“His visits are occasional to the Senior Educational….
If he looks full of gloom then he’s lunched at the Tomb
On cabbage, rice pudding and mutton. “
“Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town” by T. S. Eliot
We can only assume a Georgetown student will frequent the Tombs. Billed as the “veteran university haunt in a converted 19th-century townhouse serving comfort fare, brews & pub grub,” the classic establishment has a rich history, is quite close to campus, and is always alluring at 1226 36th St. NW.
Georgetown alumnus Richard McCooey founded The Tombs in 1962 ten years after graduating. He named it after a mention in T.S. Eliot’s poem “Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town.”
We loved receiving this story from manager of The Tombs, Alex Jacobs:
Alex Jacobs’s Mapping Georgetown Story
I’ve been coming here longer than you’ve been alive,” I’ve heard with a menacing tone at other restaurants. But at The Tombs, the first time a guest told me this, it was enthusiastically followed up with a “and let me tell you why!”
Ever since then, people have been sooo excited to share a Tombs story with me!
I‘ve heard so many 1st-date tales, stories from the Underground, 21st birthdays, etc. Even though many cover similar topics, each one’s unique and fun to learn. So many people hold The Tombs fondly in their hearts and minds and keeping an open ear is always worthwhile.
Meet Alex Jacobs, Executive Manager of The Tombs
I was born at Georgetown University Hospital – working at The Tombs, I joke that I haven’t made it far in life. I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and since this area has everything one could ever need, I’ve never left. I started working for Clyde’s of Chevy Chase while in college at the University of Maryland, and every time my class schedule became lighter, they gave me more responsibilities until I finally became manager. After six years in Chevy Chase, they asked me to come to The Tombs. I spent four years on the Hilltop before again being asked to move, this time to the Old Ebbitt Grill. Following the pandemic, I was asked to return to The Tombs to help get the restaurant up and running again.
Pat Kernan’s Mapping Georgetown Story
We also remember Pat Kernan’s oh-so-romantic Mapping Georgetown story https://georgetowner.com/articles/2022/02/07/georgetown-love-stories/
X marks the spot where I met the girl who was to be my wife. I went to the Tombs (1226 36th St. NW) 7/12/69 with friends to have a beer. Some Marymount girls were there. My friend knew her friend. We’re going back next month to celebrate 50 years of marriage!
Robert Devaney’s 2012 Tombs Story
“The restaurant originated in 1960 when Richard J. McCooey, a Georgetown alumnus, acquired two enterprises that occupied a Federal home dating from the mid-1800…
By the way, if anyone asks, why the name “1789”? That was the year the Federal government was established, Georgetown University founded and Georgetown, Md., incorporated. And “The Tombs”? Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” In it, “Bustopher Jones, The Cat About Town” likes to lunch at the tomb. (Add to that McCooey’s nickname in the Air Force: “Bustopher Cat.”) As for the now private club, F. Scott’s, it is named after author F. Scott Fitzgerald, a distant cousin of Francis Scott Key, author of “the Star-Spangled Banner.” See https://georgetowner.com › articles › 2012/08/03 › 50-…
In 1789, The Tombs is built in a Federal-style townhouse dating from the mid-1800s. When Georgetown alumnus Richard McCooey founded The Tombs in 1962, he named it after a mention in T.S. Eliot’s poem “Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town.” Situated on the edge of Georgetown University’s campus, The Tombs is a neighborhood restaurant by day and a popular gathering place for Georgetown students by night. In 1789, The Tombs is built in a Federal-style townhouse dating from the mid-1800s.
When Georgetown alumnus Richard McCooey founded The Tombs in 1962, he named it after a mention in T.S. Eliot’s poem “Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town.”
Whether it’s students watching a Hoya basketball game, Georgetown alumni sharing a pitcher of lager, or neighbors enjoying Sunday brunch after visiting Holy Trinity Church, Tombs traditions run deep.
The Tombs Shares Its History
You are now looking at two iconic restaurants of the Georgetown neighborhood. As a student, Richard McCooey dreamed of founding a dining establishment that was uniquely tied to Georgetown University. In the early 1960s, about a decade after McCooey graduated from Georgetown, he realized his dream here on the corner of 36th and Prospect.
He gutted the building to make room for 1789 and dug out a basement to make room for The Tombs. 1789, of course, is named after the popularized founding date of Georgetown. The upscale steakhouse used to have a takeout window at the top of the staircase to the basement.
The name “The Tombs” is a reference to T.S. Eliot’s poem “Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town.” In it, an elegantly dressed cat travels to fine eating clubs around London. The poem states that, “if he looks full of gloom then he’s lunched at the Tomb / On cabbage, rice pudding, and mutton.” Known for his penchant for fashion, McCooey earned the nickname “Bustopher Cat” in the Air Force. He felt it was only appropriate to name his special underground restaurant “The Tombs.”
Tombs is home to many Georgetown traditions. Since 1964, the Chimes – an all male barbershop a capella group made up of Georgetown students – have hosted a monthly “Chimes Night” where they sing for customers. When student turn 21, they’re known to stop by for their “Tombs Night” and get a Tombs stamp marked on their forehead. Some seniors are even known to go to Tombs each day for their last 99 days before graduation to get their name on a plaque inside.