Why is it Named Clyde’s

I guarantee that just about every GoDCer out there has either been to Clyde’s, or one owned by them. The Clyde’s Restaurant Group has a big footprint in D.C. and the surrounding area, with Old Ebbitt Grill, 1789 Restaurant, The Tombs, The Hamilton and a handful of Clyde’s scattered throughout the metropolitan area.

Clyde's of Georgetown
Clyde’s of Georgetown

I’ll also go out on a limb here and say that the bulk of you don’t know the origin of the flagship restaurant’s name (don’t worry, I didn’t either). Bonus points if you did know where it came from.


Stuart Davidson, Harvard grad and investment banker had been observing the changes brought about by the legalization of liquor at bars (prior to 1962, liquor could only be consumed at restaurant tables, not the bar). Davidson had been a frequent patron of the famous P.J. Clarke’s in New York and felt that a similar establishment could work in D.C. With that idea, he opened Clyde’s of Georgetownin 1963.

Stuart always said his concept was based on his belief that “It’s more fun to eat in a saloon than drink in a restaurant.” He decided to name the establishment after the River Clyde, running through Glasgow, Scotland. (If you thought there was some guy named Clyde, you’re probably not the only one).

Quick bit of trivia for you. The 1976 song “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band was named after a menu item at Clyde’s. Two more bits of trivia about the place: it was the first place in D.C. to open for brunch on Sundays and the first place to hire women as waiters.

River Clyde in Glasgow (source: yourlocalweb.co.uk)
River Clyde in Glasgow (source: yourlocalweb.co.uk)

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • Fascinating! I feel richer for having learned these facts.
    Surely this might have been a better illustration of the River Clyde? http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/25/Shipping_on_the_Clyde.jpg

  • Suse

    I saw Emmy Lou Harris play at the M Street location in 1969. Cut my beer drinking teeth at the Tombs; and celebrated our last dinner out with Dad (before he died) at the Tombs. Ate lunch at the Old Ebbitt about once a month (at the bar) when I worked at the National Press Building. Thanks for this post – so many memories…

    • Suse

      woops: dinner with Dad was at 1789.

  • Michael

    Ha, pieces of the “Afternoon Delight”-Clydes connection keep becoming more clear to me. I remember I was getting up to leave Clydes of Georgetown several years ago, and noticed a seemingly out-of-place piece of wall flair: A gold record placque for Afternoon Delight. More recently, a friend of mine informed me that the (main?) guy from Starlight Vocal Band is actually a NW DC resident. The connection of everything is now set…

  • Where is Mike Burke, longtime bartender there

  • hillary

    Didn’t they also use Clydes to film the bar in “St. Elmo’s Fire”

    • Parts of St Elmo’s was filmed at The Tombs.

  • undergraduate

    The best times were when live bands played Clydes on the weekends. I was in one of them, and it was energetic to say the least. We were so loud, that the music might have been more enjoyable outside the window on M Street. DC Playboys, Ford & the Motor Company.

  • Michael Everett

    I worked at Clyde’s as a waiter starting in 1963. I think I took Nathan Detroit’s place as he was promoted to bartender, the other bartender was Bill “OB” O’Brian. Both myself and OB and Nathan later worked at Tammany Hall, later renamed Billy’s III. Nathan and Howard Joynt, a classmate at Georgetown later opened Nathan’s. The last time I saw Nathan was maybe the early 70’s when he was working in a bar on New York’s Upper East Side. Last time I saw OB, also in the 70’s, he was working at Au Pied de Cochon. In the late 60’s I lived in a house on “S” Street near Dupont Circle. Margo Chapman, the lead singer for Starwood Vocal Band lived there too, also Jack Williams who may have played guitar for Starwood, and also played with Bill and Taffy Danhoff also lived there. The last place I lived in DC was above Up Against the Wall across M Street from Clydes. If you were around in those days, and looked up at the second floor and saw a giant American flag painted on an interior wall, that was me. Those were fun times, but very serious also with Vietnam, Kent State, etc. I bailed from DC in the early 70’s, went to California and broke into Hollywood, got my union card and worked 35 years as a gaffer, now retired and writing a book, and have lived in Santa Monica now for half my life. It was all a wild ride, and still is.

    • Michael

      Hi Michael, Michael “Pace” Borzomati here. I worked there as a Bartender with OB and Nathan from August ’63 until I moved to Spain in August ’65. Stuart hung a sign proclaiming, “No Beer at the Bar after 8PM” This bar was for Whisky, Whiskey, Cognac and Gin drinkers. That’s me behind the bar in my profile picture.I am writing a soon to be completed called Bartails which focuses on the bars on M St. during the 60s and 70s.

  • Audrey Burtrum-Stanley

    We live in Arkansaw but travel to D.C. often. Dozens of times we have had a meal at CLYDE’S (dragging home a 6 pack of chili for my Cousin Clyde) or the downtown EBBITT’S GRILL with the marvelous paintings.
    The first time I was in Washington was early June of 1968. Two friends and I had traveled from our homes in Joplin, Missouri to witness the burial of our hero, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. While waiting at Arlington Cemet., we met some friendly college guys and a couple of soldiers stationed nearby. We all met at THE TOMBS for dinner the following evening. I remember a delightful Italian waiter (I don’t know how he could take orders as he spoke very little English!) named: ‘Giovanni.’ I still have a beer stein with the name THE TOMBS embossed on the side – now close to 50 years old – fom that evening of food, fun and memories.

  • John Schoo

    I could stand corrected here but i believe that there was an evening early in the history of the small, original portion of Clyde’s when the founder who shall go unnamed this time burst into the front door, gave out a rebel yell and emptied a 38 special revolver into the medal ceiling while the patrons and the employees dove for cover. No one was hurt..

  • Anna Piperh Pierson

    This article is stupid,did the writer deliberately misspell Starland Vocal Band over and over,misspelling the group name,Margot Chapman’s name,Bill and Taffy Danoff’s name…seems deliberate to me,a writer covering a story doesn’t misrepresent that much unless it’s deliberate