What is it about National Harbor that beckons me from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge? I have found my car turning into this burgeoning development near Oxon Hill in Prince George’s County since all but the main road were dirt and gravel.
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.
I passed them by.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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