Best Bars With History In Washington DC

October 24, 2013 8:00 AM

Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill (

You may have never set foot in Washington, DC, but most people are very well aware that the city has a rich history, so it is no surprise that many of DC’s bars have played an important role serving drinks to politicians, staffers and even presidents. Here’s a look at five of the oldest and most history-filled watering holes around the District that are still serving up drinks to some of Washington DC’s most influential movers and shakers.

Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 347-4800

One bar that certainly deserves the distinction of being considered one of Washington, DC’s most historic bars is Old Ebbitt. Located mere steps from the White House, the Old Ebbitt Grill has been a DC staple since it first opened its doors in 1856. The establishment was a favorite of several presidents, including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Johnson and Warren G. Harding. Aside from being a favorite spot to a variety of presidents, Old Ebbitt is also reputed to have played host to British generals that made their way to the bar to toast and watch the White House burn during the War of 1812. Moving locations several times, Old Ebbitt continues to be a key part of DC social life, and still remains a top venue for political fundraisers and congressional outings and holiday celebrations.

Eighteenth Street Lounge
1212 18th St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 466-3922

Don’t let the popular music and hip crowd that frequent Eighteenth Street Lounge fool you, this hidden gem in DuPont has a rich history all its own. It may now be one of the trendiest nightclubs in the city, but before the former mansion was remodeled into the dimly lit, Victorian-inspired DC hot spot it is today, the impressive DuPont mansion was actually rented by Teddy Roosevelt.

Off the Record
800 16th St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 638-6600

Many of DC’s most historic bars have played host to a lot of politicians, and nowhere is this more evident than at Off the Record. Located just a block away from the White House, this trendy lounge nestled in the basement of the historic Hay-Adams Hotel is known for both its famous red velvet walls and the frequency that you’ll be able to spot a variety of noteworthy politicians and journalists sharing a drink or two. The most famous of bar patrons who have visited the historic bar have their faces permanently drawn onto the walls as caricatures.

The Tombs
1226 36th St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 337-6668

Historic bars in Washington, DC aren’t just limited to the downtown area; Georgetown also has its fair share of DC historic bar action as well. The Tombs, for example, built during the early 1960s, has been a big attraction for Georgetown University students and faculty since opening its doors. Now serving mostly the younger crowd, it has become a busy spot where visitors can enjoy a drink and a good burger surrounded by posters depicting images of the World War I era.

Martin’s Tavern
1264 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-7370

Recently celebrating its 78th anniversary and unique status as one of the few DC establishments serving the city since the Great Depression, Martin’s Tavern has earned its place among DC’s most historic. The family-owned restaurant has been frequented by almost every sitting president from Harry Truman to George W. Bush and has become a Georgetown staple, according to the bar’s website. Among the most notable claims to fame, John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier at Martin’s in 1953. You can still visit the “proposal booth” and read about what the waitress saw on that night.

Related: Best Martini Bars In Washington DC

Matthew Scott is a freelance writer covering all things Washington DC. His work can be found on

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