Meat-and-Greet Grille Beefs Up Hill Business

By Sands, David R. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 7, 1996 | Go to article overview

Meat-and-Greet Grille Beefs Up Hill Business


Sands, David R., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


It's a Republican, free-enterprise, laissez-faire sort of place, but make no mistake: Public-private partnerships are thriving at the Capital Grille.

On a recent Friday afternoon, Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, shepherds a flock of well-heeled constituents out the door as he makes the six-block chauffeured trek back to the Senate for a vote.

The night before, friends and admirers paid $1,000 a plate at a little fund-raiser for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, in the restaurant's two private dining rooms. Someone described as "Espy's guy" stopped by to chat up my dining companion and catch up on career changes since Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy's run-in with ethics laws chased him out of town in 1994.

Plenty of business gets done at the hot 2-year-old restaurant at the corner of Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, but the transactions are of a peculiarly official Washington kind.

It's the place to take your visiting association president from Iowa to discuss priorities for the coming congressional session, the place to woo that just-defeated congressman who's trying to decide which law firm sinecure to accept while he angles for an ambassadorship, the place to meet with your pollster to go over the latest tracking numbers from the swing suburban neighborhoods, the place where a lobbyist can let his hair down and light his stogie while recounting for his peers over a house special Stoli Doli martini how he managed to slip that little exemption into the Environmental Protection Agency regulations published that morning in the Federal Register. (Corporate house accounts are available for volume business entertainers.)

It's the place that shows up more often in The Washington Times' Embassy Row column than any other restaurant in town.

Then again, there are probably some things you wouldn't want to do at the Grille. With its over-the-top portions and no-nonsense menu featuring steak, steak, steak and fish, it's not the place to lunch if you plan on operating heavy machinery or addressing a jury that afternoon.

It's not a details place, not a place to hammer out the outstanding issues in a complicated antitrust dispute. With a decor featuring oil paintings of fox hunts, stuffed elk heads, a private humidor and superstrong air ducts to suck up the cigar smoke, this is probably not the place for a summit meeting of Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the National Audubon Society.

It's also not the place to go if you're trying to escape workplace pressures: Rows of the day's newspapers line the bar, and televisions tuned to C-SPAN and CNN are prominently displayed above an electronic scroll reporting the latest stock market action.

The restaurant provides portable phones for patron use. With much of the small village of political Washington now hunkering down at the Capital Grille, it's definitely not the place to start an extramarital affair or meet with a potential replacement for your employer. …

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