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American cuisine from a New York eatery… in D.C.
Who doesn’t love Teddy Roosevelt? He shot bears, he’s on Mount Rushmore, and he had one of American history’s best mustaches. That must be why at the P.J. Clarke’s near the Farragut West Metro stop, the fourth and latest location of the famed New York City saloon, the biggest and most prominent of the hundreds of framed, old-timey pictures scattered in an intentional hodgepodge across the walls is a giant painting of our mustachioed 26th president.
Under Teddy’s watchful eye, the main dining room at P.J. Clarke’s is everything an upscale, all-American restaurant should be: decked out with red and white gingham tablecloths and simple ceramic dining ware, with “Hooked on a Feeling” playing over the buzz of a large crowd. Close your eyes and forget that the room you’re in is massive, and you’ll wonder why you took the Metro just to get to Mr. Smith’s.
Considering the famous name, its pleasantly surprising that the a meal at P.J. Clarke’s won’t cost as much as a trip to their location in São Paolo. It’s no half-priced Qdoba night, but P.J. Clarke’s hearty American style cuisine earns every dollar. The appetizer section boasts a classic Creamy Tomato Soup for just over seven dollars. A tasty, buttery slab of cheddar toast floats on top to keep it interesting. Their burgers are served on a small plate and accompanied only by a pickle slice, but the juicy, top-quality beef makes up for the fact that you had to pay extra for the side of fries.
Under the heading “Big Salads,” the Grilled Chicken Caesar lives up to its classification—it’s a meal and a half, but the monstrous, crunchy croutons and heaps of shredded cheese make you crave every bite. The entrees section gets a little pricier—$15 for Baked Mac and Cheese with Bacon and $35 for a New York Strip Steak—but with generous portion sizes and a comfort food quality, they’re well worth the dent in your wallet.
Nothing makes you forget a restaurant’s good food like subpar booze choices and bad service, and P.J. Clarke’s successfully avoids this pitfall. Order a bottled import off their extensive beer and wine menu and not only will the server pour the first half into a handled mug for you and leave the bottle, if he notices the cup running low you’ll get the second half poured for you, too. It’s a nice bit of customer service that often falls by the wayside in restaurants as large and crowded as P.J. Clarke’s.
Good food, good atmosphere, good service: is P.J. Clarke’s the next big restaurant for the Georgetown crowd? Georgetown Class of 1980, maybe. The establishment’s best features are its upstairs bar and the Sidecar @ 1600 K Street, a swanky and less Roosevelt-approved private club downstairs. Although college kids love bars, this one caters to an older demographic. The tipsy Tuesday night crowd was as boisterous as they were middle-aged—jackets and ties loosened, drinking martinis and watching the election results roll in.
So go for a burger, stay for dessert (the Double Fudge Brownie is rich and delicious), and pick up a kitschy “P.J. Clarke’s” tee on the way out. In 20 years, it’ll remind you of a classy place to get bombed on a Tuesday.