This has always been a working city, and many of the city's grandest apartment buildings were built with dining rooms to spare residents the necessity of cooking after a hard day at work. Perhaps the only one of these relics of a grander past that still functions in anything like its original state is the dining room at the Westchester.
The Westchester consists of four buildings around a central sunken garden. At the beginning of World War II, according to James M. Goode's Best Addresses, its residents included two Cabinet members, 31 congressmen, 12 senators, and 14 judges. Its best-known inhabitant in recent years was Senator Barry Goldwater.
The dining room of the Westchester, off the lobby in the main building, is a lovely room with mirrored columns, white tablecloths, Audubon prints on the walls, and more empty tables than full ones. It is operated by the Muslu family, with wife Ayse presiding over the front of the house while husband Hakki cooks.
The menu is old-fashioned American fare with occasional Turkish touches. Luncheon includes a delicious chilled cucumber, garlic, and onion soup, a good open-faced version of a Reuben sandwich—generous with the corned beef and sauerkraut—perfectly cooked eggs Benedict, and, on a recent visit, a special of Imam Bayildi, the Turkish eggplant dish named because it was so delicious “the Imam fainted”. Most of these are also available in the evenings, along with complete dinners of steak, veal française, filet of sole meunière, and calf's liver, served with soup or salad and potato, vegetable, and dessert for prices from $18.00 to $23.00. Not many menus these days offer crème de menthe parfaits for dessert.
Lunch or dinner at the Westchester is a nice way to recapture the gentility of a bygone Washington.
The Westchester Restaurant, 4000 Cathedral Ave., NW; 202-333-1882. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and Sundays from noon until 9 pm. Dinner for two with wine: about $50.
Thomas Head —WASHINGTONIAN MAGAZINE
Catering, banquet, private party, and reception services are also available. Please ask hostess Ayse Muslu for more information.