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Dave Golokhov

MGM National Harbor: Vegas Flair Meets Maryland Charm

Where to eat and drink at the new Maryland resort

MGM National Harbor opened its doors in early December,and in three short months it’s reinvented the casino landscape in Maryland. Located just minutes away from Washington, D.C., the MGM National Harbor brings a real Vegas-like flavor to the east coast. 

In the past, a “Vegas-like flavor” would simply mean a casino with tables, games, and slots. Nowadays, that taste of Vegas that we love includes star-studded restaurants, creative cocktails, and exclusive retail. MGM National Harbor, which is located right on the banks of the Potomac River, is replete with celebrity chefs like Marcus Samuelsson, José Andrés, and the Voltaggio Brothers. To get a better idea of the offering, we made a first-hand visit to MGM National Harbor and ate our way through the lavish menus. Read on to get a taste. 

Dave Golokhov

Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse

The Voltaggio Brothers, well known from their excellence in the sixth season of Bravo’s Top Chef, have finally teamed up for their first co-owned restaurant. Each has multiple successful restaurants of his own, but now they’ve partnered to open up a family joint in the MGM National Harbor. “Voltaggio Brothers Steak House is our take on a traditional steakhouse,” says Bryan. “The space is designed to look and feel like you're being welcomed into someone's home — there's a living room, a family room, a dine-in kitchen, and a communal sense about the food since it's served family-style.”

Dave Golokhov

Best Bite

Steaks are the stars of this show. The restaurant offers a wide variety of cuts, from filets to flat irons to ribeyes. Whichever you order, make sure you taste the house-made steak sauce. The meat is delicious on its own, but the signature steak sauce is a cut above.

Dave Golokhov

Fish by José Andrés

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressive fish restaurant in North America. José Andrés latest addition to his restaurant collection is an ode to fish — as you likely guessed. There are enough individual tanks in the restaurant for them charge admission as an aquarium. The menu includes a plethora of different oyster types, as well as sea urchin and even geoduck clam, which is one of the longest-living animals in the world. Then there’s the Maryland Fry Bar, featuring multiple tasting menus, where your seafood selections are lightly battered and fried before your eyes. The restaurant’s patio hosts a bar (where there will be crawfish boils in the summer) and a beautiful dining area with Potomac views.

Dave Golokhov

Best Bite

It’s hard to pass up the whole fish preparations, which are made in the restaurant’s unique oven, but the shrimp and grits are fantastic. You’ll find a pleasant Cajun spice in the dish that emphasizes the hat tip to the South. The plot twist is the Anson Mills blue corn grits, which add a purple tint to the dish.

Dave Golokhov

Marcus

Acclaimed chef and renowned Chopped judge Marcus Samuelsson headlines Marcus, which is a restaurant with a lot of soul. A lot of the dishes are based on American classic comfort foods like fried chicken, pot pies, and steak frites, but all have Marcus’ spin.

Dave Golokhov

Best Bite

“The salmon poke bowl we make here at Marcus at MGM National Harbor is very unique,” says Samuelsson. While I fully agree, the fried yard bird is what you need in your life. It’s two perfectly fried pieces of chicken seasoned with — among other things — berbere, an Ethiopian spice mix. It’s a really light dusting, but it’s that coating that helps it stand out from the crowd.

Dave Golokhov

National Market

The food court is going to cater to many of the bettors on the casino floor who just want a quick bite. Hopefully they appreciate that MGM has upped the ante for what a food court should look like. For starters, there’s a Shake Shack. There’s also an ode to the Maryland locals with Pappas Crabcakes, a quality sushi spot in Bento, and a trendy spot for sweet endings with S’Cream.

Dave Golokhov

Best Bite

My favorite bites came from the District Deli’s delicious Reuben. After some late-night drinking, the salty meats and melted cheese warmed my heart. MGM National Harbor’s Jason Johnston recommends trying the pizza from Zizi’s, which is named after his grandmother. “My favorite dish is the Carne Pizza at Zizi’s. It takes me back to Sunday dinners as a kid,” says Johnston. “This recipe truly pays homage to my family, as it combines my mother’s delicious meatballs with my grandmother’s signature pizza dough. With each bite, I am reminded of some of my favorite childhood memories.” 

Dave Golokhov

Lobby Bar

You could easily walk past the Lobby Bar without thinking twice, but that would be a mistake. The backlit bar feels warmly inviting — and it’s an invitation you should accept. This is not just your average lobby bar; a great deal of detail and love have been put into their cocktail menu. “Lobby Bar’s cocktail menu features organic, hand-crafted selections — everything here is natural and fresh,” says Ricardo Murcia, MGM National Harbor’s Beverage Director. “We use six different types of ice within our cocktail program, including diamond and triangle shaped ice blocks, and we have an essence program where we utilize the “essence” of fruits, herbs, and other flavors to enhance the senses. Lobby Bar also offers an extensive variety of spirits selected exclusively for MGM National Harbor.”

Dave Golokhov

Best Cocktail

Lobby Bar’s Manhattans are on-point — especially the smoked ones — but if you want to try something really outside the box, order a martini with a caviar cube or any drink that’s served in the glass shaped like Sherlock Holmes’ pipe.

Dave Golokhov

Bellagio Patisserie

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not easy to find good, authentic French baked bread in North America. That being said, Bellagio Patisserie is as authentic as it gets. They fly in their butter from France and don’t spare any details when it comes to their airy croissants or meticulous chocolate creations. That’s no surprise, given who oversees the operation: Sylvain Bortolini. He’s worked the pastries in several Michelin-starred restaurants and won the World Chocolate Master Competition (USA) in 2015.

Dave Golokhov

Best Bite

 “My favorite dessert is our raspberry Chambord mousse cake followed by a scoop of our house-made vanilla ice cream,” says Bortolini. “I do not believe that pastries should be overly sweet, and this cake has just the right amount of sweetness. I enjoy the bold raspberry flavor paired with the crunch from the butter cookie. It is light and refreshing and leaves me just the right amount of room to finish it off with a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream.”

Dave Golokhov

Ginger

Asian restaurants often get typecast as rugged speed-eateries where the finer details are neglected, but Ginger is the complete opposite. It’s clean and classy, with excellent service. “The concept was developed by myself and a team of expert chefs from MGM Resorts’ properties in Las Vegas,” says Andy Lau, the restaurant’s executive chef. “At Ginger we offer authentic Pan-Asian options, including Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean fare inspired by different regions throughout Asia.”

Dave Golokhov

Best Bite

Peking duck is one of my go-tos whenever I see it on a menu, but Ginger’s version is a little different — it’s modernized. The first course is served with carved duck meat and skin along with scallions, hoisin sauce, and steamed buns. For the second course, they serve eight crisp lettuce cups filled with minced duck meat that’s been stir-fried with mixed vegetables and hoisin sauce. I still love the classic version (usually served with thin pancakes) but this is a delicious departure from the norm.

Dave Golokhov

Felt Bar & Lounge

On the casino floor, there are a couple of places for a fantastic cocktail. The bartenders all brainstorm together, so you can’t really go wrong at any of the spots. While Blossom has more of a gaming feel to it, Felt’s setting feels more like nightlife. “There is something special at Felt every night, ranging from televised sports events to DJs,” says Antony Sazerac, the lead mixologist. “It's a distillation of everything that makes Las Vegas lounges great, with a local D.C. twist!”

Dave Golokhov

Best Drink

“We are the only venue on the East Coast that features this type of experience, where each drink is made by the bartender on a cart right at your table,” says Sazerac. Do yourself a favor and order the Joey Smokestack — the preparation alone is worth the price of entry. Part of the show is watching the bartender use a syringe to inject Baileys into marshmallows, which are then served as a garnish for the drink.

Dave Golokhov

Blossom Cocktail Lounge

Blossom Cocktail Lounge is located in the center of the casino. It’s specifically in that spot to make you feel like you’re the center of attention. Everything about it feels swanky and “high roller” — including the stemware. They’ve gone out of their way to find some unique glasses for their unique drinks.

Dave Golokhov

Best Drink

“The Dom-arita is easily the coolest item on the menu,” says Sazerac. “It features Don Julio 1942 tequila, Grand Marnier Quintessence, and an entire bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne. It's served in a beautiful crystal-etched decanter and serves up to 10 people.”

Dave Golokhov

Tap Sports Bar

Being a foodie and a big sports fan presents quite the conundrum: There’s usually nothing worse than eating at a sports bar. Believe it or not, some guys enjoy eating more than pizza and wings. Apparently, someone else felt the same way, because Tap has a fantastic menu. “There’s still over 90 screens to watch your favorite team, but we also deliver a vibrant take on American comfort food,” says Tap’s executive chef, Henry Dudley.

Dave Golokhov

Best Bite

Tap’s chili is among the best ones you’ll find anywhere. It’s a modern take on an old classic, as they use chunks of brisket along with butternut squash. Of course, it’s soaked in a smoked, mildly spicy tomato base, which I’d be happy to order by the glass. Lilly’s creole gumbo will also feed your soul. It’s an ode to the chef’s grandmother, who was from New Orleans. “She lived most of her life in the Gulf Coast [region] of Mississippi,” says Dudley. “She actually taught me the recipe as a child, and I developed it for this restaurant concept. It contains dark roux, shrimp, smoked sausage, stewed okra, seafood broth, rice, and scallions.”

Dave Golokhov

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