The Tombs
Old Ebbitt Grill
[from March 1998 issue]

One of Washington's most enduring and best-loved restaurants--in this case, restaurant group--is Clyde's. With its Georgetown setting, plus the 1789 Restaurant, and Ebbitt Express (and its suburban locations), Clyde's has become almost legendary in its 35 years of operation. In fact, this home-grown and DC- based business has attracted so much attention that its events and foods have been written about in local and national publications. And its success has lured offers to expand outside the DC area. But owners Stuart Davidson and John Laytham are staying put.

For all of us devoted Clyde's fans, that's great news. But then the next obvious question is--what sets Clyde's apart from the competition? Well, consider what's on tap for its spring and early summer menus: arugula (already in) from the Tuscarora Organic Cooperative in Pennsylvania; fresh asparagus (same source); white-water mussels gathered off the coast of Maine (wild, not cultivated); halibut in April; and Alaska Copper River salmon and strawberry shortcake in May.

That's just the beginning of what patrons can find at their local Clyde's. Of course, each restaurant's chef has the freedom to create for his or her own restaurant. That's exciting news for foodies on the lookout for something new and different. For example, new executive chef Paul Fario at the company's flagship restaurant, Clyde's of Georgetown, has big warm-weather plans for his customers--warm asparagus salad with morels and shallots, vegetable bouillabaise in a rich saffron and fennel broth, leg of lamb with a merlot sauce, and salmon salad with roasted artichokes and dry-cured olives with spinach and arugula in a roasted tomato vinaigrette, to name just a few dishes.

Up a few blocks in Georgetown at 1789 Restaurant, executive chef Ris Lacoste and her pastry chef Terri Horn (who is completing a bread-making course at the French Culinary Institute in New York with master bread-baker Daniel Leader) plan similarly exciting dining thrills: asparagus salad with grapefruit and miso vinaigrette, Summerfield Farm veal chops, rhubarb desserts, and lusty, hearty breads in the bread basket.

Across town at the Old Ebbitt, check out the oyster-and-wine bar selections--and if you keep your eyes open, you may see such celebrities as Lauren Bacall and the Washington Wizards taking their Old Ebbitt's eats seriously. But especially popular here: the fresh oysters, guaranteed both clean and delicious.

So now you can see what makes Clyde's so unique: How many other big restaurants around town pay such careful and close attention to foods? Indeed, few other places--with the exception of Restaurant Nora and maybe some others--take such pains to track down farm-fresh foods. Consider Clyde's farm produce program, a major triumph for farmers and consumers alike. We can sit down to a meal of locally grown (much from the Tuscarora Organic Cooperative in Pennsylvania) produce throughout the growing season. That means Clyde's cooks work with top- quality, seasonal ingredients and Clyde's customers benefit by enjoying such dishes as their famous blackberry pie, strawberry shortcake, and fresh asparagus.

Of course, Clyde's puts on other seasonal shows to please its many fans: The annual farm dinner at Clyde's of Reston (supported by all the Clyde's chefs), the annual Octoberfest with oompah music and loads of food (also at Clyde's of Reston), and the seasonal oysters at the Old Ebbitt Grill's oyster bar.

Even with all its many innovations, Clyde's chefs can still count on selling their hallmark burgers, fries, and chili--several of the dishes that attracted its broad customer base in the first place.

For the Clyde's nearest you, check your telephone directory. Or simply hop in a cab and ask for Clyde's of Georgetown on M Street, 1789 Restaurant (a very up- scale eatery), or the Old Ebbitt Grill.

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