Where To Eat & Drink At National Harbor
photo credit: Nina Palazzolo
Look, there was a time when National Harbor was the bee’s knees. Every first date popped off here (a lot of them still do, and with that waterfront, we get it), and we enjoyed many summers on the green full of live jazz and outdoor movies. And even though some weird things happened here over the years—like the London Eye-style ferris wheel and The Awakening sculpture stolen from Hains Point—you’re still bound to find yourself in the area for Ice or one of those pop-up exhibits. Here’s where to eat when you do.
Brass Tap is the ultimate National Harbor watering hole where you’ll find the most extensive beer, cider, and mead selection. The couple dozen taps will impress any beer drinker, and they have house-infused whiskeys for folks who “don’t do beer.” The crowd toggles between worn-out conference attendees and regulars playing trivia while watching the night’s sporting event, and it can feel like a completely different place depending on which you get. But once you’re on your second or third glass, you won’t care either way.
It’s 6:15pm on Friday and you’ve realized you forgot to make a reservation for date night. Which starts in 45 minutes. Bond 45 is the romantic Italian spot to keep in your back pocket for such an emergency. It has the hallmarks of a thought-through date night—dim lights, soft music, leather booths, and waterfront views. While you won’t usually have issues snagging a table in the massive dining room, the food can be hit-or-miss. We can vouch for the crispy, cheesy chicken parm and creamy fettuccine alfredo. And we promise not to tell your partner you forgot about them.
This counter-service sandwich spot works well for a quick waterfront meal. You can sit in the dining room, but Primo is particularly clutch when you want to eat by the Awakening and watch the boats go back and forth to Georgetown. Grab a primo turkey diablo piled high with spicy meat and pepper jack cheese if you’re solo, or a whole if you’re sharing, and enjoy a mini picnic that requires almost no planning.
If you’re on a budget, or strapped for time, this grab-and-go Mediterranean restaurant is your best option. Mezeh might be a chain, but it’s also easily our favorite restaurant at the Harbor and a spot you can count on no matter what mood you’re in. The bowls are full of brightly colored vegetables and topped with proteins like chicken kebab and falafel (you can get them in pita wraps, too, but it’s less bang for your buck). You’ll probably have to visit a few times to get your build-your-own order perfect, or you can just grab one of their preset bowls to make it easy on yourself.
The Harbor was seriously lacking in the steakhouse department, but Old Hickory Steakhouse solved that problem. Mainly because of the bison steak, which is one of the juiciest cuts we’ve ever had. It’s inside the Gaylord hotel and like everything there, the space is big and over-the-top, making it perfect for a fancy dinner on the corporate card after a long day of meetings. The restaurant is usually full of hotel guests, especially if there’s a conference happening, but there are four dining rooms, including one that’s waterfront-adjacent, which is beautiful at sunset.
Another long day of meetings is in the books, and you’re ready to get away from everything that reminds you of being an adult (except adult-only beverages). Head to Harbor Social, where you can find all the free bocce ball, air hockey, and giant Jenga to make your heart content alongside your choice of sliders, wings, and fries. Our go-to is the Politician, a juicy sausage on a buttery bun topped with grain mustard and spring onions (though it’s not a half-smoke like the menu says).
This Black-owned wine bar is a fun place for some day drinking after brunch or impressing your significant other with how “spontaneous” you can be by popping into the tiny spot after exploring the waterfront. Whether you’re an amateur sommelier or an Arbor Mist enthusiast, the helpful staff will find wine to fit your palette. There’s also a patio with fantastic people-watching views on Waterfront St. And if you’re hungry, you can order from a shortened Bond 45 menu.