As a Christmas present for my husband, I purchased tickets to a concert at the Kennedy Center this past weekend, and when reservations opened this spring for the Top of the Gate, I made one for post-concert appetizers and drinks. We travel a lot, and go to the Kennedy Center frequently. This seemed like a no brainer. When I called, the reservationist at Top of the Gate was very clear about a $50 per person minimum. I was fine with all of this, figuring the view and the experience would be worth it, and we were looking forward to our first visit to this renovated hotel, especially the rooftop bar with views of the Potomac.
I can't say that I've ever experienced such a disconnect between the expectations created by the venue's promotion and the actual experience. This past Sunday was the date of our event. I called them when the concert was running a little bit long, and they moved me to a new reservation time. We rushed to get there on time, and when we arrived, the hostess greeted us and said "are you aware of our minimum?" What a welcome. I assured her that we were aware of it, and she showed us to a set of sofas and a table with a view of their rooftop AV towers (at least I think that's what they were, I didn't ask) and their cable dishes. It turned out that the entire section of tables with any desirable view at all was roped off for a group that was having a terrific time at the bar. During our entire visit, the tables remained empty.
We had a two-hour drive home ahead of us, so we decided to make the best of it, order some food and drinks, and get on the road. We ordered a few things from their very limited menu. None of it was better than mediocre. A bit flavorless, and kind of typical hotel food. We did not spend the minimum of $50 per person, and perhaps sensing that we were less than happy with the experience, they did not charge us anything extra beyond the food and drinks we ordered. Nevertheless, we spend $100 (including gratuity) on three light appetizers and two glasses of wine.
At this venue, you are definitely paying for the view... it's not the menu, and it's not the quality of the food. When you don't get the view, the value proposition struggles mightily. The staff are not engaged enough to anticipate when the experience they're delivering doesn't speak well for them. Although we began this process excited to see the place, I can't imagine what it would take for us to return, and that's unfortunate. It's so convenient to the Kennedy Center, but such a disappointment. If you're planning a special occasion or prioritize value in your purchases, be wary.