There are two types of people in D.C.: those who go to Tabard Inn every chance they get, and those that have never been. I have a friend that even uses it as his go-to first date location. And though I like to knock his dating style at any possible point, he really is on to something with this one. It’s casual yet classy, and has that hidden gem feel. Boys, take note. It’s like giving a girl a puppy – she literally won’t be able to resist you.
And calling it a hidden gem is really the best way to describe this particular restaurant. It’s technically located just off Dupont Circle, but isn’t exactly on a high traffic street. And to get to the restaurant you have to wander through the lobby of the hotel, which has a distinct bed and breakfast in rural Maine feel to it. It doesn’t exactly scream high class restaurant. And the restaurant isn’t exactly clearly marked – once through the lobby you hang a left at the stairs, walk through the lounge and head to the hostess podium just outside the bar. She will lead you through the bar and then all the sudden the dining room opens up and it’s like being in some classy lady’s very large kitchen full of some very fun friends.
The dining room is great, don’t get me wrong. Black and white tiled floors mean that while the restaurant can get pretty loud, especially at brunch, you never feel like you have to whisper to your fellow diners about how amazing the food is. You can scream it if you want, believe me, there’s someone else in the restaurant doing the same thing. And the food is to die for. The menu sticks to the classic mid-Atlantic fare that we all love here in the Washington area. Expect lots of crab, fish, and beef prepared in a way that pays homage to the ingredients, and not just to whatever crazy technique has recently come along. The food is classic within an inch of its life, and sometimes, that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
Though dinner at Tabard Inn is special and wonderful, I’m a full-on evangelist in the church of the Tabard Inn Brunch. Reservations (or a lot of patience) are practically required, but it’s well worth the call ahead of time. And it usually fits the bill no matter what kind of brunch I’m in the mood for. There is the quiche for the “Ladies Who Lunch” days, the poached eggs over pork belly with barbecue beurre blanc for those “I’m Starting My Diet Tomorrow” days and the huevos rancheros for those “Seriously Guys, I’ll Never Drink Again” days. But there is one thing, no matter what kind of day you’re having, that you cannot miss. The homemade donuts. Just trust me. And don’t be stupid and plan on sharing them. Get your own. You’ll thank me.
While the food and the room are great, the patio at Tabard Inn cannot be left unmentioned. It is one of the great hidden patios in all of Washington and with the ivy and the brick, it’ll make you feel like you’re wasting the day away in a great tucked away spot. It’s perfect for sipping coffee and ordering plate upon plate of those homemade donuts. If the weather isn’t exactly outdoor dining worthy, I recommend plopping down on one of the couches in the lounge. The word cozy was coined for a location like this. The dark wood and the great fireplace make the perfect setting for a martini and some close conversation. Just ask my friend who brings the ladies here. (Or ask the We Love DC cast of characters, we love it too.)
And if you’re lucky like me, you’ll completely forget that Sunday means live jazz night at Tabard Inn and will stumble upon it on a pretty regular basis. Nothing makes me feel as classy as sipping a cocktail on an antique couch with some live tunes in the background. I feel significantly less classy when I’m scarfing down donuts at breakneck pace, but hey, everyone has their vices.
Tabard Inn is located at 1739 N St. NW. Closest Metro stop is Dupont Circle (Red Line). For more information: (202) 331-8528.