Sunday 29 December 2013

Restaurant Reviews - Washington D.C.

My USA holiday with my boyfriend in November ended with a few days in Washington D.C. We drove about 8 hours from Asheville, North Carolina, arriving at Washington Dulles airport to drop the car off. 

After dropping the car we stayed the night here, as we were planning to visit the air and space museum out by the airport.We were exhausted so didn't want to go out for dinner, and the hotel doesn't have any dining facilities itself so they helpfully provide a folder of restaurant and takeaway menus. The hotel was fine- we chose it because of the location but had mixed experience with the reception service. They run a free shuttle to the nearby air and space museum and asked when we arrived and before breakfast the next day about the shuttle and were told we could go at any time and to just let them know when we were ready. When we wanted to go, the driver said the receptionist was wrong and he ran to a schedule and we had to wait for 20 minutes, which was really annoying as we had a very full itinerary to get through. Later though, when we wanted a taxi to get to our hotel in the centre of Washington D.C., the receptionist insisted on printing out directions from Google for us, which was really nice (and useful as we had several taxi drivers who didn't know the way to major hotels and tourist landmarks!).

Breakfast was fairly bland but fine - there was bread and croissants, a few hot items like sausage and potatoes and a waffle iron which you pour ready made mixture into and cook your own waffles. In fact we liked it so much after our previous trip to America I got a waffle maker to use at home! Mine is much smaller and not as good though.

You eat on paper plates with plastic cutlery which wasn't that nice but I guess it means they can keep the prices down as they don't need to employ staff to clear the tables or wash up, as you just throw your own plate away when you are done. Still, breakfast was included in the price of the room and it wasn't bad at all.

Romano's Pizzeria and Deli

We chose this place from the folder of menus provided in our room, as we had been driving all day and didn't want to go out. There was a good selection of pizzas and other items like pasta available, and it was delivered promptly directly to our hotel room. When I ordered, I was told the total price over the phone but when the delivery arrived, the bill was actually for a few dollars more, which was a bit confusing. My Hawaiian pizza was good, but by this point I probably would have eaten anything!

This is part of the Smithsonian series of museums but located near Washington Dulles airport. It took us about two and a half hours to go around; there is plenty to see including the space shuttle Discovery, Apollo 11 command module, a Blackbird spy plane, the Enola Gay - the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima - and Concorde.

The only place to eat here is McDonalds - a very large outlet that appears to be working in partnership with the museum, as the only eatery in the other air and space museum on the National Mall in Washington DC is also a McDonalds (though the other Smithsonian museums have different options). There's nothing around the museum either so if you don't bring a packed lunch this is the only choice - which I don't have a problem with at all. In fact I quite like seeing how McDonalds in different countries have slightly different menu items - ice tea is a popular choice in America, and there were lots of burgers I didn't recognise like a grilled onion cheddar burger and a southern style crispy chicken sandwich.

As an aside, I saw this mobile cupcake van in Washington D.C. but it had driven away before we got close enough for me to see if it was actually selling cupcakes. I love the idea though!

We visited all the famous monuments in Washington D.C. like the Lincoln Memorial, but could not go in the Washington Monument as it is closed for repairs, and could not go in the White House either (foreigners have to ask their embassy for tours and the British Embassy is not accepting any tour requests at the moment) so had to make do with looking at it from the outside.

We still got some lovely pictures though - this is the Washington Monument reflected at dusk in the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant

 That evening - our first in Washington D.C.- we were already exhausted from sightseeing so wanted to eat somewhere close to our hotel, the Marriott Courtyard Convention Center- and you can't get much closer than this. The Gordon Biersche bar and restaurant is adjacent to/underneath the hotel, and there is a door leading directly from the lobby so you don't even need to go outside (though it also has a normal entrance on the street if you are not staying in the hotel). I'd also had a look at the menu as one was provided in our hotel room, and checked reviews on TripAdvisor, so thought this would be good - and it didn't disappoint. I had a mango mojito which cost $8.50 and wasn't that great - I wished I'd had a coke with unlimited refills! The food more than made up for it though. I had the bistro steak medallions served with garlic mashed potato and blue cheese sauce on the side. It was excellent - not cheap at $20.95 but good quality steak and very tender, and the garlic mash was awesome.

I'm sure you can probably guess by now what my boyfriend ordered- yes, the burger. But this wasn't just any burger - kobe beef, which he said was excellent ($13.95). There was a choice of plain or garlic fries, and I had read some TripAdvisor reviews where diners raved about the garlic fries so he decided to try those. Unfortunately he had to leave half as he said they were drenched in garlic and it was far too overpowering. This is from someone who loves garlic bread and orders it at every opportunity; I tried one of the fries and agreed it was just a bit too much.

 For dessert he had the chocolate brownie - another failsafe favourite. It came with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream and was drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce - we couldn't fault the presentation. It also tasted very good and at $6.50 wasn't badly priced.

They also offer mini taster portions of desserts and I was tempted to order two or three, but I was really full and knew I couldn't manage that. I had the mini version of the ultimate double chocolate cake, which came in a large shot glass- it was actually the perfect size for such a rich dessert. It only cost $2.25 so I wasn't expecting much, but this was amazing: chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse and a fudge topping. Yum!

National Museum of American History - Stars and Stripes Cafe

We had lunch while visiting this museum (part of the Smithsonian). Unfortunately a lot of it was closed for renovation and I was a little underwhelmed by a lot of the remaining exhibits that we did see, though some were very good, such as the collection of First Ladies' inauguration ballgowns - this is Michelle Obama's, below.

We ate lunch in the museum's cafe and did expect it to be expensive, but as we were staying in a hotel we couldn't bring a packed lunch, and as we had a packed itinerary we didn't want to go somewhere outside of the museum. I had a slice of prawn pizza and a coke - I wanted a cherry coke but the fountain was empty- and my boyfriend had a slice of margherita and lemonade- which came to $23. It was nice, but not that nice!

Shake Shack

We had dinner at Shake Shack that evening as it was near our hotel and again we were pretty exhausted! We had been to the one in London so knew that we liked it. It's fast food but a good standard; you get a buzzer when you order and are supposed to go to the counter and collect your food when it goes off, but the server brought our food to us. I had a cheeseburger and the cheesy fries which I thought were particularly good, followed by a frozen custard 'concrete', which was nice but not as good as I was hoping. We had the s'mores flavour but it tasted mainly of chocolate with a few biscuit pieces in the bottom and a little bit of marshmallow on top - I preferred the chocolate brownie one I had in London.

Finally on our last day in Washington D.C. we had a tour of the Capitol building and visited Arlington Cemetery.

Ella's Wood Fired Pizza

We hurried back to our hotel after visiting Arlington and had about an hour before we needed to go to the airport, so once again chose a restaurant that was around the corner from our hotel. Ella's is a nice Italian/ pizza restaurant that has options including gluten free and vegan. I had a calzone which was delicious, and the lemon tart for dessert which was also extremely good.while my boyfriend had a margherita pizza. It was a great final meal before we left America to return home.

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