Martin’s Tavern is famous as the place where John Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier. The booth (#3) in which he popped the question (and, incidentally, where five Supreme Court justices discussed the Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case) is marked, as are other booths regularly used by Presidents Truman (36) Johnson (#24, Sam Rayburn’s booth), Nixon (#2), and George W. Bush (#12). Had I known that at the time, I would have proposed to Nancy in booth #3, rather than at the Cafe de Paris. That would have added greatly to booth #3’s historic significance, and perhaps merit another plaque. Nancy and I did, however, have our rehearsal dinner at Billy Martin’s Carriage House, which later became a famous/notorious disco, Tramps. I think a clothing store is there now. Sic transit gloria.
Billy Martin, a former professional baseball player, founded Martin’s in 1933 just as Prohibition was ending, Inhibition having ended some time before. Martin’s quickly became a center of Washington political and social activity, as you can read here. In addition to hosting presidents, Supreme Court justices, and Members of Congress, it was a haunt for really important people — baseball players.
I was at Martin’s recently with another famous American, Bob McCurley,
who was in town for one of those conferences for legal leaders. Some background on Bob and a taste of his extraordinary accomplishments is here. We went to dinner at Martin’s, one of Bob’s haunts when he worked with Cong. Albert Rains, an influential FDR Democrat and later law partner. Martin’s has an old school setting, lots of stained wood, old photographs, and good food and drinks. The current Billy Martin is the fourth to run the Tavern, and the warm, welcoming atmosphere remains.
Bob ordered the grilled salmon.
“This is great!” That was Bob’s reaction. Very good salmon. Very good beans. Very good meal.
I was on my relatively good behavior and ordered the steak salad, rare.
Just look at that. Beautiful genuinely rare meat. Most restaurants give you a-touch-short-of-medium rare. And the onion strings and the mushrooms! Wow!
It can be very hard to separate the food from the experience of a meal. So much of a meal is emotional, and Bob is a great friend I rarely get to see. For that matter, Martin’s is a wonderful setting for a meal, an engaging place that draws forth good conversation. They could serve cardboard and still fill the tables. Thankfully, they don’t. I remain convinced that the food was very good, and that the food was a huge reason I enjoyed the meal so much. Come to think of it, food is a big part of my emotional attitude.
Martin’s is a genuinely historic site, and it’s a great place, whether you come to Washington or if you live here, to have a great meal in a truly unique setting. If you’ve been before, go back. If you haven’t been, go. And if it’s your first trip to DC, there’s no better place you can go.
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6 thoughts on “Martin’s Tavern, Georgetown, Washington, DC”
Love it when food and history are interwoven.
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It adds another dimension to the meal, doesn’t it. And it’s such a comfortable place.
Two Alabama gentlemen walk into a bar…. Martin’s is a DC institution!
Sent from my iPhone
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Well, two guys from Alabama …
Thank you for reminding me of how much I love Martin’s. Haven’t been in ages. I like the first tiny booth as long as you are fond of your companion! My NYT Investigative Reporter friend always went there when he came to DC. You brought back happy memories and have spurred me to think I need to create some new ones.
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That’s the booth where JFK sat to read the Sunday paper! I’m so glad you liked the post.