Heard on the Hill

Adios, La Loma: Requiem for a Senate-side institution

Mitch McConnell calls it ‘the shutdown we all oppose!!’

La Loma, a popular Mexican restaurant at 316 Massachusetts Avenue NE, has closed. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Whether it was the convenient location a short walk from the Capitol, the bustling street-side patio or the tanker-sized margaritas, La Loma carved out a place in the life of Capitol Hill. And just like that, its 21-year Senate-side run on Massachusetts Avenue Northeast was over. 

If any place proved the real estate maxim of location, location, location, it was La Loma. Southwestern natives grumbled about the quality and execution of the fare, but it didn’t matter. Even the rain or cold wasn’t enough sometimes to keep people away from the patio, festooned with its green awning and multihued umbrellas, particularly during happy hour. And when the sun was out, it made for a mad dash to lunch, particularly on the Senate’s semi-workdays, Monday and Friday — and especially during recess. 

It wasn’t just the volume-value tequila hunters among staffers, lobbyists and journalists who sought out its easy and cozy confines. It has long been a favorite of senators such as Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson, who lives nearby, Senate Majority Whip John Thune and the man who sets the table for the Senate: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

McConnell even wrote about it in his memoir, “The Long Game,” recalling how his standoff with then-Majority Leader Harry Reid on allowing judicial nominees to be confirmed with fewer votes led him to La Loma. When that day was done back in 2013, he had margaritas with his wife, former Labor Secretary (and current Transportation Secretary) Elaine L. Chao.

“It was utterly depressing to watch what Harry Reid had done to the Senate,” McConnell writes. “The day he’d invoked the nuclear option, Elaine called and asked if I wanted to meet for a late dinner at La Loma. She knew how upset I would be, and when I arrived at the restaurant, she was there waiting for me at a table in the back, my margarita ready.” 

(McConnell has since then pressed the nuclear button a couple of times himself, lowering thresholds for Supreme Court nominees and reducing debate times for district court nominees and sub-Cabinet nominees. It’s unclear how many margaritas were consumed afterward. But we digress.)

McConnell, in a statement to Heard on the Hill, called the closure of the restaurant “the shutdown we all oppose!!”

According to PoPville, the website formerly known as Prince of Petworth that reported the initial news of the closing on Monday, La Loma’s sister restaurant, La Lomita in Hill East at 1313 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, will remain open. No word yet on the plans for the old La Loma space.

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