrimp and grits are especially popular, in addition to the fried chicken served with scallion potatoes.

WHERE TO FIND IT: 415 New Jersey Ave NW
(between N D St & N E St)
Washington, DC 20001

National Democratic Club

PARTY: Democratic

BIG SPENDER: Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.)

PRICE RANGE: $$$ (Also a member's-only club, initiation fees range from $100-$500 and monthly fees are around $100.)

REVIEW: 'Came here for a graduation party in honour of a husband and wife. Apparently, you can rent this place for your own private party. Nice little place with pictures of Democrats all around. Well, a little overkill, if you ask me. Bartender was nice and friendly. No one complained about their drinks. The food, satisfactory. I will tell you one thing. Their jumbo shrimps ain't no lie. They were truly jumbo!'

WHAT TO ORDER: The bar and its bartenders are the club's most popular attraction and the menu changes each week. I'd say they should serve Korean BBQ glazed Chilean seabass every day.

(between S Canal St & S New Jersey Ave)
Washington, DC 20003

Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar

PARTY: Republicans

BIG SPENDER: Republican National Committee


REVIEW: 'Your basic Californian wine bar and restaurant with light, healthy California food. Prices are a bit higher than you might want to spend if you're just grabbing something to eat, or are touristing. Very knowledgeable and accommodating about food allergies. Plenty of Hill staffers and the occasional Member of Congress. I recommend reservations when Congress is in session.'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: Sonoma gets a lot of good press for its pizza (the shrimp pesto, with rock shrimp, pesto, oven dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and arugula sounds unreal) but more than anything this place is about the wine.

WHERE TO FIND IT: 223 Pennsylvania Ave SE
(between S Independence Ave & S 2nd St)
Washington, DC 20003


PARTY: Democratic

BIG SPENDER: Obama Victory Fund

PRICE RANGE: Decanter, which looks expensive, is located inside The St. Regis Washington ($$$$), the fundraiser location.

REVIEW: Decanter is set to open June 21, according to the website Eater. It will replace the hotel's five star Adour. No word yet on whether the redesign was worth it.

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: The cuisine is Meditteranen, advertising flavour profiles from the South of France, Spain, Turkey, and Italy. Maybe all at once!

WHERE TO FIND IT: 923 16th and K Streets, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006

Stone's Throw Restaurant and Bar

PARTY: Democratic

BIG SPENDER: Democratic National Committee

PRICE RANGE: Stone's Throw Restaurant And Bar ($$$) is located inside the Washington Marriott Wardman Park ($$$), the fundraiser location.

REVIEW: 'Stopped in here for lunch with a colleague whilst staying at the hotel for a conference. Service was friendly but slow. The restaurant was only 1/3 full, yet it still took a bit too long to bring us our food. I had the chicken panini, which was serviceable. Place is completely overpriced, but what do you expect from hotel dining options? This place is fine if you're stuck and need to eat at the hotel, but I'd recommend looking into outside options if you have that flexibility.'

WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: Start with the crab cakes and move on to the roasted rack of lamb.

WHERE TO FIND IT: 2660 Woodley Rd NW
(between N 27th St & N Connecticut Ave)
Washington, DC 20008

Now See Where You Can Snag A Quality Hotel On The Cheap

Not the first choice for fundraisers but definitely good deals.

CLICK for the best hotels for under $250 in 20 big cities around the U.S. >

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