Harth, on pretty much all accounts, is a really good restaurant. It’s beautiful, the service is top notch and the food is inventive and tasty. Plus, its dishes are made with locally-sourced ingredients, including many that come from its own garden. It doesn’t get much more local than that.
The fancy Tysons restaurant housed in the McLean Hilton hotel is certainly a stunner. Entering through the elegant hotel lobby may make one want to double check their fly or second-guess their choice of attire but, rest assured, the welcoming hosts and servers do an excellent job putting any I’m-too-
casual-for-this-swanky-joint fears at ease. The fanciness continues into the restaurant as flames dance between the glass panes of several decorative fire displays sprinkled throughout the dining room and, like something out of a couture Dr. Seuss book, a collection of purple alligator-skin throw pillows accompany its silky white plush booths. If they ever decide to nix the food, Harth would make an excellent nightclub.
Popular with the business lunch crowd, the dining room gets packed at midday during the week but tends to thin out come dinner time. Lunch was also my preferred time to dine here as the menu is more approachable than the evening’s, with smaller dishes like burgers and sandwiches. Harth touts its farm-to-table approach and the wait staff makes sure diners know it. The ghost chili aioli in the chicken and avocado sandwich, our server told us, was made using chilis harvested from Harth’s own garden, though the spread using one of the world’s hottest peppers didn’t register a blip on our heat index. A squirt of Sriracha would have been hotter.
Conversely, the bacon jam inside the stuffed burger, made with honey from Harth’s rooftop beehive, is outstanding and permeates each and every bite of the dish. The sweet-and-smoky mix is downright addicting and plays perfectly with the salty beef, sharp cheddar and fried onions on top. At $17, we rather it was served with fries instead of Harth’s somewhat chewy housemade potato chips but because of the burger’s excellence, we can overlook the subpar spuds.
As for dinner, it’s hard to use a word to describe the menu other than “expensive.” Small plates are priced like entrees and the cheapest main dish – a vegetable casserole – is $25. If you’re looking for meat, you’ll need to pony up 26 bucks for the roasted half chicken and the smallest steak, the petit filet mignon, will cost you a cool $35. A lower-priced option is the flatbread (also available during lunch) fired in Harth’s wood-burning oven. The pseudo pizzas start at $14 for a basic tomato, mozzarella and basil margherita and run all the way up to $23 for one with smoked salmon and crab. We opted for the $21 spiced lamb and cucumber option but with a measly four slices per order, despite a delightfully salty and crunchy crust that maintains its crispy integrity from start to finish, it’s still just a bunch of veggies and a rather small smattering of ground lamb on bread. Five-plus bucks a sliver is hard to stomach.
On the bright side, dinner also means a complimentary bread basket accompanied by even more of that amazing bacon jam. What’s even better, they’ll refill your basket and jam once you inevitably polish it off, helping to take the sting out of the premium-priced dishes.
Maybe we’re being unfair. This is a hotel restaurant in the middle of a bustling business center poised to become “America’s Next Great City” after all. We can’t blame a place that caters to expense accounts and those with enough money to stay – and eat – at a Hilton on vacation. And that bacon jam is seriously delicious.
But for us, if we’re feeling flatbread in the future, the Little City’s own Zpizza makes a mean pear and gorgonzola for just nine bucks.
Harth | 7920 Jones Branch Dr. | McLean | 703-847-5000 | hiltonmclean.com/harth