Once a neglected part of Washington, D.C.’s southwest waterfront, The Wharf transformed into one of the capital’s hottest neighborhoods. New restaurants, bars, apartments, condos, parks, squares and piers flank the one-mile stretch along the Potomac. On any given day, you will find joggers hitting the trail early in the morning, people rocking on the pier’s oversized wooden swings and families roasting s’mores at a firepit.
The neighborhood’s $3.6 billion revival retains the area’s sense of history. Open since 1805, The Municipal Fish Market — the country’s oldest continuously operating open-air fish market —sells oysters, lobsters and crabs, and the Capital Yacht Club, founded in 1892, still calls the spot home. The development ushers in new institutions as well, including The Anthem, a 6,000-capacity live music venue. The project marked the largest addition of public space to the city since the National Mall’s redesign in 1902. The final piece was the October debut of Pendry Washington DC – The Wharf, which gave travelers a modern hotel where they can stay and experience the area.
Dining and Drinking
The newest property from the Pendry brand, the younger sibling to Montage Hotels & Resorts, stands out from the buildings lining the waterfront. The modernist structure looks like stacked glass cubes angled toward the waves, with each floor pushing closer to the water as you go up.
A must-visit spot is the rooftop for Moonraker (whose name refers to the square sail above a skysail). The lounge’s bold black-and-white-striped flooring leads to a black round bar encircled by navy stools with dangling light bulbs overhead. The walls of windows open when the weather warms up so you can get closer to the sweeping Potomac views. There’s also cushy seating on the spacious wraparound terrace, and some of the armchairs cluster around firepits to make evenings cozier.
Soak up the view with a light, refreshing Cuzu highball (Roku gin, St-Germain, cucumber, yuzu, mint and Fever Tree lime-yuzu soda) or a mellow, fruity Tokyo to Tuscany (Nikka vodka, Galliano liqueur, orange juice, salted demerara and a red wine float). Order light Japanese dishes like the Tokyo fried chicken, crunchy bites of battered dark meat with kimchi aioli; pan-fried shrimp dumplings that pack some heat with chili oil; and spicy tuna atop logs of crispy rice. And save room for the seasonal profiteroles (we had bright yuzu with a honey-butterscotch sauce).
While the lobby’s art-nouveau-inspired Bar Pendry doesn’t boast water vistas, it’s an elegant draw with a dark, speakeasy-like vibe. Burrow into one of the curved booth alcoves outfitted with navy wallpaper with golden palm trees and a modern light fixture resembling chic oversized gold paperclips. Then order the tropical, pineapple-laden Aggregate Hospitality (with Stiggins pineapple-infused rum, pineapple and lime juices and pineapple syrup — the fruit has long been a symbol of hospitality) and elevated snacks like addictive small lobster corn dogs and deviled eggs topped with caviar and chives.
For some privacy, opt to sit in the curtained-off sultry, deep-red room with low-slung chairs and dim lighting.
Tucked into the D.C. hotel’s second floor, all-day, Latin-influenced restaurant Flora Flora overlooks the square out front and the river beyond it. Arrive early to snag a prime table next to the floor-to-ceiling windows and enjoy the tranquil boat-dotted waters alongside the Wharf Benedict, a local dish with thick crab cakes and poached eggs slathered in Old Bay hollandaise.
At dinnertime, wake up your palate with Flora Flora’s fresh, bright scallops aguachile with paddlefish caviar, avocado, cucumber and pomegranate. Then move onto the juicy New York strip from Maryland’s Roseda Farms crowned with salsa asadera. Add on the comforting cranberry beans a la olla with masa dumplings and green garlic as a side. For dessert, try the maple-flavored lucuma ice cream, which hides in a pyramid of chocolate layers. Your server will drizzle rum-chocolate sauce from D.C. distiller Cotton & Reed. Or go with a pisco sour — we enjoyed the Mayan Mango with mango, lime, simple syrup and a foamy egg white.
As the temperatures rise, Pendry’s second-floor outdoor saltwater pool offers a respite. The pool juts out alongside the hotel past its perimeter, putting you even closer to the river but also offering a great perspective of the building’s sharp angles.
When you aren’t swimming or soaking in the hot tub, retreat to a TV-equipped cabana or under one of the black-and-white-striped umbrellas.
For maximum relaxation, head over to the nearby Spa Pendry. Wait in the lounge featuring gray wood and cream stone with fruit-infused water or herbal or green tea until one of the five treatment rooms is ready. There, you’ll be treated to an indulgent service like the Harbor + Stone Massage, which includes a revitalizing salt scrub and a lull-you-to-sleep massage using heated basalt stones and cashmere oil. Our knowledgeable therapist immediately detected a problem area on our back and took time after the treatment was over to offer tips for stretches that would help loosen those muscles. Her keen attention made us want to return for more massages.
Carve out time afterward to further unwind in the eucalyptus steam room (there’s one in each locker room).
At the end of the day, retire to one of the 131 accommodations, which have a neutral look in mostly white with pops of peacock blue and mustard. Details like wood floors with circular rugs, black metal four-poster beds dressed in white Fili D’Oro linens and rounded corners in everything from doorways to mirrors lend them a clean, contemporary feel. The white marble bathrooms come with walk-in glass showers and MiN New York toiletries.
While all rooms feature big-picture windows, the River View accommodations give you the best glimpse of the Potomac.
Exploring The Wharf
Just outside the luxury hotel, you’ll find two Gordon Ramsay eateries, the casual Fish and Chips and the two-story, more formal Hell’s Kitchen. Limani, an offshoot of the NYC seafood restaurant specializing in Greek and Cypriot cuisine, will open here soon.
There are many more culinary options along the water. You’ll find D.C. favorites like District Doughnut, Rappahannock Oyster Bar and Hank’s Oyster Bar alongside chef-driven restaurants like Kaliwa, a Filipino, Korean and Thai fusion spot from Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong, and soon-to-open NYC import Philippe by Philippe Chow. We enjoyed brunch (get the popular poplette and the bucatini alla carbonara) at Officina, noted local chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s three-story ode to Italian cuisine with a market, bar and restaurant, and rooftop seating.
If you want to kick back with a drink, look for the waterfront smokestack emblazoned with “Make rum not war.” It’s the home of Tiki TNT, a three-floor tiki temple with a bar and rum distillery. Ask the aloha-shirted bartender to shake up a Pandan Colada, a creamy, electric-green cocktail with the made-in-house Thrasher’s Coconut Rum and pandan coconut cream garnished with a mini umbrella, pineapple wedge and orchid that transports you to a tropical island with one sip.
Afterward, stroll the waterfront and peruse Politics and Prose, an outpost of the beloved independent D.C. bookstore, and Shop Made in DC, which carries goods ranging from home décor to jewelry, all made by locals. If you want to venture off the Wharf, the fun, interactive Spy Museum is a 13-minute walk from Pendry. Just be sure to come back to Moonraker in time to see the sunset from the terrace.