Come December, the mall is Rome: All roads lead to it. As much as we'd like to sit in our pajamas and order every single present online — and we’re not just saying that because of a certain Web site that shares an owner with The Washington Post and rhymes with “Schmamazon” — at some point, you’ll realize you need to pick up a last-minute hostess gift, or that you forgot to buy a present for the cousin who’s coming to dinner next week. Or maybe you will want to scare the bejeezus out of your kid by putting him or her on Santa’s lap. For all of these things, you will need to set foot in a bricks-and-mortar store.
There will be miles of parking lots, and there will be crowds. It’s enough to suck the holiday spirit right out of you — and that’s why you need a drink and a bite to eat, pronto. Here, at four different destinations for shopping and other holiday cheer throughout the region, are our picks for the best places to fuel up.
165 Waterfront St., National Harbor. www.nationalharbor.com.
The riverfront shopping center and entertainment district in Prince George’s County boasts one of the region’s biggest holiday attractions: ICE! featuring “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.” And with festive decorations and the Capitol Wheel, it’s an ideal place to grab a bite after shopping at the nearby Tanger Outlets.
186 Waterfront St. 301-567-8900. www.succotashrestaurant.com.
Louisville chef Edward Lee’s homage to the South by way of his Korean American heritage is National Harbor’s one true stunner of a restaurant. Try the titular side dish of corn, edamame and a hint of curry sauce ($5), as well as the dirty fried chicken ($20), a dish equal parts Korea and Kentucky, and so good you’ll fight over the leftovers. Give your cornbread a generous slather of the sorghum butter, and loosen your belt buckle by a notch.
The Walrus Oyster & Ale House
152 Waterfront St. 301-567-6100. www.walrusoysterandale.com.
Take in views of the National Harbor Christmas decorations while you sip local beers or bloody marys — or maybe the specialty eggnog? — at this casual seafood spot. One good deal for a splittable mid-shopping jolt: the $38 King Walrus chilled seafood platter featuring oysters, shrimp, lobster, crab and anchovies.
Harrington’s Pub & Kitchen
177 Fleet St. 301-200-0770. www.harringtonspubandkitchen.com.
Irish pubs are the lingua franca of the bar world, understood and welcomed by conventioneers from the Midwest, foreign tourists and locals requiring a pick-me-up. You’ll see all three of those types of customers at Harrington’s. The bar doesn’t try to break new ground — think “vintage” Guinness advertisements and tributes to Irish rebels hanging on red and green walls — but there’s a good selection of Irish whiskey to go with the fish and chips ($21) and bangers and mash ($20).
Granite City Food and Brewery
200 American Way. 240-493-3900. www.gcfb.com.
This Minnesota-based chain begins brewing its house beers at a brewery in Iowa, and then ships the un-fermented beer to each of its nearly three dozen locations to be “finished.” The brewery says this makes the beer more consistent at its restaurants; we just wish the beers were more interesting. Perhaps that’s why the happy hour crowd seemed to be imbibing more mojitos and martinis than IPAs. The food menu runs heavy on steaks ($22.95-$38.95), salads ($5.95-$15.95) and flatbreads ($11.95-$13.95).
Pike & Rose
11580 Old Georgetown Rd., North Bethesda. www.pikeandrose.com.
Want to see the newest “Hunger Games” movie in comfort and style? Pike & Rose’s iPic Theaters, with reclining seats and touchscreen ordering, is sure to be a draw during this holiday blockbuster season. And, there’s a Gap and a few boutiques for last-minute gifts.
Summer House Santa Monica
11825 Grand Park Ave. 301-881-2381. www.summerhousesm.com.
If the holidays are the only redeeming thing about winter for you, this California-inspired restaurant has a helpful countdown of the number of days left until summer (too many, probably) posted in a prominent place on the wall. Here, you’ll find light fare — think tacos, salads, sushi and seviche — and decent happy hour deals. If you just want a quick pick-me-up, there’s a bakery counter at the front with an array of s’mores bars, bacon chocolate chip cookies and other treats, between $2 and $4.
Stella Barra Pizzeria
11825 Grand Park Ave. 301-770-8609. www.stellabarra.com.
This brick-walled pizzeria, decorated with vintage bicycles and filled with club sofas, doesn’t seem to have much in common with the neighboring Summer House. But the two restaurants share an owner, bathrooms and a commitment to solid cocktails and wine lists. Try the Barrel of Oranges (Evan Williams bourbon, El Dorado 5-year rum, orange peel, $12) or one of 15 wines by the glass with the signature pizzas ($13.95-$18.95), which boast crispy crusts topped with house-made sausage or Italian cheese.
City Perch Kitchen + Bar
11830 Grand Park Ave. 301-231-2310. www.cityperch.com.
This restaurant, from L.A. chef Sherry Yard, is connected to the movie theater, but aims to be a destination of its own. Cocktails are on the sweet side, but there’s a raw bar for oysters ($15 per half dozen) and shrimp cocktail ($14) — a far better pre-movie snack than popcorn. Happy hour deals include mini crabcake sandwiches and potato croquettes. If you’re hanging out after the film, ask about the tables on the patio that have their own fire pits.
Del Frisco’s Grille
11800 Grand Park Ave. 301-881-0308. www.delfriscosgrille.com.
Some groups just can’t settle on one type of cuisine, which is when it’s time to head to Del Frisco’s. The menu includes ahi tuna tacos ($14), crabcake sliders ($19), veggie flatbreads ($12-$13), meatloaf ($19.50) and daily specials that range from General Tso’s Chicken to wagyu patty melts. It all feels and tastes a bit corporate, but it gets the job done, especially at happy hour.
2905 District Ave., Fairfax. www.mosaicdistrict.com.
This chic open-air shopping center, a 15-minute walk from the Dunn Loring Metro stop, has a little bit of everything: big box stores and boutiques, kids activities and nightlife, and an Angelika Film Center.
2985 District Ave., Suite 120. 703-280-1000. www.brinerestaurants.com.
This collaboration between chef John Critchley, formerly of Bourbon Steak, and Travis Croxton, the owner of Rappahannock Oyster Company, is a destination for local seafood, slurped raw or cooked on a wood-fired grill. Don’t miss the Lambs and Clams ($12): steamed clams and a spicy merguez sausage in a seafood broth, served with hunks of bread for soaking up juices. At the bar, Jo-Jo Valenzuela whips up cocktails as beautiful as they are delicious. The Passion and Warfare ($12) blends tequila and passionfruit juice with Laphroaig Scotch for a hint of smoke, while Ancho chili salt provides some heat.
2985 District Ave., Suite 130. 703-280-0429. www.sistersthai.com.
It’s a Thai restaurant, but the interior design — bookshelves, vintage televisions, wooden chandeliers — suggests a quirky, Pinteresty bohemian cafe instead. Among the pleasures on the Thai street food menu are noodle dishes such as the bamee poo moo-dang ($13), a soup with pork and crabmeat, or the spicy Khao Soi ($13), with crispy fried noodles and coconut. Don’t overlook the cocktails, including a Thai Iced Tea variation in a frosty julep cup. There’s counter service for cakes, Thai teas and other sweets.
Mom & Pop
2909 District Ave. www.dolcezzagelato.com.
This cute little coffeeshop from the team behind Dolcezza Gelato is right in the heart of the Mosaic District, offering views of the town square through its glass walls. Its menu focuses on lighter fare — bacon-and-cheddar quiche, charcuterie, grilled cheese, Paisley Fig pastries — with Stumptown coffee, although wine and beer are also available. It’s the perfect place to steel yourself with a Gibraltar (double espresso and milk, $3.50) before braving the crowds to find something for your sister, or to reward yourself with a snack once the hunt is over.
2985 District Ave., Suite 115. 703-280-1111. www.dgsdelicatessen.com.
A second outpost of the Dupont Circle Jewish deli-inspired restaurant, Mosaic’s DGS has the same black-and-white retro vibe as its predecessor. But there’s more space at the bar, which is where you’ll want to sidle up for such happy hour specials as brisket sliders and proper cocktails made with house-infused liquors. For the kids, old-fashioned egg creams are $3.75.
Springfield Town Center
6500 Springfield Mall, Springfield. www.springfieldtowncenter.com.
When Springfield Town Center reopened last year after a two-year, $250 million makeover, the former Springfield Mall boasted new shops (Topshop, H&M, Tag Heuer), a large Regal Cinema and an LA Fitness gym. The food court got an update, too, with new tenants including BGR, but the most appealing options are a line of restaurants that face the western parking lot. There’s more on the way: Dave and Buster’s debuts later this month, and the long-delayed Zinburger is expected to begin serving wine and kobe-style burgers in April 2016.
6793 Springfield Mall. 703-971-7072. www.chuys.com.
The Austin-based Tex-Mex chain, a cult favorite of displaced Texans, swims in kitsch: Strings of jalapeno-shaped Christmas lights hang in the bar, next to photos and paintings of customers’ dogs; another room has a ceiling covered in hub caps and velvet paintings of classic cars; a third has round booths decorated with paintings of Elvis, the patron saint of Chuy’s. At happy hour, the trunk of a vintage car is opened to reveal a nacho bar with free chips, salsa, beef, queso and refried beans, which are just the thing to pair with $3 beers and $5.25 house margaritas. After a long day of shopping, it’s easy to slip into a food coma with “Big As Yo’ Face” burrito ($9.29-$11.29) or the crispy, fiery chuychanga ($10.99).
6791 Springfield Mall. 703-924-7345. www.yardhouse.com.
You can’t enter Yard House directly from the mall, but you can look into its keg room, which puts some D.C. beer bars to shame, with rare and seasonal beers from the Bruery, Bear Republic and Vander Ghinste among the dozens of choices. (On Monday, the bar will tap Spruce Tip IPA, an exclusive collaboration with Oregon’s Rogue Ales.) Check the electronic boards for the best selections, which are offered as pints, tasters or flights. The barnlike main bar gets crowded, so look for tables on the edge of the room if you want to eat. The menu is packed with buzzwords instead of a cohesive culinary identity — poke stacks ($12.45), banh mi ($13.45) and Nashville hot chicken ($16.65) are all featured — but remember, you’re at a mall.
Wood Ranch BBQ and Grill
6797 Springfield Mall. 571-255-7455. www.woodranch.com.
Murals of cowboys, steer and the American flag vie for attention at Wood Ranch, the most manly restaurant at the mall. This is the chain’s first location outside California, and the ranch-inspired decor, in various shades of brown, is a comfortable spot with leather booths and barstools. The menu wanders all over the map, but smoked brisket and tri-tip are good bets, whether on their own ($16.95-$19.95) or in sandwiches ($13.95). Happy hour runs from 3 to 7 p.m. on weeknights — until 9 p.m. on Mondays — and includes $5 appetizers and sliders and $1.50 off all drinks.