Nearly two years ago, The Mayflower Renaissance Hotel's Town & Country Lounge closed its doors after 63 years, ending an era that began when President Harry S. Truman lived six blocks away in the White House. Locals mourned the loss of a favorite neighborhood bar and wondered what would come next.
Next month, The Mayflower plans to open Edgar Bar & Kitchen, a restaurant and bar named for former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who ate at the hotel every day for 25 years. His daily order: white toast, half a grapefruit, cottage cheese and Bibb lettuce. (The hotel used to offer Hoover's favorite meal on its restaurant menu; unsurprisingly, it wasn't a popular menu item.)
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Hoover is just one luminary who contributed to The Mayflower's famous (and sometimes infamous) reputation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt penned the famous phrase "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" in room 776 and since President Calvin Coolidge, the hotel has hosted an inaugural ball every four years. The Mayflower's goal is to open Edgar in time for President Barack Obama's 2013 inaugural ball.
Located on the footprint of The Mayflower's original 1920s coffee shop, Edgar embraces this long history by incorporating original architectural details into the restaurant's design. While Town & Country stuck with basic bar food and potent drinks, Edgar offers both a sit-down dining room (from a kitchen helmed by Chef Andrew Morrison) and ample bar space for post-work drinks or Sunday afternoon cocktails.
From the kitchen, look for small plates of homemade meatballs, cheddar cheese and potato croquettes and Maryland crabcakes, along with charcuterie boards and flatbreads.
At the bar, the drink menu includes reminders of D.C. history and landmarks, from the Cherry Blossom Martini (pictured, right), made with Grey Goose Cherry Noir vodka, B&B, lemonade and Peychaud's Bitters, to the D.C. Manhattan (Woodford Reserve bourbon, sweet vermouth and orange bitters). The Bluecoat Cucumber Collins combines Bluecoat American Dry Gin, muddled cucumber, basil, lemonade & a splash of Chambord.
The Tequila Passion (pictured, left) combines Herradura Blanco tequila, triple sec, lime juice, passion fruit puree and soda for a fruity, fresh flavor, while Earl the Pearl (Belvedere vodka infused with Earl Grey tea) puts a new twist on current drink trends.
Despite being located in a hotel, the former Town & Country clientele was 80 percent locals. It remains to be seen whether Edgar can do the same, although it's making the effort to reach out to the neighborhood with a discount-for-locals night, Saturday afternoon tea and after-work drink specials.