Old Ebbitt Grill, McPherson Square

The most remarkable thing happened at Old Ebbitt Grill yesterday.

After the coolest White House Tour ever (Christmas decorations, special rooms open, an orchestra playing the Peer Gynt Suite in the East Room), it was a weird hour: 3:15 PM. Do we have an early dinner, or go back, probably not returning downtown? For me it was an easy call – we had street parking, and it was time to take advantage of it.

On a Sunday, Old Ebbitt Grill had a 15 minute wait for a table at 3:15 PM! This place is unbelievable. We nabbed the last side-by-side barstools.

I wasn’t feeling the raw seafood thing, but how do you not take advantage of half-priced raw bar? I ordered a Walrus Platter #2 ($27.95->$13.98) with six oysters (Kusshis, of course), six clams, and two of Old Ebbitt’s huge shrimp. Our bartender, a pleasant young woman, overheard Matt and I saying neither of us was really in the mood for raw seafood. “You can get the clams steamed,” she said. Great!

Sipping on a Diet Coke ($3.00, refilled without asking), our plate arrived with the oysters (for me) and the shrimp (for him) which we devoured in about three minutes. The clams, I figured, would arrive in due course.

Right as we finished our seafood, our main courses arrived. For Matt, a Fried Oyster Po’ Boy Sandwich ($13.95) with french fries; for me, Eggs Chesapeake ($17.95), an irresistible sounding combination of two poached eggs, jumbo lump crab cakes, on a split English muffin with “Chesapeake sauce” and home fries. 

The Po’ Boy was mostly bread, lettuce and mayo, with just a few fried oysters on it. The Eggs Chesapeake was the better of the two dishes, but the English muffin was irretrievably hard for some reason – to the point where it was even difficult to cut with a knife – my home fries were three little potato wedges. The crab cake was very mediocre, and the dominant flavor in both dishes was cheap mayonnaise.

But while the food itself was ordinary at best, I found myself in that state where you don’t realize just how hungry you are until you’re about three bites into your meal – I was starving, and the food was eaten quickly. 

About halfway through, I concluded the clams (remember them?) weren’t coming, so I asked our bartender:

“Do you think our clams got lost?”

She immediately nodded her head and said “Yes,” and went straight to the end of the crowded bar and talked with a runner.

We finished our meals, and the clams still hadn’t arrived. The bartender said she’d like to buy us a dessert for our trouble, and presented us with a menu. Okay, why not. We looked over the menu, and both of us decided things just weren’t worth the calories. When the bartender returned, we thanked her for the gesture, but told her it was okay.

When the clams still didn’t arrive, we were both just sitting there. After a brief huddle, we decided we were full enough, and so we told our bartender not to worry about the clams. “No,” she said, “I’m going to worry about it.” She went back to the end of the bar, and I heard her asking for a manager.

She walked backed past us, and I said “Really, this is not a big deal.” She said, “It’s a big deal to me.”

I got into a brief conversation with Matt, then looked up and saw our bartender again. “You guys are taken care of,” she said.


“Yes, you’re set. You shouldn’t have had to wait like you did.”

“This is a nice gesture, but I don’t want a free meal.”

“There’s no bill.”

“Could you at least bill me for a cup of coffee?”

She gave me a bill for $3.50. I didn’t know what to do – I’ve never been comped like this in my life. So I left her a $20 tip, thanked her, and we were on our way.


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