As the story goes, the seafood house now known as Tadich Grill, which sits at 240 California Street in San Francisco, first opened as a coffee stand on the Long Wharf in 1849.
Over the next 166 years it moved several times and changed names, witnessed the Gold Rush and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, survived the great San Francisco earthquake and the death of one of its founders in a gunfight, and eventually landed at its current (and first permanent) location in 1980.
So, when it came time for the oldest restaurant in San Francisco—and apparently in the entire state of California—to open its only other location, the owners settled on…Washington, D.C.? A city known more for lobbyists and lawyers than coders and entrepreneurs?
As it turns out, though the thought might horrify some residents of both towns, if you stepped into the lobby of Tadich’s new location at the corner of 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, six blocks from the White House, you’d think it had been there for years.
Not everyone in the District would consider that a compliment. While Washington now holds its own as a culinary destination and boasts several essential restaurants that are not steak or seafood houses, this is still a town where a big night out can be measured in ounces of beef and the thickness of a jumbo shrimp.
Tadich, with its white-coated servers, long wooden bar, and cozy booths will look familiar to Washington high-rollers, who still count places like Charlie Palmer and The Palm as bastions of quality and tradition, even as new upstarts like Le Diplomate, on the new restaurant row of Washington, 14th Street, and Fiola Mare, on the Georgetown waterfront, eschew the old school aesthetics and fight to be the new “It” spot.
“We have a lot of regulars from Washington, D.C., at the San Francisco restaurant. People who every time they come to San Francisco they dine at Tadich Grill,” said Gerard Centioli, the driving force behind the East Coast venture.
Tadich SFO is nestled in the heart of the city’s financial district, so, Centioli said, the owners wanted to be in the heart of Washington’s political district.
And they got it. When TenPenh, one of the city’s first splashy forays into fine dining fusion, vacated the spot a few years ago, Tadich swept in.
The Capitol is just up the street. FBI headquarters is the neighbor. And the broad avenue known as “America’s Main Street” is home to some of the highest-priced office space in town.
The old guard of Washington was out in force for Tadich’s grand opening on Wednesday night.
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi—who, after all, is the original Tadich’s representative in the House—gave an opening toast. (The House Chaplain, Father Patrick Conroy, gave a blessing.) Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was there early.
ESPN host and former Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser came later. Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, a partner with a local financial adviser, was also on the VIP guest list.
Organizers said they’d invited 800 guests. But for the most part, the big crowd (so big it seemed like one sweating mass trying to claw its way to the raw bar) wasn’t teeming with recognizable faces.
For Tadich’s longevity, that’s probably a good thing. Washington isn’t a velvet-rope town where restaurants sustain their buzz on bold-faced names. We don’t have enough celebrities for that.
Notably, at a time when small plates and slow food have dominated the restaurant scene here and captured popular imagination, old-school traditionalists and their progeny are back in vogue.
Pennsylvania Avenue, already home to a few tony steak joints, is experiencing a renaissance of its own.
Across the street from Tadich, in the under-construction Trump International Hotel, a branch of the popular BLT Steak chain is set to open, after chef Jose Andres bailed on The Donald for his unsavory remarks about Mexican immigrants.
Tadich will rise or fall based on foot traffic and the suit-clad denizens of surrounding office buildings. Luckily for the new management, the private equity firm The Carlyle Group, co-founded by billionaire Washington philanthropist David Rubenstein, has its offices upstairs.
“This will be our new lunchroom,” one Carlyle employee remarked.
Everything old is new again.