Abraham Lincoln earned a lot of nicknames in his day: the Great Emancipator, Honest Abe, the Rail-Splitter. Now he has a new one: Restaurant Muse. The iconic commander in chief has inspired Lincoln, a downtown eatery on a mission to unite diners from both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line and beyond.

“Lincoln represents freedom and people working together,” says proprietor Alan Popovsky. “And his era evokes the simplicity of food itself.” Accordingly, the restaurant emphasizes using locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Since the restaurant’s opening in mid-April, the menu has already changed twice to highlight the freshest available produce, which right now includes English peas, sweet corn and plum tomatoes.

The lunch menu focuses on traditionally sized entrees, such as broiled golden mac ‘n’ cheese sassed up with smoked ham ($12) and the juicy Lincoln burger served on a slightly sweet brioche bun and topped with creamy goat cheese, a homemade tomato jam and a speckling of watercress shoots ($14). At dinnertime, the menu switches to small plates, with more than 30 selections. Enjoy a French twist on a seaside sensation with the lobster beignets ($12), or get a kick out of the coffee-rubbed duck breast accompanied by a plum, walnut and farro grain salad ($14). “People don’t have the attention now to sit down and eat one platter of food [for dinner]; they want to try different things,” Popovsky says of the restaurant’s menu format. “But you don’t want to share plates with business associates at a lunch meeting.”

The specialty cocktail menu is divided into classic and signature categories, but all are made with homemade sour mixes and fresh juices. A liberating libation for larger parties is the Emancipation Punch ($42). Recommended for six tipplers, the oversized beverage mixes gin, cachaça (a strong Brazilian spirit), chamomile, lemon and clove. For a non-alcoholic alternative, order the tart ‘n’ tangy hand-squeezed lemonade, which is served in a Mason jar.

Flashy Pop Art portraits of Lincoln, a floor made of 799,997 pennies and an illuminated wall etching of the Emancipation Proclamation give the bustling crowd of office workers and businessmen plenty to look at as they help the volume reach the type of highs achieved during a heated presidential debate.

» 1110 Vermont Ave. NW; 202-386-9200, Lincolnrestaurant-dc.com.

Written by Express contributor Nevin Martell
Photo by Nevin Martell