As the nation’s capital, Washington DC has a rich history. When it comes to the oldest bar in DC, or the most historic bars in DC, there are many to choose from. Let’s take a look at the oldes bars in Washington DC.
Oldest Bar In DC – Opened In The 1800s
These two iconic establishments have withstood the test of time, and are still popular bars over 100 years later. Through the years, these two legendary bars not only were places to meet and mingle but also places where the city’s most powerful people met. Let’s take an in depth look at the two oldest bars in DC, the Round Robin Bar and Old Ebbitt Grill.
Round Robin Bar – Opened In 1847
The Round Robin Bar is located in the historic Willard InterContinental Hotel on 15th Street. If you are a history buff, then this is a must-visit destination.
Established in 1847, just blocks away from the White House, this iconic bar has been visited by many US presidents and political power players. In fact, it was even once referred to as the “Oval Office of Bars”.
The Round Robin Bar’s design also is reminiscent of times past, with its classic décor and ambiance. The bar has oak-paneled walls and the circular bar design make it a unique destination.
While visiting this historic bar, guests can indulge in the signature cocktails and light bites that have made this establishment a treasured Washington DC destination. The Round Robin & Scotch, in particular, is a popular choice among patrons, while the Mint Julep is touted as the bar’s signature drink.
Aside from its impressive past and elegant surroundings, the Round Robin Bar hosts a monthly event called “History Happy Hour,” which takes guests on a two-hour journey through the bar’s connection to the illustrious past of the Willard Hotel and the city itself.
In addition to famous politicians, many famous actors have been a guest of this establishment. It was the perfect place to see and be seen in Washington DC in the late 1800s.
Old Ebbitt Grill – Opened In 1856
Opened in 1856, the Old Ebbitt Grill is right behind the Round Robin Bar, when it comes to the oldest bar in Washington DC. This bar and restaurant have truly stood the test of time. Originally opened as an unnamed restaurant within the Ebbitt House Hotel, it was later named after William E. Ebbitt, who is the bar’s founder.
Old Ebbitt Grill is DC’s oldest saloon and it is just a stone’s throw away from The White House. This historic bar has been a staple in D.C.’s social scene for many years, and is currently located at 675 15th Street NW.
Famous for its signature drink, the mint julep, guests can indulge in this refreshing cocktail while enjoying the classic, elegant ambiance of the establishment. Also, Old Ebbitt Grill has a happy hour for patrons looking to unwind after a busy day. You can enjoy discounted drinks and small plates, and enjoy being around a diverse crowd from around the city.
Some of the famous individuals known to have visited Old Ebbitt Grill include Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and Warren G. Harding. However, it’s not just presidents; senators, congresspeople, and other political figures often dine there due to its location and historic ambiance.
Additionally, Old Ebbitt Grill has been a gathering place for journalists and broadcasters, given its location near the headquarters of many political and news operations.
Other Historic Bars In Washington DC – 1900s And Beyond
While Old Ebbitt Grill and the Round Robin Bar are the oldest bars in Washington DC, there are also other bars and restaurants with significant history. Let’s take a look. .
Off The Record Bar In Hay Adams Hotel – In Operation Since The 1920s
The Off The Record Bar is located in the basement of the Hay-Adams Hotel. This classy establishment has an intimate vibe, making it a popular spot for discreet meetings and private conversations among Washington’s elite. The Hay-Adams Hotel itself is a landmark, and Off the Record, as a part of it, carries a sense of historical importance.
The bar’s interior is elegantly designed, featuring plush red leather booths, dark wood paneling, and caricatures of political figures and celebrities adorning the walls. This classic and refined decor contributes to its atmosphere of old-world charm mixed with modern sophistication.
Off the Record is renowned for its expertly crafted cocktails and a selection of fine wines and spirits. The bar also offers a menu of upscale bar snacks and light bites, perfect for an evening of relaxed indulgence.
Given its location near the White House and the center of political power in DC, Off the Record has become a go-to spot for politicians, journalists, and lobbyists. It’s a place where discussions are often hush-hush, and the air is filled with the buzz of the latest political news and gossip. The exact opening date is unknown but its estimated to be sometime in the 1920s when the hotel opened.
Martin’s Tavern – Opened In 1933
Martin’s Tavern, a Georgetown institution, has been a prominent fixture in Washington, DC’s historic neighborhood since its opening in 1933. It is conveniently located just two blocks from M Street on Wisconsin Avenue. It is right next to the Georgetown Inn.
Martin’s Tavern is oldest family-owned restaurant in Washington DC. It was founded around the end of the Prohibition era by William Gloyd “Billy” Martin, a former Major League Baseball player, and his father William S. Martin. The restaurant quickly gained a reputation for its excellent food, drinks, and service, and it became a cornerstone in the Georgetown community.
The oldest tavern in DC has been a significant landmark in Georgetown for nearly a century. The Martin family has been operating it for four generations. It has served every U.S. president from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush, and has been a popular spot for numerous Washington D.C. movers and shakers, Hollywood stars, Hall of Famers, and Broadway legends. The tavern’s wooden booths, steeped in history, have witnessed numerous political and historical events, adding to its unique charm and appeal
The Raven Grill – Opened In 1935
Raven Grill is a dive bar located at 3125 Mt Pleasant St NW in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC. It was established in 1935, and it is one of the oldest bars in DC.
The interior features wood paneling and low lighting creating a divey atmosphere. This bar and grill serves classic bar food like burgers, wings, and nachos along with daily specials. However, many patrons visit just as much for the cheap drinks and lively atmosphere. It has developed a loyal following of locals and is considered a DC institution. As one Washington City Paper article stated, “The Raven Grill can be called the iconic bar of Mt. Pleasant”
The jukebox features an eclectic mix of music that often gets the whole bar singing along. On weekends it tends to get crowded and noisy, contributing to the dive bar charm. It is open daily from 4pm to 2am. They do not accept reservations and often have a wait for tables on busy nights.
The Raven Grill has earned its reputation as one of the best dive bars in DC through its historic atmosphere, affordable drinks, and no-frills neighborhood hangout vibe according to many patrons and lists of top DC bars.
If you are seeking to immerse yourself in a tangible sense of history, be sure to check this place out. Whether you come for the classic cocktails, the storied atmosphere, or the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of historic figures, a visit here will definitely be memorable.
Tune Inn Restaurant And Bar – Opened In 1947
The Tune Inn, located on Capitol Hill, has been a staple in the Washington DC bar scene for decades. Established in 1947, this dive bar boasts a lot of history within its walls. Over the years, it has become a popular hangout spot for politicians, journalists, and locals alike, all coming together to unwind after a long day.
The menu at the Tune Inn features hearty dishes like burgers, fried chicken, and meatloaf, all served in a cozy and unpretentious setting.
The Tune Inn has a storied past and has undergone several transformations. Before it became the bar and restaurant it is today, the building had a candy kitchen. Then, later on, it was a speakeasy where bottles were smuggled one at a time through a secret staircase. Finally, it later it was a tailor shop that served the gentlemen of the US Congress. The walls of the Tune Inn Restaurant And Bar has various memorabilia and, interestingly, bullet holes – which reminds visitors of the bar’s interesting past.
Dubliner Restaurant – Opened In 1974
The Dubliner Restaurant is one of the oldest pubs and most renowned historic bars in Washington, D.C. This Irish pub which just a stone’s throw away from the main train station has become a Capitol Hill institution.
Not to be missed is the Dubliner’s weekend brunch. Brunch here combines the comforting atmosphere of an Irish pub with the delectable flavors of classic brunch dishes. From savory omelets to mouth-watering pancakes, the Dubliner does not disappoint when it comes to satisfying your weekend brunch cravings.
Other Historic Bars In Washington DC – In DC Suburbs
Although not in downtown DC, these bars and restaurants below have historical significance as well.
Gadsby’s Tavern – Located In Alexandria
Gadsby’s Tavern is located very close to Washington DC in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. You can easily get to Alexandria through public transportation or by driving. Visiting Gadsby’s Tavern is like stepping back in time. The tavern has been carefully preserved to maintain its historical integrity, offering a vivid experience of American history.
Gadsby’s Tavern is made up of two buildings, a tavern built around 1785 and the City Hotel built in 1792. The tavern has been a focal point of social, political, and business life in early Alexandria. In its heyday, the tavern hosted numerous influential figures, including U.S. Presidents George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.
The buildings are fine examples of Federal period architecture. They have been meticulously restored to preserve their 18th-century character, giving visitors a glimpse into the past. Today, Gadsby’s Tavern operates as a museum, offering guided tours that provide insights into the social and political life during the 18th and early 19th centuries. The museum showcases the tavern’s dining rooms, ballroom, and guest rooms, along with various historical artifacts.
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum hosts various historical and educational events, including period dance lessons, historical reenactments, and special themed dinners that offer a taste of 18th-century cuisine and customs. One unique feature of Gadsby’s Tavern is its ice well, which was a significant innovation at the time. It allowed the tavern to offer guests ice cream and chilled beverages year-round, a luxury in the 18th century.
Gadsby’s Tavern stands out not only as a preserved historical site but also as a testament to the vibrant social and political life of early America. It is a good place for those interested in experiencing a piece of early American history and culture
Old Angler’s Inn – Located In Potomac, MD
Potomac is a small suburb of Maryland that has become a very desirable place to live in over the last two decades. The history of Old Angler predates Potomac’s popularity by over a hundred years. This historic establishment was built in 1860.
It is located right near the C&O Canal so it is a great place to enjoy a post-hike lunch on the patio. They also have live music as well as happy hour specials certain days of the week. There is also a more formal dining space if that is what you are looking for as well. A visit to Old Angler’s Inn is one of the best things to do while you are visiting Potomac.
Club Caverns / Bohemian Caverns – Closed In 2016
Although it closed in 2016, Bohemian Caverns was one of the most historic jazz spots in DC, dating back to 1926. It hosted legendary musicians like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. While it’s no longer operating, its legacy in the DC jazz scene is undeniable.
Oldest Bar In DC – Summary
Washington DC’s old bars are a popular destination for history buffs. Washington DC isn’t just the nation’s capital with a rich history; it’s also home to some of the oldest and most historic bars in the country. Two of the most iconic establishments from the 1800s, the Round Robin Bar and Old Ebbitt Grill, have been central to the city’s social scene for over a century, frequented by presidents and political figures alike.