Hungry at National Harbor

National Harbor is growing on the Prince George's County (Maryland) side of the Potomac River, a water taxi ride away from Alexandria, Virginia

National Harbor is growing on the Prince George’s County (Maryland) side of the Potomac River, a water taxi ride away from Alexandria, Virginia.

What is it about National Harbor that beckons me from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge?

I have found my car turning into this little development near Oxon Hill in Prince George’s County since all but the main road were dirt and gravel.

In the past, I’ve come to look around. I’ve come for the Ice! Show at the Gaylord National. (This year’s schedule has already been announced.)

First of all find one of these. I picked mine up at the information kiosk on American Way

First of all, find one of these. I picked mine up at the information kiosk on American Way.

But on a recent cool, breezy day, as I left a meeting, I decided I was stopping for lunch. It turned into an afternoon devoted to food.

National Harbor was made for the hungry tourist. 

The number of restaurants comes close to rivaling the number of shops here. Granted, there are plenty of familiar places. You’ll pass a McDonald’s, Subway, Potbelly’s and Baja Fresh — you know, the chains you love in every suburban shopping area.

Want something quick and inexpensive? We got you covered.

Want something quick and inexpensive? We got you covered.

I passed them by. These don’t have the river view I was looking for. One thing about the restaurants in National Harbor, you can find a patio table with a view at lots of them — and on different levels.

Public House has plenty of outdoor seating — away from the water's edge.

Public House has plenty of outdoor seating — away from the water’s edge.

Right at the harbor McCormick and Schmick’s and McLoone’s Pier House catch all the river breezes. Eye-catching Grace’s Mandarin has big windows that look out on the water — if you can take your attention away from the Asian-style decor and all those Eastern-style dishes. But a block away and higher above the river level, so do Rosa Mexicano and Fiorella Pizzeria. Even Nando’s Peri-Peri has a patio with a bit of a view of the water.

Vinho verde and Portuguese spiced nuts — lunch starting out just right.

Vinho verde and Portuguese spiced nuts — lunch starting out just right.

You don’t need me to tell you all about every restaurant in National Harbor — they have a map that will offer you a complete overview.

I ended up in Nando’s Peri-Peri. The Portuguese rooster logo lured me to this casual spot, part of a local chain with about a dozen outlets. You order their casual chicken dishes at the counter but it’s delivered to your table. And they have their own version of a classic Portuguese dessert: pasteis de belem.

McLoone's Pier House offers a nautical -themed dining room, river views, lots of seafood.

McLoone’s Pier House offers a nautical -themed dining room, river views, lots of seafood.

I had a little time on the meter so I ducked into McLoone’s Pier House for a little extra refreshment. When I heard they had Port City IPA brewed right across the Potomac, I had to try it.  McLoone’s is based in New Jersey but the chef made sure there are some local seafood favorites (crab soup, crab dip, oysters) on the menu.

There’s plenty more for those who love to eat.

The Tasting Room has wines "on tap."

The Tasting Room has wines “on tap.”

Capital Teas sells a wide range of teas — a few are available for the tasting.

Prefer wine? You’ll want to stop at The Tasting Room for that.

Stop here for prepared foods, a bit of fruit, a snack or two and a bottle of wine.

Stop here for prepared foods, a bit of fruit, a snack and maybe a bottle of wine.

Or maybe you want a picnic? Sure you do if you just moored your yacht down in the marina or your kids want to play in the sand by the river.  Stop by Potomac Gourmet Market to fill your picnic basket.

As for foods to carry home with you, there’s a Peeps store! Godiva Chocolates and Stonewall Kitchens, too.

One more stop, food lovers. Salt and Pepper Books is the new kid on the block with lots of cookbooks by people like Nigella and Giada and Julia, along with ethnic cookbooks, and food-related romance and mystery too.

Salt and Pepper Books

Salt and Pepper Books also sells a few kitchen accessories.

When my short visit was over (too soon but I had to fight Capital Beltway traffic), I had enjoyed the summer breeze, had a quick, satisfying meal and a leisurely drink as I enjoyed the view.

BTW, National Harbor schedules lots of events that evidently draw crowds on weekends. There are several parking garages, as well as a acres of surface parking — including a satellite lot.

National Harbor even has a beach with the most extraordinary sculpture. Kids seem to like it.

National Harbor even has a beach with the most extraordinary sculpture. Kids seem to like it.

The water taxi, which runs from March through December, connects National Harbor to Alexandria. I previously wrote about Alexandria.

© 2013 Photos and text. Mary K. Tilghman