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In years past, if you walked into the Palm steakhouse on 19th Street Northwest in downtown Washington, chances were, you’d see the smiling mug of Mark Goldberg. It’s wasn’t because he ate there a lot (though he did). It was because his picture occupied a coveted piece of real estate: on the wall right near the entrance and in the direct line of sight of Tommy Jacomo, the Palm’s executive director and a man who seemed to know everybody who’s anybody in Washington. But when the restaurant closed for renovation this summer, raising a collective wail from the District’s power brokers, Goldberg’s caricature came off the wall. Last week, though, at the Palm’s official reopening, Goldberg, who is a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, didn’t seem all that fazed. He’s confident the caricature will be back and in a better spot than ever. “We come here all the time,” says Goldberg, who’s been taking his daughter to the D.C. mainstay to hob and nob since she was 4. She’s now 32. “Going to the Palm is like going home for dinner,” he says. Last Thursday evening, the Palm, a watering hole for politicians, lobbyists, and lawyers since 1972, was packed with guests celebrating the reopening. Patrons were greeted with glasses of champagne. Servers carrying tray after tray of lobster rolls squeezed through the well-dressed crowd, and Palm devotee and political strategist James Carville made an appearance, though he didn’t order his supposed favorite dish — steamed spinach without stems. Longtime denizens of the Palm seemed to be on familiar terms with the restaurant staff but not necessarily with each other. “The only person I’ve recognized so far tonight is the doctor who did my colonoscopy a few years ago,” says Marc Yacker as he surveyed the growing crowd. Yacker, a lobbyist with the Electricity Consumers Resource Council, has been dining at the Palm for more than two decades. Why does he keep coming back? “It feels familiar,” he says. “It’s a homey place to be.” Though the restaurant still has to put around 400 likenesses back on the walls, a few new caricatures smiled out at the crowd. And many of the recently anointed, such as D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and newscaster Kathleen Matthews, dropped by to sign their pictures. Now to important matters: Just how does one go about getting one’s portrait on the wall? “We lobby people,” says Jacomo. “And sometimes they lobby us.” The faces include celebrities, politicians, the famous, the powerful, and, of course, the hungry. Steady customers, in fact, have a chance at taking their place alongside Plato Cacheris, Tommy Boggs, and Fred Fielding, to name just a sprinkling of the lawyers and lobbyists gracing the walls. The restaurant added a new front and renovated the kitchen, bathrooms, floors, and bar all in six weeks. It reopened for business last month. Vincent Curtis Jr., co-managing member of the D.C. telecom firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, was reveling in the Palm’s new look — especially the glass-enclosed front veranda. “They did a wonderful job,” says Curtis, who has been coming to the Palm since before it was the Palm (it once was a Chinese restaurant). What he loves about the Palm, he says is “the people. They take care of you. They make sure everybody is happy.”
Attila Berry can be contacted at [email protected]. Tony Mauro contributed to this report.
Photos by Attila Berry

Wally Ganzi (left), co-owner of the Palm Restaurants chain, speaks during the reopening of the establishment, with Tommy Jacomo, executive director of the Palm Restaurant in D.C.

Caricatures on the walls of the newly renovated Palm Restaurant.

Reopening of the Palm Restaurant.

Dawn Starr (left), senior counsel at Akin Gump, and Mark Goldberg, partner at Akin Gump, during the Palm Restaurant’s reopening.

Political strategist James Carville (left) and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty during the Palm Restaurant’s reopening.

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