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Hill Talk: Monocle Celebrates 50th Anniversary

What did Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon have in common? Obviously not ideologies — but both men seemed to have had a similar taste in food while working on Capitol Hill. They were regular visitors to the Monocle Restaurant while they served as Senators and ran against each other in the 1960 presidential election.

Fifty years ago, Greek-American couple Connie and Helen Valanos opened the steaks and seafood restaurant near the Senate office buildings on D Street Northeast. Today, the Valanos’ son, John, who took over the restaurant about 20 years ago, estimates that half of all Members of Congress have dropped in for drinks or dinner, almost certainly peddling politics while devouring the whipped potatoes. 

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society and the current owners of the Monocle will celebrate 50 years of the rich food and Congressional history that’s special to the restaurant. The society and owners are teaming up to host a reception and fancy dinner Dec. 1. 

The evening will include an open bar, hors d’oeuvres and jokes by humorist Mark Russell beginning at 5:30 p.m. For the two-hour reception, tickets start at $50, or $250 for six people. Staffers, lobbyists and Members of Congress who wish to stay for dinner in addition to the reception can buy tickets for $125 per person of $650 for six. 

RSVPs are due Wednesday and can be sent to Suzie Dicks at or submitted online at 

A Green Christmas

Here’s a first glimpse of Christmas on the Hill. The Botanic Garden will mark the beginning of the holiday season on Thanksgiving, when it will open the annual exhibit, “Season’s Greenings.”

A massive Christmas tree and poinsettias are a given, but visitors should also check out the two- to three-foot models of D.C.’s famous landmarks made out of plants, with everything from the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials to the White House, the Library of Congress and the Capitol.

There will also be mini plant statues of famous world landmarks such as the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza. 

Most Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout December, the exhibit will feature free musical performances at
6 p.m., including an a cappella quartet, several local choirs, harp plucking, Russian folk music and jazz.

The exhibit will remain open through Jan. 2. 

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