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Downtown’s Newest Hotel Bar Serves Southern Snacks

Eater logo Eater 3/18/2019 Tierney Plumb
a living room filled with furniture and a large window: Lady M is now serving bourbon cocktails and Southern bites inside the Madison hotel. © Hilton/official photo Lady M is now serving bourbon cocktails and Southern bites inside the Madison hotel.

The cocktail bar at the Madison has pickled shrimp and spicy pimiento cheese

Hilton’s downtown Madison hotel just unveiled a $4 million lobby renovation that includes a glowing cocktail lounge, a grab-and-go market, and a new use for its shuttered restaurant space.

Rural Society went dark in 2017, soon after Hilton took control of the property from Loews. The Argentinian steakhouse came from Iron Chef alum and Philadelphia restaurateur Jose Garces, who recently got booted from a newly retooled Latin market in Northeast. A representative for Hilton tells Eater that the space will not be revived as a restaurant. It will be used a private events space instead.

The 356-room hotel (1177 15th Street NW) is now focusing its food and drink service at Lady M — the bright new cocktail bar themed after former First Lady Dolley Madison, who loved ornate design and entertaining.

Spins on Southern staples — like spicy spreadable pimento cheese, Maryland crab dip, and pickled shrimp on focaccia — make up the opening menu. Lady M’s menu also pulls from modern local flavors with wings slathered in mumbo sauce. Other dishes include flatbreads ($9-$14), burgers, and a crispy chicken sandwich ($14-$16). The only two entree plates are seared sustainable salmon with kale ($22) and shrimp scampi linguini ($18).

Lady M - Menu by Tierney Plumb on Scribd

The Gettys Group’s redesign, full of contemporary chandeliers and pastel colors, is intended to make presidential history buffs to geek out. Replicas of artwork and pieces Madison salvaged during the 1814 fire at the White House live on inside.

a room filled with furniture and a fireplace © Hilton/official photo
One area off the bar, branded as the “living room,” is a modern take on the Madisons’ White House gathering space, complete with brass antique mirrors and plush seating.

The parlor-type setting also includes a glass partition mimicking the same pattern of Dolley’s fine china, and there’s plenty of references to parrots and ice cream — references to Dolley’s pet and her husband’s favorite dessert.

The sleek, brass-accented bar is big on bourbon, stocked with lots of small batch local distilleries like Jos. A. Magnus and tasting flight options. The list of six cocktails ($12-$13) include Dolley’s 1812 with Plymouth Gin, and there’s also a Presidents Cellar Manhattan and Founding Fathers Punch.

A lobby market serves hot breakfast, salads, sandwiches, snacks, and fresh pastries, alongside coffee, wine, and beer. A new executive lounge, outfitted with gold accents and marble tables, gives guests a private place to dine, drink, and watch TV.

The hotel, built in 1963 by philanthropist and art collector Marshall B. Coyne, has played host to famous guests like Frank Sinatra and Dalai Lama.

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