The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trendy dishes come and go. These have been standards in Washington for decades.

Placeholder while article actions load

Chicken skin ice cream. Drinking vinegars. Bagel doughnuts. It seems everywhere you look, there’s a wacky new food vying for your attention.

On the other end of that spectrum are tried-and-true dishes that have stood the test of (restaurant) time. Take, for example, the following culinary stalwarts. These oldies but still goodies have been served in D.C. for, in one case, about 82 years. Pay respect to your elders and sample them all.

3 great piña coladas to try in Washington

Clam chowder at Martin’s Tavern, at least 82 years old

If it’s good enough for John Fitzgerald Kennedy, it’s good enough for us. According to the restaurant's marketing director, Chrissy Gardner, the then-senator would frequently order a bowl of chowder there in the 1950s. The restaurant isn't shy about its ties to JFK. Two booths commemorate him: one where he supposedly proposed to Jackie and a one-sided table referred to as the “rumble seat” where he'd often sit. The chowder's history at Martin’s dates back to the 1930s, when the restaurant was founded. Today, the soup goes for $10.95; a menu from 1935 lists its price at just 20 cents. Other notable items from that antiquated list are a 20-cent crab cake sandwich, and a $1 filet mignon — which today will set you back $38. 1264 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

JFK’s D.C.: A guide to the haunts and hangouts of one of Washington’s most beloved locals

Half smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl, 59 years old

Since 1958, when Ben Ali and his wife, Virginia, founded this landmark spot, Ben’s Chili Bowl has served its signature half smoke. Back then, you had to visit the shop in person to get your paws on one, but today you can pick them up at Costco or have a pack shipped frozen to you anywhere in the United States. Throughout the years, the half-beef, half-pork link covered in mustard, onion and chili has been the restaurant’s number one bestseller. 1213 U St. NW; 1725 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 1001 H St. NE; and Reagan National Airport.

Chopped steak at the Monocle, 57 years old

One clear sign you’re dealing with an old-school restaurant: Its public-contact email address ends in Founded in 1960, the steakhouse is a frequent haunt for Washington politicos. One of the oldest dishes on the menu — the chopped steak — was a favorite of Richard Nixon’s when he frequented the restaurant before becoming president, according to owner John Valanos. Today, the Monocle uses chopped Wagyu from Snake River Farms, a family-run ranch in Idaho, in place of the standard ground chuck popular throughout the '60s. 107 D St. NE.

Frozen lasagna at Vace, 41 years old

Lasagna dates further back than 1976, of course, but that year marks the birth of Vace’s frozen variety. The Italian deli — founded by Liguria native Valerio Calcagno and his wife, Blanca, in Cleveland Park — is perhaps best known for its unconventional pizza (the sauce is layered on top of the cheese). This and other frozen entrees are equally as popular among regulars. 3315 Connecticut Ave. NW; 4705 Miller Ave., Bethesda.

Walter’s Favorite sandwich at Old Ebbitt Grill, around 40 years old

In case the name doesn’t give it away, this place has some years on it. Founded in 1856 by innkeeper William E. Ebbitt, the D.C. dining bastion has played host to the city’s power players (including Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt) and fanny-pack-wearing tourists alike. Though the restaurant’s location has varied, one constant has remained since the 1970s: Walter’s Favorite sandwich, made with hot pastrami, Muenster cheese, Thousand Island dressing, coleslaw and pumpernickel. Created by Walter Loeb at another D.C. institution — Loeb’s NY Deli — the sandwich was so popular that Ebbitt adopted a version for its own menu. 675 15th St. NW.

Behold the bagel doughnut, made with cream cheese, lox and everything spice

Boudin blanc at Marcel’s, 31 years old

Chef and owner Robert Wiedmaier has had some time to perfect one of Marcel’s most popular dishes, which predates the restaurant’s opening in 1999. He first encountered a classic version of the sausage in 1984 while working in the United Kingdom. In 1986, he put his own spin on it while at the Four Seasons in Georgetown. Working with chicken, pheasant and foie gras, Wiedmaier whips up a delicate and airy dish that’s surprisingly light. It’s adorned with seasonal ingredients, currently with black truffle mushroom puree and caramelized onions. 2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

Correction: A previous version of this article referred to Richard Nixon as being a senator in 1960. He was vice president at the time. This version has been updated.

Read more:

This brunch dish is having a moment in Washington. Here’s where to try it.

10 summer date ideas that go beyond the typical outdoor movie or concert