I feel like I shouldn’t like The Hamilton, but I do. It’s an enormous bar and restaurant with a basement concert venue from the folks who own Clyde’s and Old Ebbitt, both Washington institutions. While those two are decades old, the Hamilton is a newer spot, opened a couple years ago, but you wouldn’t know it from the interior: dark wood paneling, big mirrors, fancy light fixtures and the like. It feels a bit like a private club, and very Washington: tons of folks in suits and other professional dudes networking, plus big photos of the Capitol, eagles, jet planes and such. It seems like a slightly hipper Washington insider bar from a movie.
But there’s something about it. Despite big happy hour crowds and an immense size – there are two big bars on the main level and one upstairs, a big dining room, plus the concert venue downstairs – it’s fun. Drinks are pricey but the bartenders always remember your name once you start a tab, which is rare in DC, especially in a big establishment like this.
And the food is good. The dishes are pretty traditional, burgers and sandwiches, seafood, pastas, steak and hipper touches like sushi and bento boxes, but all nicely done. I like the Hamilton burger, topped with a fried egg and a slab of fancy bacon.
Expect to wait, especially at lunch or at the bar, but also expect to feel like you’re in the Washington from TV and movies. And that’s pretty fun.