WASHINGTON, D.C., is a garden for transients. It’s not surprising hotels also flourish in loam fertilized by power and politicking. DestinationDC, the city’s tourism bureau, expects 29 new properties to sprout in the next few years. For Washingtonians, many still mostly working from home, swanky lobbies and bars make a tempting neutral space to meet with friends and colleagues—a trend hoteliers are only too delighted to encourage. “The sign of a great hotel is when you see the locals come in and enjoy it,” said Joel Freyberg, managing director of the
Circle hotel. Our goal is to make [it] an extension of the neighborhood.” Here are five lobbies where Washington feels right at home.
Neighborhood Revival: The DuPont Circle
Not all properties languished during Covid. The Doyle Collection’s DuPont Circle hotel finished a $50 million makeover during the pandemic. Curvaceously embracing the eponymous landmark in a sleek midcentury white-brick wrapper, the 327-room property was a neighborhood staple attracting the free-popcorn, happy-hour crowd to its Bar DuPont.
A few years ago, the hoteliers imported Mr. Freyberg, a Carlyle and Waldorf veteran, from Manhattan to energize the public spaces, suites and new Pembroke restaurant. On a recent evening it appeared the mission was accomplished. The redone bar, now called Doyle, hosted jovial groups lounging on coral-toned banquettes and clustered about the two gas-fueled fireplaces. The bar boasts Pan-American-Airways-blue captain’s chairs, Deco-style brass accent lights and an extensive whiskey and bourbon list. Despite swapping $6 pinot grigios for $20 Connemara peated single malts, the Doyle still draws the neighbors, especially on the terrace during the warmer spring and summer months. Rooms from about $350 a night
Bank on It: The Riggs
History hangs as heavy as the plum-colored drapes at the Riggs Washington DC, which opened February 2020 in the former Riggs National Bank building, an 1891 Romanesque 11-story blockbuster catty-corner from the National Portrait Gallery in Penn Quarter. Called the “Bank of Presidents” after customers such as Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, the Riggs also underwrote Samuel Morse’s telegraph and lent the government money to construct the Capitol Building. Residents welcomed the Lore Group’s transformation of the 181-room property from a Marriott Courtyard into a Washington scene-stealer.
Set in a grove of Corinthian columns, the hotel’s restaurant Café Riggs exudes a cozy, Mitteleuropa feel despite the 22-foot-tall ceilings. A side lounge featuring fringed side chairs and patterned couches and a gigantic bouquet of glass-encased paper flowers add whimsy. Chef Patrick Curran’s plant-heavy menus include entrees such as chicken-fried vegetables and Arctic char. The big surprise: the Silver Lyan bar downstairs (pictured above) in the old bank’s vault. Created by British bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana, the cocktail program is a sassy take on classics: Manhattans, Sazeracs and even a Jell-O Fruit Basket of shooters. Since Washington usually agrees to one drink but stays for two, reservations will ensure a seat at the bar. Rooms from about $280 a night
Ahead of the Curve: The Conrad
Opened in 2019 in the new CityCenterDC complex, the 360-room flagship of
luxe brand was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning firm Herzog & de Meuron. The airy lobby atrium on the third floor is a neck-craner, with its sinuous curves and swerves and walls clad in chain mesh and white Calacatta marble.
Estuary, the Conrad’s restaurant opened by brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, emphasizes fare sourced from nearby Chesapeake Bay, such as Maryland crab rolls and, no surprise, oysters. The expansive adjoining bar attracts Washington professionals, drawn from the CityCenter’s apartments and the adjoining neighborhoods of Shaw and Logan Circle. Some of the locals, flanked by their laptops and maybe a Negroni, work remotely there. The Summit rooftop bar is more playful. It opens for the city’s balmier spring and summer (when it is a coveted perch for watching the annual Fourth of July fireworks on the National Mall) then goes in for an apres-ski theme in the colder months before closing in December. Rooms from about $300 a night
Radical Party: The Eaton
The 209-room Eaton opened on corporate K Street in 2018 with the hopes of becoming a woke oasis for visitors and Washingtonians alike. The hotel and adjoining co-working space are the brainchild of Katherine Lo, a member of a billionaire real-estate family based in Hong Kong and a social activist.
The interiors exude a progressive, modernist design sensibility that resembles a Scandinavian university student union. Establishment eyebrows arched over a streaming radio station in reception and the agitprop collage on the ceiling of a library-lounge furnished with Kilim rugs and books on Eames furniture and environmental justice. (Behind the stacks: a speakeasy named Allegory.) Two new restaurants by Michelin starred Chef Matt Baker, French brasserie Michele’s and the casual Baker’s Daughter opened this past fall. Rooms from about $240 a night
Church Picnic: The Line
When it opened in 2018 with restaurants by Erik Bruner-Yang and Spike Gjerde, the Line became an immediate hit with its neighbors in the bustling Adams Morgan neighborhood. Centered beneath the 60-foot-tall dome of a former 1912 Christian Science church, the Line’s expansive social spaces showed D.C. what hip hive lobbies might be.
The last two years saw the old eateries fold, but the 220-room property still burbles with activity and a new chef in charge. Opie Crooks’ No Goodbyes restaurant focuses on seasonal, regional dishes and a weekend brunch featuring cast-iron buttermilk pancakes and fried chicken. Noted D.C. mixologist Lukas B. Smith helms the bar program. Locals fuel up with coffee and pastries from Line baker Alicia Wang. (She also makes artisanal dog biscuits for the neighborhood mutts.) With light filtering through the stained-glass windows and a congenial hubbub curling skyward to the lobby’s oculus, stopping by for an after-work martini is like joining a cocktail party in the Pantheon. Rooms from about $189 a night
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