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Rooms With a View

By Staff
Monday, May 25, 1998


    view of Georgetown Harbor View of Georgetown Harbor from Rosslyn. (By Khue Bui/ Staff)
The Capitol dome, the monuments, the river . . . with so much that's spectacular to look at in Washington, you'd think there'd be plenty of places to kick back, have a drink and watch the sun tint the marble.

Then again, this is a city where the law ensures that no building will be higher than the Capitol. So finding that perfect window seat is harder than it looks.

We scoped out some of the best rooms with a view, from two vantage points: water scenes and skyline scenes. Here's what we saw:

Up in the Air

Sky Terrace at the Hotel Washington
If you really want to impress dates or out-of-towners, bring them up to the Hotel Washington's lofty Sky Terrace (515th St. NW; 202/638-5900), about as high as you're likely to get within the District. The panoramic view encompasses the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, Rosslyn, the Treasury Building and the White House rooftop.

Even on weeknights the joint is packed end to end with beautiful people talking and lounging under the broad tan-and-white striped awning. Tiny ivory fans circle overhead, although on cooler days the breeze coming off the Mall provides all the air you need. A glass of wine or a beer will set you back the standard $4-$5, and appetizers include such standard munchies as egg rolls and buffalo wings ($5-$8). The green wicker chairs are packed so close together that you're within elbow's reach of the next table, so this isn't exactly the spot for a super-intimate moment. But then, that's what the hotel rooms are for. – M. Franco Salvoza

    inside JW's A view inside JW's. (By Khue Bui/ Staff)
JW's View Steakhouse and Lounge in the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel
JW's View Steakhouse and Lounge (1401 Lee Highway; 703/524-6400) has all the spirit and character you'd expect from an airport lounge – or for that matter, the rooftop restaurant in a run-of-the-mill hotel. But this is one view worth checking out. The combination of Georgetown's red-brick architecture, all those verdant trees and the monuments downriver sum up what this city is all about in a way that works equally well for tourists and residents. Although the dining room is spacious, at cocktail hour one recent weekday evening, we were unceremoniously barred from the "good" tables near the huge glass windows since we were only drinking, not eating dinner. Although we were miffed (the place wasn't even half-full), the truth is the view from the bar tables, up a couple of steps from the dining area, is just as good. – Anne Glusker

The Holiday Inn Rosslyn's Vantage Point Rooftop Restaurant
The Vantage Point Rooftop Restaurant (1900 Ft. Myer Drive, Rosslyn; 703/807-2000) rises a handful of floors higher than its neighbor, the Key Bridge Marriott, and the view seems grander – you can see the lush foliage northwest of Georgetown University's campus and all the way past the Mall to smokestacks in the distance. But unfortunately, the sterile office buildings of Rosslyn obscure views of the Kennedy Center and the Washington Monument.

The atmosphere is casual and surprisingly Muzak-free, with the chatter of the clientele providing the only noise. You're just as likely to see a T-shirt-clad hotel visitor as a business-suited traveler. Menu selections are few, and on the pricey side. Appetizers like shrimp cocktail, crab dip and escargot are in the $6-$7 range, while entrees are closer to $20. Beer and wine, however, are only $3-$4. Unlike some view restaurants, the Vantage Point isn't picky about where you sit. Even if you're only having the drinks, the staff practically trip over themselves to help you, inviting you to sit "anywhere you like." – M. Franco Salvoza

Capitol View Club in the Hyatt Regency Hotel
The ride up to the Capitol View Club (400 New Jersey Ave. NW; 202/783-2582) in the hotel's glass elevator looks out onto the grassy area surrounding the Capitol and sets you up with big expectations. But if you're only in the mood for a drink, you've got to literally crouch down on your knees to see anything worthwhile from the lounge. (We focused instead on the grilled white pizza, a bargain nosh for two at $6.25.) If you venture into the dining room – where entrees start at $19.75 – windows face the Capitol and there's more to treat your eyes. You get a closeup look at the Capitol dome, and after dark, that's quite a sight, if not a grand panorama. – Kim O'Donnel

    view from Skydome View of Washington from the Skydome. (By Khue Bui/ Staff)
Skydome Lounge at the Crystal City Doubletree Hotel National Airport
It's hard to imagine a better view than the one from the Skydome Lounge (300 Army Navy Dr., Crystal City; 703/416-4100). From one end, you can see airplanes taking off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, while on the other you have an unobstructed vista west toward the sunset. In between you can see practically every landmark in the nation's capital. And you get all of this in a rotating turret, which in less than an hour allows you to take it all in without leaving your seat. (See what we mean by taking a 360 degree view from the middle of the restaurant.)

Alas, the view is pretty much the only thing worth mentioning here. Picture a small town where the hotel bar is the only place to go. A DJ station sits in the middle of the room, surrounded by a small parquet dance floor. Four televisions hang from the ceiling, and a row of disco lights completes the picture. Tourists in rugby shirts groove to hits of the '70s.

The bar features a full range of frozen and blender drinks, and a limited menu offers appetizers and sandwiches. As with most view places, prices seem a little inflated. From 5 to 7 p.m. there is a $2.75 all-you-can-eat buffet, with a one-drink minimum. – Ben Abramson

On the Water

The two tried-and-true ways to see Washington's water views while having a drink are to head down to the Southwest Waterfront to Hogate's, Phillips, Le Rivage (1000 Water St. SW; 202/488-8111) or the newer H.I. Ribster's (800 Water St. SW; 202/479-6857) or to board one of the tourboats that ply the river – the Dandy (703/683-6076), the Spirit of Washington (202/554-7447) or the Odyssey (888/822-5991). But there's so much more to Washington's waterfront . . .

Although there are several places overlooking the Potomac at Washington Harbour in Georgetown, it's Sequoia that really throbs on summer weekend evenings. Pass by on any warm-weather Saturday night, and an overheated singles scene awaits. But come by on a weekday evening or a Saturday afternoon in August (when every other living soul is out of town), and you'll be pleasantly surprised. The view of the Potomac is splendid – especially from the restaurant's upper deck. And while the food is nothing to write postcards about, some of the appetizers – the duck dumplings ($7.95), for instance – are pretty good. – Anne Glusker

Tony & Joe's
The crowded bar here at Tony & Joe's is smaller and less of a scene than Sequoia's, but it's still hopping. Patrons get a lovely, unobstructed view of the Kennedy Center, Roosevelt Island and the Roosevelt Bridge, and the bar is crowded at weekend happy hour. With all the ogling and yapping going on, you won't exactly hear the water lapping. – Dove Coggeshall

Riverside Grill
The tables and bar at Riverside Grill are set lower on the waterfront than the neighboring establishments and thus the view east of the harbor is diminished. Grabbing a table on the fountain side of the restaurant might actually be a more dazzling water-watching experience. But barstool warmers facing due west will have a romantic view of the sun setting over the Key Bridge. – Dove Coggeshall

The Chart House
The Chart House, a steak-and-seafood restaurant on the harbor in Old Town, puts you right next to the lapping water and docked boats. From the cream-colored tables on the wooden plank deck, you can watch sailboats float by and planes prepare to land at National. Shrimp and clam chowder from the regular menu will cost you between $5 and $10, and the deck has a separate menu for low-key fare such as sandwiches and salads. The atmosphere here is far from peaceful, since rock music pours from the deck's speakers and, in good weather, the Old Town waterfront is crawling with people. But after you've had a drink, you can always take a walk on the manicured paths near the water, away from all the hubbub. – M. Franco Salvoza

Potowmack Landing
You've probably passed Potowmack Landing (1 Marina Dr., Alexandria – in the Washington Sailing Marina, just off George Washington Parkway); 703/548-0001) a thousand times on your way to or from National Airport without giving it a second thought. It seems as though it'd be a tourist trap royale, but it's actually better than that. To be sure, you're likely to see a gaggle of high school kids, clad in their shiny prom dresses and tuxes, giggling and talking on cell phones as they wait for the bartender to mix up their Virgin Coladas. But if you can grab a table out on the extremely pleasant deck, you're in luck.

After dark, the lights of Washington sparkle across the water, and the planes taking off from the nearby airport are beautiful – albeit noisy – to behold. On the deck, you're only a few yards from the water's edge, so you can stare at the ducks paddling around as you sip your cocktail.

The food is nothing much to speak of – the best appetizers are a tasty beef and spinach ravioli ($5.95) and the tuna nicoise salad ($9.50). If you can, plan to visit Potowmack Landing on the late side – planes can't take off or land after 10, so things are a lot more serene after that. – Anne Glusker

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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