Spotting D.C. wheelers and dealers, real and fake

'K Street' viewers will recognize these hot spots

Short Hop

November 16, 2003|By Kathy McCabe | Kathy McCabe,Special to the Sun

The future of Iraq, Arnold's California win, who will get the Democratic nomination in 2004 -- all are topics of conversation in the nation's capital right now. But what Washington is really talking about these days is HBO's K Street, the weekly television series featuring real Washington power players (mixing it up with actors) and the places where they get deals done.

If you haven't seen the show, tonight is your chance to catch the season finale (at 9 p.m.; HBO says it expects to air reruns). For those not in the know, here's how the series works:

The sometimes confusing mix of truth and fiction centers on real-life couple James Carville and Mary Matalin (Carville ran President Clinton's campaigns; Matalin recently left her job working for Vice President Dick Cheney) who play themselves yet work at a fictional lobbying firm.

Each episode is shot on location in Washington the week before it airs, allowing for the latest news and issues to set the tone for the show. Actors playing lobbyists are filmed hobnobbing with politicians playing themselves. Every press secretary and public relations pro in town is trying to get his or her boss on the show. Not only are the people the stars, but so are the locations -- the tony restaurants and posh hotels where lobbyists and politicians do business.

K Street producer and superstar George Clooney has been spending a lot of time in Washington, checking out many of the hot spots himself. Use our guide below to the show's featured locales, and you can experience the hip K Street's haunts on your next visit to Washington:

Butterfield 9

Executive chef Arthur Rivaldo offers new American cuisine at this elegant, downtown power lunch spot (600 14th St., N.W.; 202-289-8810). The lobbyists who frequent Butterfield 9 often start their meetings with polenta crab cake or potato gnocchi with truffle oil. Entrees include yuzu-basted tuna and baby lamb rack. Butterfield 9's proximity to the Warner, National and Ford's theaters makes it a popular place for a pre-show dinner. Lunch entrees range from $10 to $22 and main courses for dinner cost $20 to $36.

* Seen at Butterfield 9: George Clooney, Sen. Tom Daschle, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McCauliffe.

Charlie Palmer Steak

The 6-month-old Charlie Palmer Steak restaurant (101 Con-stitution Ave. N.W.; 202-547-8100) leads the pack of Washington places to see and be seen. Dashing young Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) appeared in a scene shot at the restaurant for the fifth episode of K Street. The non-traditional steakhouse has a stark, modern decor. The wine cube at the center of the restaurant houses 3,500 bottles of American wine. There are three private dining rooms for those hush-hush gatherings among power brokers.

When guests are seated, they receive a large Palm Pilot from which to order their wine or drinks. Dishes include grilled filet mignon with roasted shallots and cabernet sauce, Chesapeake blue crab gratin with shellfish emulsion and smoked squab with chipotle glaze. Entrees range from $17 to $35.

* Seen at Charlie Palmer: Washington's most powerful players recently feted best-selling author Richard North Patterson at a book party.

La Colline

Just two blocks from the Senate side of the Capitol, La Colline (400 N. Capitol St. N.W.; 202-737-0400) is such a Capitol Hill institution that it starred in K Street's first episode, when fictional lobbyist Maggie Morris stops to talk to the real Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) outside the door. The restaurant, a favorite of Republicans, opens at 7 a.m. so movers and shakers can hold breakfast meetings.

The classic French menu includes plenty of seafood dishes. Busy Capitol Hill staffers often stop by La Colline for takeout. The restaurant offers a no-nonsense meal at a moderate price; entrees start at $13.

* Seen at La Colline: Fox News' Bill O'Reilly (Fox offices are in the same building), Dilbert creator Scott Adams, every congressman imaginable.

Zola

This restaurant attached to the International Spy Museum (800 F St., N.W.; 202-654-0999) is a favorite of first lady Laura Bush who has dined there twice. Zola specializes in "straightforward American cuisine," according to its advertisements, which includes choices such as a handmade hamburger on a potato roll for lunch and red brick roasted chicken for dinner.

Earlier this year, Conde Nast Traveler magazine named Zola one of the "best 75 new restaurants in the world." Fictional lobbyist Francisco Dupre had drinks at the spacious bar in episode five of K Street. Main dishes for lunch are $10 to $23; dinner entrees run $16 to $25.

* Seen at Zola: Robert DeNiro, George Stephanopoulos, Wolf Blitzer, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, basketball stars Kwame Brown and Juan Dixon.

The Ritz-Carlton

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