The Normandy Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Saving a couple of hundred dollars when you're staying in D.C. might feel like a drop in the ocean compared with the sums Congress is arguing over. But for ordinary folks like us, it's a big deal. The Normandy is a 75-room hotel that feels far more luxurious than the bargain rates (often as low as $109 per night) suggest. Located on a leafy side street within walking distance of Dupont Circle's restaurants and bars, the Normandy juxtaposes Old World touches like toile wallpaper with a clean, neutral palette and leather headboards. Service is friendly and efficient, and there's a host of perks (free Wi-Fi, Nespresso coffee machines in the rooms, wine and cheese receptions). It all adds up to a pleasant stay, and, dare we say, the best value in the District.
And while you're in town...
Madeleine Albright, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg have all been spotted in Bibiana's buzzy dining room. So, what's the draw? Chef Nicholas Stefanelli applies a light touch to pasta dishes such as citrus agnolotti (airy pillows perked up with tangy ricotta) and buttery Maryland lump crab on a rich tangle of squid ink spaghetti. The confident yet unobtrusive service is a welcome plus, too.
The tiny Columbia Room is part apothecary, part Japanese omakase experience. Owner and master of ceremonies Derek Brown chips ice from a wooden hangiri while holding forth on the chemistry of tinctures and the history of tiki. Tipplers tend to linger, taste-testing new recipes, mellowing out to the acoustic indie soundtrack, and ordering one last cocktail. We suggest the martini, the perfect marriage of precision (Brown uses a thermometer) and flair (that cut crystal coupe!).
Photo: Courtesy of the Normandy Hotel