The newest jewel in the MGM lion’s mane is the MGM National Harbor and even though it’s barely two months old, it’s already turning heads (not stomachs) with its insanely impressive culinary lineup. The MGM team flew me out to have a look under the hood last week and I left with a full belly and a case of inflamed jealousy after learning that I can’t eat there every weekend.
With 15 dining options and the celebrity chef triumvirate of Jose Andres, Marcus Samuelsson, and the Voltaggio Brothers (Michael and Bryan), the gastronomically-inclined may decide to skip the monuments in nearby DC and head directly to National Harbor, the new retail and dining district on the waterfront in Maryland, just across the river from Alexandria, VA and only ten miles from the White House. Even the room service is impressive with a full menu available 24 hours a day from the team at Marcus, the eponymous restaurant from Samuelsson, the Swedish-Ethiopian super chef.
Feel like fish? Jose Andres has you covered with his upscale casual dinner-only spot, appropriately named Fish. The menu focuses on seafood from local Maryland waters and beyond. That photo above? That’s vermicelli mac ‘n’ cheese absolutely smothered by lump crab meat. Yum doesn’t even start to do it justice. The whole menu runs the nautical gamut and I left dinner stuffed more full than the lobster jambalaya that I had the pleasure to gorge myself on.
That picture that you’re drooling over is the St. Hill’s Shrimp and Grits from Marcus. The restaurant serves as the property’s de-facto diner and with Chef Samuelsson’s status in Harlem nearing legendary, it’s no wonder that there’s an undercurrent of soul food flavors coloring just about everything on the menu. You can find other favorites like fried chicken, blackened catfish, and jerk pork chops on offer along with a “fire-charred” red cabbage steak just in case you’re traveling with a vegan (or — gasp! — happen to be one yourself).
The third of the big-name chef outlets at MGM National Harbor is a collaboration between two chef-brothers/brother-chefs who live on opposite coasts and captured the hearts and minds of America on Top Chef. The Voltaggio Brothers Steak House is a literal house built in the MGM with different dining rooms that mimic different areas of a traditional home, right down to the most innovative “chef’s table” I’ve ever seen: a full dining area in the actual kitchen (not just a single table like you see in other restaurants offering a chef’s table). The menu is reinvented steakhouse, something of a trend these days as nobody seems to be opening up old school steak spots anymore.
You don’t just get beef here. No sir. Instead, you’ve got your choice of American wagyu beef, USDA Prime 45-day dry-aged, and classic USDA Prime. Honestly, you can’t go wrong. If you like your meat super tender, hit the wagyu. If you’re into funk, grab the dry-aged. If you have no idea, plain ‘ol Prime is going to be perfect for you. The rest of the menu is filled with cheffy takes on steakhouse staples, like the Bloomsdale spinach with aerated cheddar cheese and shallots that take the place of your standard creamed spinach. The photo above is the Carolina Gold rice with sea beans and a line-up of sea urchin. It’s stellar. Full disclosure: I’ve worked with the Voltaggio brothers before on a series of Cooking Channel TV specials.
If you’d rather go more casual, you’ll be extremely happy at the National Market where the outdated term “food court” has transformed into a grandiose FOOD HALL. Crab cakes, sushi, pizza, ice cream, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera are all available here and the price point is great. Try the chicken tacos. Just trust me on that.
Overall, the MGM National Harbor offers a fantastic dining destination to anyone in the DC area who wants to escape the hubbub of downtown DC and spend some time in PG County with a few of your favorite TV chefs and a whole lot of good grub.