It might not be the golden age of hotels, but it feels like the golden age of hotels in D.C. From The Line to Eaton to the Conrad (and many more) you have a slew of choices if you want to have a cool staycation, or if your hip friends are coming to town. For people seeing a show at the Capital One Arena or checking out a new art exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, there’s a sleek new hotel in the mix. Riggs Hotel, which opened this week on the corner of F Street and 9th Street NW, is immaculately designed from head to toe, has an all day brasserie filled with vegan options and features one of the most exciting cocktail programs we’ve seen in years.
Named and styled after the Riggs National Bank, which opened on that corner in 1891, the hotel digs deep into the history of banking. Designer Jacu Strauss wanted to preserve and highlight the hotel’s vintage fixtures, including the original bank vault door. To push the theme even further, he transformed the check in desk into a classic brass bank teller counter and added faux antique mirrors to boot.
His most stunning designs are found across the hall from the concierge, in the bright and airy Cafe Riggs. Menu-wise it’s a classic brasserie with a smattering of contemporary elements (including a slew of vegan plates and a $98 grilled cheese) but design-wise it’s a wonderland of color. Most diners will be taken with the one piece of traditional art in the room, a giant museum-esque glass case filled with paper flowers made by a Ukrainian artist, but the furniture itself is a work of art. Some of the pieces, including the mustard colored geometric chairs, were designed by Strauss himself.
Helmed by Chef Patrick Curran, the menu stands up to the grand design of the room. A mixture of seafood, pastas, breakfast staples and what Curran calls “plant dishes,” Cafe Riggs is a little bit of everything. You can snack on $13 Brussels sprouts (which come with a divine mixture of apples candied cashews and golden raisins, we would come back for this dish alone) or you can go all out and spring for that caviar grilled cheese, which will set you back a very cool and casual $98. The Riggs Burger might be the move if you’re popping in for a bite before a Caps game, but if you’re hanging out for a while, the grilled octopus with its red pepper romesco is a good way to kick off the evening.
Wander out of the light filled cafe and down into the plush hallways of the basement and you’ll find yourself in a very different type of space. With its red accents and dark corners, Silver Lyan, the first bar opened by the cocktail creative Ryan Chetiyawardana outside of Europe, is made for late night revelry. It’s a jewel box of a room, filled with random trophies and silver mirrors as well as plush seating, but all of the peripherals take a backseat to Chetiyawardana’s wild cocktail menu.
Inspired by important historical moments, Silver Lyan looks at history through a very wacky and boozy lens. The Japanese Saddle, which is inspired by the cherry blossoms and features leather bitters, and the Project Manhattan, which comes with a gusher-esque sphere of cherry and orange flavors sitting at the bottom of the glass. If you were going to get one drink (and you don’t have enough cash for the $375 Presidential Gift cocktail), make it the baseball themed Bases Loaded. A remix of a New York Sour, the combination of Maker’s Mark and lemon paired with the golden whey and chokeberry float makes for the kind of drink that evolves as you sip on it.
For travelers and homebodies alike, the Riggs Hotel is another exciting hotel in a city that is building up an armory of excellent options. Hotel restaurants and hotel bars can’t rest on their laurels when you’ve got places like this.
Riggs Hotel is located at 900 F Street NW.