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Food for MAGFest and Katsucon

Food has gotten significantly easier to get at National Harbor with the addition of a couple of new places especially McDonalds. McDonalds and Subway will be busy the weekend of MAGFest or Katsucon. I personally avoid McDonalds at all costs unless it’s an Egg McMuffin. I hate McDonalds and Subway especially when I can eat them at home.

These are tips and tricks that you can use to eat better tasting foods than those places for a reasonable price (around $20 a meal). http://nationalharbor.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/National-Harbor-Directory-Sept-2012.pdf for the local map for visual folks. They also have normal hours on the website and it’s mobile friendly. All prices should include tax, tip and non-alcoholic beverage. One other note, None of the National Harbor places does delivery to the hotels. It's only a six square block area (Downtown Baltimore is bigger), so just use walk there.

Revision 1.1 12/31/2012-Added explanation of Fiorella and Ketchup.

Revision 1.2 01/28/2013-Revised Pienza and National past times.

Places I would specifically avoid due to being too high in price.

Bond 45 Steakhouse- A meal here will set you back at least $50 and is mostly steaks. I can get a lot better steak for $6 a pound at my local market.

Old Hickory Steakhouse-See Bond 45 Steakhouse. This would probably be the one place where I would bite the bullet and eat if I wanted a special dinner.

Grace Mandarin for Dinner-This is good Chinese food, but it is hard to keep it under $20 per person unless you are sharing things. This isn’t a good choice for single diners. I would say if your willing to share this can make a decent choice.

McLoonie’s Pier House-This will set you back $30 plus here, but the Seafood I’ve heard is pretty good.

Pienza- This is a borderline decision for me because it’s at $20 plus for a buffet. For Lunch, it has an option for under $15 with Tax and Tip. You don't get any hot foods though. That option is over $20 with Tax and tip. It also falls under the same problem as Java Moon. The bread on the sandwich bar was rather dry. I would only do if Time is of the essence. Inside the hotel.

Bobby Mckeys-This is a Piano Bar first of all. First, Why are you at a Piano Bar when there three musical acts at Katsucon including the first band from Japan in a couple of years? Secondly, This places charges a cover charge of anywhere between $5-17, which negates any savings you get from eating the $10 sandwiches there.

Sauciety-Dinner runs over $40 and you have more affordable Breakfast and Lunch options in the other places around there.

Java Moon-It is under $20, but I think you get better quality by going outside of the hotel. It does have good coffee in a pinch. Sandwiches are very dry to my tastes and everything there is edible.

Under $10 places that are better than the Fast Food chains

Freshii- This is a fresh and healthy place with Salads, Noodle Bowls and Wraps that opens early for Breakfast. It is also very vegetarian friendly. It is also less than a block from the hotel up Waterfront Street. Will be crowded due to size, so call ahead on this.

Baja Fresh-This is pretty good Tex-Mex with heavy emphasis on Bowls and Burritos here. It isn’t a good place for Breakfast. It is pretty small, so I would call ahead for food there and Freshii above. Will be crowded, so I would suggest calling ahead if possible.

Mayorga Coffee Roasters-This is an excellent Breakfast or Lunch place that is a good break from Starbucks machines in the hotel. I really enjoy their Hot Chocolate with real Chocolate Syrup and Ham, Egg and Cheese sandwiches. It is up American Way from the Gaylord National in a small nook, so it can be hard to find.

ChiDogO’s-Dc’s one of two places for a Chicago Style Hot Dog or Italian Beef Sandwich. This is a local chain with one other location in College Park. This is definitely $10 and once people find it down National Plaza (Turn left at the Westin). This is brand new to the Harbor, so you may not have a long wait here. Did eat here and I want to eat here again for Katsucon.

Nando’s Peri Peri-This is Portuguese style roasted Chicken at this place with a variety of seasonings. There is more than just chicken here. The menu does include a Steak Burger and some vegetarian items on it. They also have excellent sides like the Portuguese Rice and the Red Skin Mashed Potatoes. This place is straight up the front door of the Gaylord National about two blocks on Fleet Street.

Nature’s Table-Sandwiches, Soups, Salads and Rice Bowls along with Smoothies are the MO of this place. The advantage of this place is that it’s down National Plaza, so it may be missed during much of the weekend.

Elevation Burger-This is a burger place for around $10. I have eaten there and it’s okay for burgers. I’ve also heard it’s not very good from others. It is an eat at your own risk type of place. It is also at the end of Waterfront street. When your that far out, you may as well eat at the Subway next door to it.

Potomac Gourmet Market-This is one place where you can get grab and go prepped sandwiches and things like Ramen and or beer. This is fairly affordable for the really time crunched folks like a staffer who has a 30 minute break before another shift starts. It saved me more than once at Katsucon last year.

Potbelly Sandwich Works-Simple Sandwiches and soups here. A dollar or so more than Subway, but pretty good and it is a very DC chain (20 odd locations around DC). It is also down National Plaza. This will be packed because it is so well known to DC area folks.

Under $20 Sit down places

The first tip for any restaurant to get food quickly is to sit at the Bar area. In MD, You have to be 21 to sit at the bar. You can sit in a table in the Bar area if your under 21 in Maryland. Many Katsucon members are over 21, so this is a good tip. If you under 21, you can ask for to go at any restaurant with a bar or simply ask to be sat in the restaurant. There are mostly restaurant/bars in National Harbor and the bars only are in the hotels such as the Gaylord.

A second tip for Sit down restaurants is to split the meal either with another person or in a to go box. I simply ask for half of it in a to go box to avoid the temptation of eating it all. I say tip well and they won't mind this at all. Some restaurants do have splitting charges, but I don't see anything amongst National Harbor restaurants on this.

The Tasting Room-This place has sandwiches for around $10 here, but it’s better known for Craft beers and fine wines. If you want enjoy a nice glass of wine or beer along with some food before the concerts and parties, this would be probably your type of place. This is along Waterfront Street with a nice patio (if you get freakishly nice weather).

McCormick and Schmicks-If you choose from the main menu, you will go over $20 at Dinner.. There are some tips that can help you on this front. They do have a Happy Hour menu that can save you some money. Nothing on that menu is over $10 including if you want to get your drink on. This is the perfect place for a late lunch or an early dinner. You can get a $4 cheeseburger with fries that is better than the $6 burgers at Elevation Burger.  One warning, this is only good in the bar area. They have booths, so the under 21 crowd should request to sit there. This is on National Plaza, so it is quieter.

Thai Pavilion-Very Good Thai, Chinese and Sushi place in National Harbor with most everything under $20 or so. I really enjoyed the Pad Thai there back at Katsucon 2011. They also have creative cocktails such as the Lychee Martini. This place also has several vegetarian choices. This is up Fleet Street from the Gaylord National.

Cadillac Ranch-A Sports Bar and Restaurant up Fleet Street from the Gaylord National on the right hand side. It’s Flatbreads, Sandwiches and Entrees which is pretty good. It is pretty loud in here, so don’t expect a lot of good conversation in the place because of it’s size. It can also take some time in here on busy weekends like MAGFest.

Public House-A bar and restaurant up Fleet Street from the hotel on  the left hand side. This is pretty sample sandwiches and entrees. The entrees are over $20 while everything else is under $20. They have a happy hour menu where you can get a beer and burger for $10 and $3 drafts. They have an extensive Beer, WIne and Cocktail selection for those who want to pay to drink.

Harrington Pub and Kitchen-An Irish Bar and Restaurant up Fleet Street from the hotel on the left hand side. This has Irish Food in it and can get to over $20 especially on the entrees. They have Happy Hour specials and accept Restaurant.com gift Certificates Sunday-Thursday. It is a good place, but I would avoid the Self pouring Beer taps. Your paying $8 a pint and that can add up quickly.

Rosa Mexicano-This is a Mexican place that is pretty much everything over $20. The only reason I don’t put this in the avoid list is because they do have a Happy hour during Monday-Friday with $5 tacos and cheap drinks.

Ketchup-Most everything is under $20, but you may push $25 with Tip and Tax. It is very uneven food wise. I would suggest getting anything here to go because this place has a hard time keeping up with sit down diners. If I was to recommend anything here, I would say go with a burger like the Shroom burger or the Lobster Mac and Cheese.

National Pastimes-Most everything is under $20. It is a Sports Bar and the food is only okay there. Food is sandwiches and things like Chicken Fingers. If you are time crunched or need to watch an NFL playoff game, they do allow takeout and is better than Java Moon. Inside the Hotel.

Fiorella Pizzeria-This will be towards the $20 side and probably over with drink, tax and Tip. I have heard they are very good pizza and have quite a few vegetarian options there. It is also a good place to get it to go without having to meet a Dominos or Papa Johns at the very front of the hotel.

Cheap Desserts

There are three places that have pretty good desserts (If your in the mood for them in January). They are:

-Ben and Jerry (Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt).
-Cake Love (Best Cupcake and bakery place in DC area.)
-Pinkberry (Frozen Yogurt)


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 7th, 2012 01:04 am (UTC)
Yeah, we got "taken out to eat" for a company meeting at that Elevation Burger once, and boy did it suck. One of my coworkers just threw his food in the trash; it was basically inedible. Maybe the ones out west don't suck, but I wouldn't bet on it. I'd rather go to the Alexandria Fuddruckers across the bridge.
Dec. 9th, 2012 02:17 am (UTC)
Elevation Burger was OK the last time I went with some friends. It seems like they're trying to be like In-n-Out but without the simple menu. The shakes are fine, and the burgers/fries are fine. Just some of the people working there copped an attitude with some of the other customers, and that I didn't like. YMMV.
Dec. 7th, 2012 05:38 am (UTC)
This is a pretty good dining guide! Have you considered submitting it to Katsu and Magfest for use on their site,too? :)
Dec. 7th, 2012 12:26 pm (UTC)
I've thought about it and plan to do it this weekend to both. I don't know what either group will say.
Dec. 9th, 2012 02:30 am (UTC)
That McD's is a bit of a hike from the Gaylord. If the map on Google is right, it's at the base of the off/on-ramp from the Beltway, most likely the first thing you'll see once you exit the Beltway. It will still be busy most likely, but a bit of a hike still.

As I mentioned before, Elevation Burger is pretty decent, at least the last time me and my friends went there. A great variety of shakes and burgers as well. Yes, it's going to be busy. But if you're with friends, the wait won't be too bad.

I could almost justify Bobby McKey's or any other such fun piano bar if it's the day before the beginning of the Con, or the last night of the Con. (A bunch of AMVers would go up to Howl at the Moon on the night before Otakon.)

Potbelly is awesome, actually. I would highly recommend getting their big sandwiches from them.

Cadillac Ranch is a very fun place, especially after dark. They have a mechanical bull in a corner and it's fun to watch all the guys try to stay on it, especially while they're drunk. I highly, highly recommend the nachos with the pulled pork. It's a very pleasant surprise.

Don't go to Ketchup. The food's nothing to write home about, and the prices do not reflect the portion sizes.

If you're staying in the Gaylord, National Pastimes is a good place to go for dinner.
Jan. 28th, 2013 10:57 pm (UTC)
Oh - here's another tip. Some of these restaurants have call-ahead or online ordering. USE THIS. It will save you a lot of headaches.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )



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