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Seventy Years as a Political Retreat

Far from the halls of the Capitol sits a place where presidents and politicians have gathered for decades to talk shop and share a meal.

Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown will mark its 70th anniversary June 8; over the course of its extensive history, the Washington institution has fed every president since Harry Truman and has witnessed its share of powerful and clandestine deals.

In the 1930s, Alger Hiss and Elizabeth Bentley allegedly met Soviet contacts at the tavern. Some 20 years later, Sen. Lyndon Johnson (D-Texas) and Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Texas) often met in the restaurant’s Dugout Room to craft legislation and sometimes brought other Members along when they were trying to win support for bills.

A young Sen. John Kennedy (D-Mass.) would eat breakfast in the one-sided booth No. 1 before heading to Capitol Hill, and table No. 3 was his and Jackie’s favorite booth — there’s even a rumor he proposed to her there.

Table No. 2 was Richard Nixon’s favorite spot in the restaurant during his tenure in Congress, and other Martin’s regulars have included the late Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) and political cartoonists Pat Oliphant and Herb Block.

And as for today’s regulars? Mum’s the word — the restaurant staff considers their current customers and their dining habits confidential, which is one of the reasons politicians flock to Martin’s, according to Chrissy Gardner, the restaurant’s marketing director.

Martin’s “is where people came because they felt so comfortable … and it was kept very quiet,” she said.

As part of the anniversary celebration, the restaurant will offer a 12-ounce Delmonico steak for $19.95 through August in honor of President Johnson, who apparently always ate steaks at Martin’s in the ’50s and ’60s, and the bar will pour a special set of drinks reflective of each decade. For example, the ’30s are represented by a Spytini, in reference to Bentley and Hiss’ covert meetings.

Martin’s Tavern is located at 1264 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

Market News. The H Street FreshFarm market opens for the season this Saturday, occupying space along the recently revived stretch of H Street Northeast. Located on the street’s 600 block, the market will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through October.

It’s is a producer-only market and is operated by FreshFarm Markets, which also runs three other markets in D.C.

In other market news, the Penn Quarter FreshFarm market, located on Eighth Street Northwest near E Street, is hosting a series of cooking demonstrations by local chefs. Christopher Poteaux of Aquarelle in the Watergate Hotel is the next chef on the schedule. He will cook at the market June 10 at 5 p.m.

Stay tuned for information on the upcoming giant paella party in July, when José Andrés, the nationally renowned chef of Café Atlantico, Jaleo and Zaytinya, and his team of cooks will assemble a monstrous pan of paella.

Eat Your Way Around the Block. TasteDC is hosting an afternoon walking and tasting tour of four restaurants in Penn Quarter June 12.

The “Taste of Penn Quarter Culinary Dine-Around” takes participants to Signatures, La Tasca, Fado and McCormick and Schmick’s and includes 11 dishes along the way.

Featured dishes will include salmon spring rolls and duck confit quesadillas at Signatures, sautéed shrimp with hot peppers at La Tasca, steamed mussels and fried calamari at McCormick and mini corned beef sandwiches at Fado.

Tickets are $45 and can be purchased at The tour begins at Fado (808 Seventh St. NW), and participants are asked to meet between 1:30 and 2 p.m.

Palette’s Playful Side. Palette, the swanky new restaurant in the Hotel Madison, recently introduced two special deals.

On Tuesday nights, the restaurant offers $1 oysters on the half shell and $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon beer — a beverage so inherently blue collar and unpretentious that it has managed to become hip. “It’s an old-school favorite for a lot of us,” said Jill Zimorski, a manager at Palette.

Thursday nights bring an odd-couple pairing of $5 sparkling wine and $2 barbecue pork sandwiches.

The specials are available in the restaurant’s lounge area from 5 to 11 p.m. Drink specials extend until the bar closes.

An added bonus: The restaurant is currently offering a $10 coupon on its Web site,

Changes at Yamato. Yamato Teriyaki, the Japanese restaurant located at 201 Massachusetts Ave. NE, has closed for several weeks for renovations.

The restaurant will reopen as Kyoto Japanese Restaurant with plans to add dinner to its previously lunch-only operation. Watch this space for more details.

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