The Tombs, a Georgetown institution since 1962, was made all the better back in 1985 when Clyde's took it over (along with the venerable 1789 restaurant upstairs). It inspired the setting for "St. Elmo's Fire" and is known as a rite of passage bar for seniors at Georgetown University. Those students pack the bar on Wednesdays for '80s night. The breads and desserts are made in 1789's bakery a few doors down, so forget your carb-counting and enjoy the selection.
The restaurant offers tastier versions of classic bar food. The chicken tenders, ordered buffalo style are a personal favorite, but jalapeno poppers and hummus make great starters. The Tombs serves one of the best burgers in town, as well, with awfully good fries. The pizza's no slouch either, a nice medium-size round of hearth-baked dough with plenty of cheese and a choice of toppings. The Southwestern chicken salad, on a pizza crust, is legendary with Georgetown students and it's not uncommon to see a table of students who have all placed the same order for it. Other salads, like the steak salad and goat cheese salad are equally popular. Pay close attention to the specials, and go for anything that's in season. Fish and chips make a popular winter item. For dessert, the signature brownie is a winner. Sundays are a particularly popular day at the restaurant. Complimentary coffee cake lures brunch-eaters down into the restaurant, while those of legal drinking age can enjoy half-priced bottles of wine on Sunday nights.
With its proximity to Georgetown University, expect a lot of students; but don't be surprised by a fair number of Jesuits, tourists, alumni and medical folks. Come early if you want things on the quiet side; come late if you like it loud and raucous, but there's a chance of a long wait at any time.
If you ask around among the student body of Georgetown University for a good place to get a beer, they will inevitably mention the Tombs. Named from a line in the same T.S. Elliot work that gave rise to that Broadway staple, "Cats," the Tombs has been a second home to Georgetown students, alumni and even the occasional Jesuit priest for decades.
The Tombs is in the basement of its upscale sibling restaurant, 1789, at the corner of Prospect and 36th street. Both are owned by the Clyde's Restaurants chain. Ownership and the fact that they share bathrooms is the extent of their commonalities. Where 1789 is an elegant restaurant with continental cuisine, the Tombs is a casual bar with burgers. The decor is dark, with dim overhead lighting and lots of brick and dark wood while the art tends towards World War I era posters and sports memorabilia.
The large square bar is set off from the smoking section by a low brick wall, and there is a nonsmoking section down a few stairs from the main floor. The food is above average bar fare, with burgers starting at $5.50, and some seemingly out of place but popular additions like fajitas for $9. There are also seasonal daily specials during the week. Take heart that the kitchen uses a lot of locally-grown produce that is consistently well-prepared. Service can vary, as most of the wait staff are college students who aren't making a professional career of serving beer and burgers.
The bar has a selection of six beers on tap, ranging from Bush at $5.50 a pitcher to Old Dominion at $13. Entertainment varies, with acoustic rock bands several times a month during the school year, as well as the occasional appearance by Georgetown acapella group the Chimes.
-- Michael Tedeschi