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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review ~ Martin’s Tavern / 1264 Wisc. Ave., NW

Georgetown is home to one of the city’s oldest and possibly most honored restaurants, known formerly as Billy Martin’s Tavern, but now just as Martin’s Tavern. Indeed, considering the upsurge in local eateries, the fact that this icon of DC’s glory days still operates and gathers hungry crowds is a testimony to its local fan club — and good, old American eats.

Opened in 1933 — yes, that long ago — Martin’s Tavern holds a prominent corner location at Wisconsin Avenue and N Street. But considering its iconic image, locals should really learn about some of its history and legends.

Historians note that the restaurant was founded by a major league baseball player, William Gloyd Martin. Since its opening, apparently every US president since Harry Truman to George W. Bush dined there. There is even a numbered booth where JFK would drop in to read the paper after Sunday morning Mass at a local Catholic church.

According to its website, Martin’s Tavern was the setting for JFK’s proposal to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier<https://www.washingtonpost.com/goingoutguide/jfks-dc-a-guide-to-the-haunts-and-hangouts-of-one-of-washingtons-most-beloved-locals/2017/05/18/48eadd2a-3664-11e7-b4ee-434b6d506b37_story.html> in June of 1953. At another time, Madeleine Albright told the owner that the restaurant really looked a bit like her living room.

photo–Alexandra Greeley–InTowner

Its interior is cast in dark wooden booths and wooden floors, lit up by overhead lamps and lightened even more by white tablecloths. There’s an outdoor seating patio with an overhead awning and a short iron rail fence, which makes a perfect setting (at least, midday before the evening cool down) for a chatty, informal meal with friends and family.

And, of course, it’s the food that is the big draw — traditional American with beloved standard fare. Consider the lunch menu, starring soups and appetizers like the New England clam chowder or the traditional oyster stew, the Welsh rarebit (toast with a creamy Cheddar cheese sauce) and fried green tomatoes — what can be more American!

Diverse main plate offerings include fresh calf’s liver, free-range bison burger, and the Tavern burger, plus main salads like the Caesar salad, an ahi tuna salad, and the restaurant’s house salad. The kitchen also offers assorted sandwiches, including a Reuben, a lobster roll, and roasted turkey. Add to these the grilled chicken sandwich with grilled onions served on a ciabatta roll (delish) and the ahi tuna sandwich with baby arugula served on sourdough bread.

If you plan on ordering a dessert or two, the current menu offers bread pudding, apple pie, New York-style cheesecake, plus several other sweet treats. As you finish up, you will certainly remember the pleasant, courteous service, the iconic setting, and the really, really good food. That’s what dining out should be about, good eats!

Martin’s Tavern / Hours: Hours: Mon.-Thu., 11:30a,-1:30am; Sat., 8am-2:30am; Sun. 8am-1:30am. (202) 333-7370.

Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.