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Jun 21, 2008 03:39 PM

Gaylord National Harbor report - Maryland

In response to several inquiries regarding restaurants in the new National Harbor convention complex... we just returned home from our conference and I thought I would offer some help.

We stayed at the Westin National Harbor, it has only been open a few weeks, and as of the moment the restaurant is useless. It was convenient one morning to have breakfast before heading over to Gaylord, and it took way too long to be seated, our petite fourteen dollar omelets and 6 dollar cups of coffee were painfully slow in being prepared and served in the empty restaurant. One highlight was the lobby bar... nice view, comfortable, and good bartender.

Our conference was at Gaylord...and I was happy that I had thought to call ahead for reservations for most of the nights as we would have been out of luck for business dinners. All restaurants were overbooked and turning people away and there are NO alternatives as this area is under construction. Prices at Gaylord are sky high but if you are at a convention, you have NO choices.

Old Hickory Steakhouse at Gaylord... beautiful atmosphere, rich dark woods, spectacular water views, crisp service... high prices at $40+ per entree, but the steaks superb, perfectly cooked, and very juicy. I had a NY Strip that was fork tender. Wild Mushroom ragout also very flavorful. Naked steak on a large white plate. Nothing served with the meat. Tablemate ordered a Bone In Swordfish Chop that was at least one pound, perfectly grilled, and tender. Unusual but amazing cut of fish to say the least.

Moon Bay Seafood at Gaylord... indoor and 'outdoor' seating. I enjoyed a lobster roast dish served in a cast iron kettle that contained all shellfish. Dramatic presentation as the steam escapes when the kettle is served and the top removed. Good seafood all around the table at slightly more moderate prices. Desserts were poor... bla. Service exceptional.

One evening we took a water taxi to Alexandria... great suggestion that we would NOT have considered without your suggestions. Restaurant Eve did not have our reservation even though we had called in advance and were fully booked. We didnt want to eat at the bar, so we took their recommendation of Jackson 20 with Southern Bistro style cuisine. Excellent recommendation as the food was the best of our trip. We started out with Fried Green Tomatoes, topped with a spicy lump crab remoulade and pickled ramps. The Ribeye was excellent... tender, perfectly cooked, and juicy accompanying Smoked Gouda & applewood bacon potato gratin truly added to the dish and the horseradish cream put it over the top. Other notable dishes were the Rainbow trout with Crawfish Etoufee and the Grilled Sirloin with homecut fries and arugla salad was delicious as well.

My suggestions for those attending conventions at Gaylord is to make your restaurant reservations in advance for Gaylord dining, and definitely take the water taxi trip and enjoy Jackson 20 in Old Alexandria.

Thank you fellow board members for your suggestions as well!

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  1. Interesting that you say you wouldn't have been able to get in to the Gaylord rest's without a reservation. We went to Olde Hickory steak house last night (sat night at prime time) without a reservation and could have had our choice of tables in what can only be described as a cavernous dining room. I can't imagine they could EVER fill that place up. Especially at those prices, in PG county. They definitely must be targeting the conventioner market because the locals would never pay that much. The food was good; we even got a table right by the window overlooking the river which was very nice. But the prices were horrendous...and we eat at the highest end places in DC regularly. I told hubby i thought the prices were higher than the Prime Rib and Capital Grille and those are on prime DC real estate. They only had one salad choice...caesar...and it was 12. the sides were all 12. they were out of 2 of the entrees which wouldn't matter much except they have so few to begin with. The wine list is very good. Service quite good. But probably won't venture back. Once the entire harbor complex fills up it might be worth returning but for now it feels eerie because so few of the shops/condos/restaurants are occupied.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DCDOLL

      My guess is that 99% of their conventions are during the week, so weeknights are when they have their "captive audiences".

    2. Great review and we will be dining there in a couple of weeks. After eating at one location down south I am so looking forward to having a location here in Southern Maryland. The prices while high are what the folks in PG wanted so they need to really come out and support the restaurants and shops that are there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: pikesfish

        I went to the Gaylord National back in May and really enjoyed it. What we did was "sample" at all of the restaurants (except for Old Hickory because my date was not dressed appropriately and we were very professionally turned away).

        I am going back next month with another group of folks to tour, "sample" and eat dinner at the Pienza.

        Here is what I posted on

        I had an opportunity to check out the new Gaylord National Resort yesterday [May 3]. I have been to the ones in Texas and Nashville and really loved them. This one is on somewhat of a smaller scale and more compact than the others, so it doesn't have all the grandeur that the other ones have (ie you won't get lost without a map). But it's still a nice place to go on a rainy day as it's always a beautiful sunny day inside the resort since the restaurants and shops are all enclosed in a climate controlled atrium.

        Outside, they have a nice walking path along the waterfront and pretty waterfalls and outdoor seating.


        Valet parking is free if you eat at one of the restaurants and validate your parking.

        Old Hickory Steakhouse

        I've eaten at this restaurant at the other two hotels and the food is good, everything is al a carte (their house salad is awesome). It's expensive and you can't wear sneakers or jeans/shorts in this restaurant (they will be happy to call another restaurant for a reservation for you ;o)

        Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine and Bar

        This restaurant has seating inside and out in the atrium. In the atrium they had a jazz trio playing on Saturday evening. It was really nice and relaxing. They have a variety of seafood appetizers and entrees in all price ranges and just a few non-seafood dishes, no kids menu. We had two of the specialty drinks (I had an espresso martini) and the fried calamari appetizer with three dipping sauces.

        National Pastime Bar & Grill

        This is a sports bar. They have a restaurant side with a huge tv on one wall (which was showing the Kentucky Derby when I was there) and a bar side with comfortable bar stools (with backs) around a huge bar with lots of tvs and then sofa seating with snack tables along the windows to the atrium. This is a very comfortable bar. They have baseball related specialty drinks but all ($6 or $17) come in plain bar glasses. So don't expect a lot of fan fare here. We ordered specialty drinks (I had the chocolate espresso drink with espresso beans but I never got espresso beans in my drink, which was disappointing). Service was slow because the bar and restaurant was packed. They closed at 9 pm for a private function so please make sure to call ahead to make sure everything is open when you visit. Many people were asking for mint juleps for the Kentucky Derby but the bar didn't have them and didn't know how to make them.

        Pienza Italian Market and Bar

        This is an upscale buffet (around $34 per person). They have a nice selection of food, a small salad area with the basics, a bread station and various baked pasta dishes. They had a few meat dishes and then a carving station with prime rib. They also have a made to order pasta station with a variety of sauces. The pastries and cakes are good. The biscotti are the best ;o)

        Belvedere Lobby Bar does not serve food, just a small bar with atrium seating. There is no table service, you have to go to the bar to order drinks.

        I didn't go into Pose, the night club.

        On Saturday night, the waits for tables starting at 5 pm was 30 minutes and was as high as an hour for Old Hickory. People were going to all of the restaurants and putting their names on this list and carrying 3-4 buzzers with them to see which restaurant would come through with a table first. Reservations are definitely required.

        I think by Fall, the rest of the shops and restaurants outside the hotel will be completed and there will be even more to do than there is now.

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. Ate at Moon Bay for mother's day.

          I like the service and the way the resturant was decorated. I also really like the large table we were seated at. I hate feeling cramped.

          We had 4 adults and 2 kids for lunch. For appatizer, we got raw oysters and calamari. The oysters were fresh and briny (pacific NW oysters forgot what they were called). Really excellent. The calarmi was really poor. Just dripping with grease and so overly salted, it could not be eaten. I almost sent the thing back but just i left it uneaten instead.

          For soup, we had crab bisque and miso soup. Both were excellent. Miso was really good for a non sushi place (yes, I know they advertise sushi).

          Salad, we had garden salad. The greens were fresh the the vinegret was light and delicious. I wish they (all resturants) would stop putting so much salad dressing on the salad. Moon bay was no exception. Why take great veggies and drown them in dressing?

          For entree, everyone had either the softshell crabs or crab cake. The crab cake was good but nothing spectacular. I've had much better crab cakes at coastal flats and its not on the same planet as faidley's. I saw a few lump peices but was very similar to the stuff I get from costco (not that great). The brioche it came with was a bit stale.

          The softshell was unfortunately even worse. Somone does not know how to work the frier. It was fried but it was dripping with grease. I've been eating softshell for over 20 years and once again eager for this years season to start. I could not finish my softshell crab dish. Not only was the crabs greasy but it was so heavily salted, I ate half of one crab and left the rest of the dish uneaten (The dish came with 2 mid-size crabs). The crabs came on a bed of spinich. The spinich was fresh and tasty but again the chef way over salted and it could not be eaten. Note this is a salt addict talking. The other folks that got softshell crabs all had the same reaction.

          The deserts were ok.

          Over all a very midiocre experience at moon bay at best. Dropped over $250 (not including drinks) and I thought I could have cooked the stuff better. I don't know who the chef is but he really needs to take a look at what his staff is dishing out. I will not be going back to moon bay.

          As you could imagine, I was fairly hungry when I got home since I had soup a salad. The package of instant ramen I made was way better the may appatizer and maindish and certainly less salty. Moon bay should be ashame of themselves.


          1. Any improvements on restaurants at National Harbor and/or openings of note? My in laws are at a convention at the Gaylord down there and I'm meeting them for dinner tonight...get the feeling they'll want to stay around there rather than taking the water taxi to Alexandria (which I know has PLENTY of great restaurants). So what's the best of the lot at NH?

            1 Reply
            1. re: KWynn

              The developer of National Harbor is a client of ours and at our request, they took us on a tour of National Harbor a couple of weeks ago. I was most impressed with the decor of Old Hickory. I would definitely spend my own money and try out their food. There are now lots of restaurants in National Harbor, mostly chains though.