From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

Good Things Happening Here!

National Harbor AC Hotel
National Harbor AC Hotel

The Harbor has really started coming alive after the seemingly long winter we just struggled through. Due to space constraints, I am only going to be able to touch on a couple of the big things that have come into fruition since our April issue was published.

The AC Hotel
Many of you readers may remember the Aloft Hotel that was located on 156 Waterfront Street. It was a good place in its own right, however, the space has taken on a new persona. The property was purchased by the proud owners of our beloved Gaylord Hotel, The Ryman Hospitality Group, and is also managed by Marriott International. Welcome the newly revamped, eight-story AC Hotel Washington, DC at National Harbor. The AC features 192 guest rooms and six suites, 3,700-square-feet of meeting space and a fitness center. The hotel is designed to attract “millennials” who want a sophisticated experience with style, inspired social spaces and technology.

While I may actually be “almost” old enough to be a “millennials” grandmother, I find that there is a lot about this place that attracts me. It is very sleek and contemporary (very easy to dust) and has a very modern appeal. It isn’t a place that you “traditionalists” will particularly find appealing but then again, there are lots of other choices in the area that cater to your taste.

The AC boasts that they have a “bar with a twist”. According to my sources, the AC boasts that beverages come first. The Lounge features “all-knowing” bartenders who act as go-to sources for exploring the local area. Guests can experience classic drinks, like its signature Gintonic (OTC publisher, Bob Tagert can vouch for this cocktail), along with small plates at the AC Lounge. The lounge delivers to its guests’ handcrafted cocktails, wine on tap, and local craft beers in a can. According to G.M, Rick Sawyer, they are striving to carry local libations and they certainly are off to a good start with our friend Rick Wasmund’s Copper Fox Rye out of Sperryville, VA and D.C. favorite Green Hat Gin. We are hoping that they will partner with some local wineries in the near future as well.

There isn’t exactly a full service restaurant on property but they have incorporated a “European-Inspired” food scene that stems from its Spanish roots. Offering tapas in the evening at the AC Lounge and a European-inspired breakfast at AC Kitchen, guests and locals alike can enjoy freshly baked croissants flown in from France, hand sliced prosciutto from a Berkel artisan slicer, an assortment of cheeses, sweet and savory tarts, and freshly brewed hot and iced coffee. Breakfast is offered from 6:30 am to 10:00 am on weekdays and from 7:00 am to 11:00 am Saturday and Sunday.

The hotel was designed purposefully and has incorporated the linear design of the harbor into its art. Upon entering the eight-story hotel, guests will find a rope wall inspired by boats docked on the Potomac River, as well as modern nautical accents throughout.

AC Hotel Double Bedroom
AC Hotel Double Bedroom

Some of you may be wondering just what is a “Millennial-driven Experience”? According to the marketing gurus at AC: “We are looking to engage the millennial traveler, AC Hotels by Marriott incorporates a design-focus approach. Guests will find open-concept closets and integrated work desk and luggage benches in all rooms. Complimentary WiFi, ample USB and power ports and smart TVs that can stream on-demand content is a much appreciated, added bonus.”

I toured the facility a few weeks ago and admit I am impressed with the rooms but also have to say that they are quite “stark”. My only suggestion would be to add an area rug or two to absorb some sound and ad a bit of warmth to the experience – like when your feet hit the floor in the morning after a cozy nights sleep.

No matter your decorating style, it will definitely be worth your time and effort to check out this new kid on the block.

Granite City Food and Brewery

Granite City Food and Brewery
Granite City Food and Brewery

At the time of this writing, Granite City Food and Brewery had yet to open its doors so I can’t impart any personal experiences in this space; but we have all been anxiously awaiting the opening. Beer hounds and foodies alike, get ready to wet your whistles and enjoy a meal at the St. Cloud, Minnesota-based restaurant and brew-pub when it open its 34th location here in National Harbor on Wednesday, May 6th at 200 American Way.

“We’re pleased to open the DC Metro area’s first Granite City Food & Brewery in National Harbor,” said Rob Doran, Granite City Food & Brewery CEO. “It’s an honor to bring our award winning, hand-crafted beers and made-from-scratch meals to a whole new audience of hungry diners.”

According to the press information we received:

“The 10,881 square foot restaurant seats approximately 260 patrons in the dining room, 27 at the bar and 64 in the private dining room. It features an outdoor patio with additional seating for 20 to 30 people. The modern-designed space features an open kitchen and an on-site brewery and creates an inviting ambiance with its dark wood and granite accents. For added convenience, the restaurant features family restrooms, purse hooks and USB and electrical outlets underneath the bar for tech savvy guests in need of a charge.

“This is a very exciting time for us,” said Andy Rosenberg, executive chef of Granite City Food & Brewery in National Harbor. “In preparation for the National Harbor opening, we created a newly expanded menu to supplement the Granite City favorites fans have come to know and love. We look forward to sharing these delectable new tastes with the local community.”

Patrons will enjoy a satiable menu that features made-from-scratch recipes and fresh, high-quality ingredients. Signature dishes include ponzu salmon, braised bison short ribs, pulled pork waffle sandwich, burgers, flatbreads, salads, steaks and more, as well as a regionally-defined seasonal menu sourced from local food producers.

The brew-pub’s handcrafted beers –also available in growlers – are moderately priced and offer unique styles and flavors not typically produced by major breweries. The patented brewing process, known as Fermentus InterruptusTM, makes replicating the same great taste simple and efficient throughout all Granite City Food & Brewery restaurants.

As an added incentive, patrons who visit the National Harbor location on May 6th will receive a complimentary Brew Rewards membership, which allows patrons to collect points on all food and tap beer purchases. Brew Rewards points can be redeemed for discounts on future purchases.”

Granite City will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and does take reservations. For more information, visit

We here at the Old Town Crier are very happy to welcome Granite City to the Harbor and are confident that it will be a fantastic addition to an ever-growing, popular restaurant scene!

Speaking if which – rumor has it that the Harbor will soon have our very own Chipotle (located in the former Cake Love space on the Plaza) and Succotash, another upscale eatery featuring Asian accented southern cuisine will claim the former space that Baja Fresh occupied on Waterfront Street. Bring it on!

It’s going to be an exciting spring around here! Come back and visit if you haven’t already done so. If you have never had the Harbor experience, treat yourself and make the trek. Don’t forget that you can take the water taxi from the foot of Old Town Alexandria over to the Harbor and vice versa if you don’t want to drive. I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you National Harbor residents and guests to take a break from your own backyard and go soak in some history and established fine dining, drinking and shopping in Old Town!

Written by: Lani Gering

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