The Occidental Grill & Seafood Restaurant has stood the test of time in Washington D.C. for more than 110 years.
Location: Occidental Grill & Seafood Restaurant located at 1475 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C. is just over a block from the White House.
Menu: The menu featured American cuisine with seafood as a star attraction, for example, gulf shrimp, Maine lobster, and Maryland she-crab. The seasonal menu changes four times a year and features many locally-sourced ingredients.
One of the signature dishes was the Presidential burger. It started with a traditional burger and transformed it to a whole new level by adding a topping of high-end pan-seared foie gras, pieces of comforting braised short rib and smoked Stoney Point bacon jam.
Thoughts: The Occidental Grill & Seafood Restaurant was one of those if-these-walls-could-talk kinds of places. Our beige leather, button-tufted booth had secrets to tell.
In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. An engraved brass plate posted at the booth indicates “At this table during the tense moments of the Cuban missile crisis a Russian offer to withdraw missiles from Cuba was passed by the mysterious Russian ‘Mr. X’ to ABC-TV correspondent John Scali. On the basis of this meeting the threat of a possible nuclear war was avoided.” A photo of John Scali accompanies the message.
The restaurant’s elegant two-level dining room had walls lined with hundreds of black and white photos of the celebrities who have dined there. The beige button-tufted leather booths complement the restaurant’s black and white color scheme while adding a pop of muted color. Exposed-bulb light fixtures accented the room, and white linens added to the elegance.
The servers’ uniforms coordinated with the black and white restaurant decor. The servers wore white long-sleeved button-down shirts with a black vest, patterned tie, and black pants. A black apron covered the uniform.
In addition to the indoor dining, summer included patio dining. The bountiful floral-filled planter box trimming the patio brought nature and calm to the street-facing patio. It sported blue umbrellas and chair cushions.
Some of my favorite dishes included:
- The house-made cornbread skillet. The cornbread had a nice crunch on the outside and a moist crumb on the inside. Sous-vide pear jam, honey butter, and smoked sea salt accompanied the cornbread. An example of the autumnal transformation is the honey butter morphed seasonally into squash butter.
- The Porter-braised beef short rib hoagie. It was braised 18 hours and served with roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, aged cheddar sauce, and garlic mayo. I substituted truffle fries for the standard fries with my sandwich. A sprinkling of freshly shaved Parmesan cheese decorated the top. As a heartier version, the Porter-braised beef short rib also appeared as an entrée served with baby beet farrotto, crispy shallots, and a red wine demi-glace.
- The lemon-blueberry crème brûlée. This dessert served in a shallow oblong dish started with a layer of thick blueberry compote on the bottom. The compote topped with a slightly tart lemon-flavored custard was then brûléed, decorated with a twist of whipped maple mascarpone and an almond-Florentine wafer.
Valet parking for a fee is available next door at the Willard Hotel. You will require parking validation from the Occidental Grill.
Price Range: Starters ranged from $8 for the homemade skillet cornbread to $16 for the Occidental chopped salad. Sandwiches ranged from $16 for the grilled marinated chicken breast sandwich to $30 for the Presidential Burger. Mains ranged from $25 for the tagliatelle Bolognese or $26 for the Porter-braised short rib to $29 for the tamarind-glazed Nova Scotia salmon or the grilled six-ounce filet mignon. Desserts were either $7 for ice cream or sorbet to $10 for all other desserts. Lunch for two is about $50 including tax and gratuity.
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