This is Concierge Confidential, a series in which we learn about a city’s best-kept secrets from people who specialize in exactly that: long-serving concierges from the best hotels in town.
No one knows a city like the concierge at its most in-demand hotel — which is exactly why we asked the Four Seasons DC’s Michael Chase to tell us what’s up. Consider this a comprehensive to-do list for the months to come, whether you’re in town for the cherry blossoms or there for good.
What’s an underutilized part of your hotel?
Not everyone realizes we have a swimming pool. Located in The Spa, we have a salt water lap pool and a Jacuzzi tub that are excellent for relaxing and recharging after a day of visiting the city.
Where can I get a cup of coffee near the hotel and go for a good walk?
A couple blocks from Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC you’ll find Baked & Wired — stop in for a cold brew and a cupcake to enjoy as you walk around Georgetown. Be sure to include the C & O (Chesapeake and Ohio-Georgetown Branch) Canal and Georgetown Harbor. You can then easily walk from the harbor to the Lincoln Memorial.
Where do singles hang out?
Any outdoor bar, but especially on 14th Street, NW! Some of the more popular spots are Barcelona Wine Bar (1622 14th St NW) or the Pearl Dive Oyster Bar (1612 14th St NW).
How about a restaurant where only locals go?
A great, undiscovered neighborhood with superb dining is the Palisades area of Washington, DC just a few miles west of the Four Seasons Hotel. My favorite is Black Salt, an outstanding local seafood restaurant and market.
Late night spot where I can get into a bit of trouble? (But not too much trouble!)
The neighborhood of Adams Morgan, especially along 18th Street, NW in particular, is a huge draw for the late-night revelers! The Diner (2453 18th Street) is also a super choice for late night trouble.
The Old Ebbitt Grill (675 15th Street) is a classic DC restaurant in the shadows of the Department of Treasury and enjoyed by many White House and Treasury staffers during the day. Be sure to slurp down some oysters or enjoy their world famous jumbo lump crab cake before you go back to your room. Sit in the main bar or club-like dining room.
Best cheap eats in town?
In Georgetown, there is Chaia Taco, made with almost entirely vegetables. Just a short walk from the Four Seasons Hotel. They do have a total of three restaurants, but Georgetown is by far the closest. Other branches are in Chinatown or Bethesda, MD
Amsterdam Falafel Shop in Adams Morgan is that neighborhood’s favorite cheap eats, especially if you are rabble-rousing in the area. Be sure to have their French fries!
Where can I go for the best dessert?
My favorite dessert is the chocolate profiteroles at Le Diplomate. They are freshly made with a delectable pastry, ice cream, banana and smooth dark chocolate to top it all off. Quite simply, heaven on earth.
Best place for a sunset cocktail?
Vue at Hotel Washington has the very best view of the White House, Washington Monument, and Department of Treasury you can get anywhere in DC without needing a security clearance. Sunset off to the west will be captivating with some of the DC monuments in the foreground! Go for the view from the rooftop terrace and enjoy classic and innovative cocktails.
Fiola Mare on the Waterfront. Great for people watching and watching the sunset. Be sure to share the lobster ravioli and ask for an outdoor seat if weather permits. It has a warm and cozy interior with prime tables facing the Potomac riverfront, but on the perfect day sitting outside is a delight. You get the panoramic views and beautiful river breeze. It is the quietest “see and be seen” restaurant in town.
Summit, the rooftop at the Conrad Washington, DC hotel has a wonderful urban view of DC from almost every vantage point and an excellent selection of beer, wine, and spirits.
Where to go if I want to see politicians making deals?
Seasons Restaurant at our hotel – the ultimate power breakfast spot in DC
Where should I go in the area for a day spent outside?
I suggest an urban walk around the National Mall – walking from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building and back! You see the highlights of DC all together, which would include most of our Smithsonian Museums, the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, World War II Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, White House, and just beyond the Capitol is the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court.
Don’t forget to visit the outdoor sculpture gardens at National Gallery of Art (north side of the mall) or at the Hirshhorn Museum (south side of the mall).
Where’s a good spot to snap an Instagram-worthy photo?
Our neighborhood – the streets just outside the hotel in Georgetown. Beautiful historic row houses painted in a kaleidoscope of color!
What’s the easiest way to get around town, in terms of transportation?
DC has a great metro and bus system, in particular our Metro. You can get almost anywhere in town by metro from Arlington Cemetery to Bethesda and beyond!
What’s a lesser-known cultural institution worth visiting?
We are the museum capital of the world! We have museums for nearly every interest here in DC, with remarkable small, medium, and large collections. My very favorite small museum is Hillwood Museum and Garden, which is the home of famed heiress to the Post Cereal fortune, Marjorie Merriwether Post. This is the largest collection of Russian decorative arts outside of Russia, and the museum also features beautiful, pristine gardens. Hillwood makes a big splash during Pride Month (this is where “fabulous lives”).
A wonderful mid-size museum in our famed Dupont Circle neighborhood called The Phillips Collection. This was our nation’s first modern art museum and home to Renoir’s famed “Luncheon of the Boating Party.”
What’s a cool architectural site that’s not mobbed with tourists?
Glenstone Museum. Glenstone is a place that seamlessly integrates art, architecture, and nature into a serene and contemplative environment. You need a car to get there, but it is worth it and advance tickets are mandatory.
What’s the best thing you can only get in DC?
World famous Ben’s Chili Bowl! [Editor’s note: We got a priceless recipe from Ben’s for their world-famous half-smokes right here.] Just the best chili and veggie chili in the world! Also known to be great for cheap eats but the vibe of Ben’s on a busy night, just a party! I was there the day after Michael Jackson’s passing and it turned into a true tribute party!
What’s the best thing you can only do in DC
Visit so many world class museums for free! It is truly incredible. From the Smithsonian Museums (155 million pieces in storage and on display), Smithsonian Zoo to the National Gallery of Art, both the East and West Wings boast collections that rival every other art museum in the world. They have it all with more than 150,000 sculptures, decorative arts, prints, drawings, photographs, and paintings. Don’t forget to visit the outdoor sculpture garden, and the ice rink in the winter.
What’s something I can say or do to endear myself to locals?
Stand on the right when going down the Metro escalators. Just like driving. Stay to the right and pass on the left. Besides that, hello, please and thank you!
What’s something that tourists tend to do that really annoys locals?
Sightsee while driving your own car. Please keep your eyes on the road.
What’s an item or activity that tourists tend to get ripped off on? Any tips on how to avoid that?
There are so many places you can visit for free, please remember that all Washington, DC Smithsonians and National Gallery of Art are free. On rare occasion, some special exhibits like a butterfly habitat, (IMAX) movie or planetarium charge a fee. Access to the White House is very very limited. Please, be skeptical if a tour company promises you an interior visit. Start there and you will have an incredible stay in Washington, DC.
I’m looking for a low-key brunch. Where to?
Go to Martin’s Tavern if you want to sit at a table where President Kennedy sat (called the dugout) or where he proposed to Jacqueline. It is also just down the block from the last home they occupied before the White House. Martin’s Tavern is legendary in Georgetown as a small quaint pub with outstanding food. Go for a personally crafted omelet or pancakes, and make sure to have a Bloody Mary.
What’s the one thing everyone forgets to pack? Or the one thing everyone should remember to pack when visiting?
Very comfortable walking shoes, sunblock and a hat! Also – a sharp outfit for going out – DC can be a fashion forward city, contrary to popular belief!
Finally, what’s the best book to read about the area before I come?
I have two suggestions, one pictorial, “Washington, A Pictorial Celebration” by Jeanne Fogle Lyons and one a novel “Empire of Mud: The Secret History of Washington, DC” by J. D. Dickey.
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