McLean Robbins

Correspondent

  • Washington, D.C., USA

McLean Robbins is a Forbes Travel Guide correspondent who lives in Washington, D.C. The freelance luxury lifestyle writer specializes in travel, hotels, spas, weddings and social media for national magazines and websites. Her work has appeared in publications including Robb Report, AOL, The Washington Post, The Washingtonian, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, DailyCandy and many more. She is also an experienced digital content and SEO strategist, working with businesses across the country to help develop engaging Web content. Robbins holds an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and a master’s degree from Georgetown University.

  • On June 27, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best steakhouses in Washington D.C.?

    Washington, D.C. has long boasted a reputation for being a meat-and-potatoes town when it comes to dining. While the city has certainly expanded its culinary rep in recent years, the city certainly boasts several great steakhouses as well. In addition to the standards of The Palm, Ruth’s Chris and Morton’s, there are a number of popular venues, including BLT Steak (don’t miss the popovers), Charlie Palmer (come for the steak, stay for the impressive views), J&G Steakhouse in the W Hotel Washington DC, Bobby Van’s and Michael Mina’s BOURBON Steak in the Four Seasons in Georgetown.

    We’re partial to BLT and Charlie Palmer ourselves, but all of these places have loyal followings for anyone craving a prime cut of meat.
  • On June 27, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best neighborhood restaurants in Washington D.C.?

    It’s a tall order to name Washington, D.C.’s best neighborhood restaurants – there are more than a dozen unique neighborhoods in the city and each has something great to offer. Still, we’d like to offer a few local chains that you might enjoy visiting during your stay. The first is Clyde’s, a local group that has since expanded outside of DC proper. It’s an ideal place for a glass of wine, a good meal, and catching up with friends. We love the Georgetown location. For pizzas and burgers, we almost always head to Matchbox, which offers several DC-area locations, or Chef Geoff’s, which also owns the restaurant Lia’s. We also love the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s brand of restaurants, which includes favorites like Birch + Barley and Churchkey in Logan Circle, Rustico and Buzz Bakery in Alexandria and Arlington and the newly-opened GBD, a fried chicken and doughnut shop in Dupont Circle.
  • On May 29, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best coffee shops in Washington D.C.?

    When it comes to coffee, we actually venture just outside of the city for our fix. We can’t get enough of Northside Social, a coffee bar and wine lounge located in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood. Highly-trained baristas and baristos mix up traditional macchiatos, lattes and cappuccinos as well as pour-overs and French Press brews. But our favorite part? Come 5 PM, guests can enjoy local craft beers and a well-curated selection of wines from around the world. Hungry? No worries. Owned by the same group that has the popular Liberty Tavern and Lyon Hall to its name, the food here is also top-notch, from daily fresh-made pastries (Nutella Pop Tart, anyone?) to salads, sandwiches and cheese/charcuterie plates. It’s worth the drive over the river, folks.
  • On May 29, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    Where is the best pizza in Washington D.C.?

    We love pizza in any form – thick crust, thin crust, Neapolitan or New Haven style, which makes the city’s wealth of ‘za all the more appealing. Washington, D.C. can’t compete with New York when it comes to quantity (or quality, for the most part) but it’s unique all in its own way.

    We’d say the best in the city is a toss-up between Cleveland Park’s popular 2 Amy’s restaurant, which serves its Neopolitan pizza “D.O.C.” style, which means that it is traditionally prepared and worthy of the Denominazione di Origine Controllata status, which specifies specific ingredients and preparation methods. We also can’t get enough of popular local chain Pete’s APizza, which dishes out New Haven-style pies in flavors like White Clam and the “Into The Woods,” which combines spinach and caramelized onions with tender flash fried strips of eggplant. Yes, we frequently get cravings for that pie.
  • On May 29, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best places for breakfast in Washington D.C.?

    Washington, D.C. may be a city known for power lunch, but they are also a frontrunner when it comes to the power breakfast.

    To see the city's movers and shakers, visit Seasons at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, which underwent a $1 million renovation last year. Political types, media personalities, celebrities and royalty alike dine on fritattas, french toast, and traditional egg dishes during the week, or visit the fantastic weekend brunch.

    Another hot spot is the tony Blue Duck Tavernin the Park Hyatt. We can't get enough of their short rib hash or the deilciously decadent sticky buns. Of course, a table outside on the herb-filled patio, listening to the small waterfall and people watching makes the occassion even all the more fun. 
  • On May 29, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best comedy clubs in Washington D.C.?

    When we are in the mood for a laugh, there's no better place than D.C. Improv, located in the city's Penn Quarter/Chinatown neighborhood. Offering comedy classes, national, local and touring comedian performances, and a full bar (to keep the mood light), this is the city's absolute best spot to catch a laugh.

    The shows are usually quite cheap, the talent top-notch, and the atmosphere quite casual. It's the perfect weeknight evening out with friends, a low-key date night, or pre-party activty.

    The best part? It's right near some of the city's best restaurants and bars, so it makes the ideal start or end point to a fun-filled evening in Washington, D.C.
  • On May 29, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What would be a perfect date night in Washington D.C.?

    The concept of an ideal date night is inherently subjective, but we can think of plenty of fun things to do for couples in Washington, D.C.

    We’d suggest planning a quintessentially “Washington” experience and taking advantage of all that the city has to offer. First, we’d begin by hiring a car service (Reston Limo does a great job) to do a champagne sunset tour of the monuments and memorials. While touristy, this activity isn’t something even locals do every day, and it’s hard not to be moved by the glory of the Lincoln or Jefferson memorial, particularly in good weather.

    We’d then head to a restaurant with a view. We’d suggest Charlie Palmer, a clubby steakhouse with a quintessentially Washington vibe. After your steak or seafood of choice, ask for a private visit on the restaurant’s roof deck, offering a panoramic view of the Capitol building.

    Then, cap it off with a final drink at somewhere hip and trendy, like Jose Andres’ new barmini, a creative cocktail lounge inspired by his minibar restaurant.

    Should you wish to extend the stay into an overnight, we’d chose a Forbes-rated hotel of your choice. We’re huge fans of the intimate Jefferson Hotel on 16th and M (and love their craft cocktail bar Quill too) but also love the Four Seasons in Georgetown and the Hay-Adams, which offers rooms overlooking the White House.
  • On May 29, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best places to hear live music in Washington D.C.?

    Washington, DC isn’t known as a music city, but the area surely has a wide variety of locations for hearing your favorite well-known and under-the-radar bands play.

    The best venue for live shows is the 9:30 Club. Small and intimate with just a balcony and floor room (standing only), you’ll see big names and indie artists alike take the stage at this often remarkably affordable venue. Tickets to shows are usually $45 and under, the bar is relatively cheap, and you can get as close to the artists as you want – provided you show up early.  From tribute bands to dance parties to rap to folk, you’ll see everything under the sun performing here.

    If you prefer outdoor entertainment, head just outside the city to Wolftrap, near Tysons Corner in Virginia. You'll enjoy a large stage with a massive grassy knoll, perfect for setting up a picnic and taking in a show. 
  • On May 29, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    Where is the best ice cream in Washington D.C.?

    In Washington’s unbearably hot summer months, the cool taste of an ice cream cone is sometimes the only thing that can lure us out of the air conditioning. When we bypass our ice cream maker for a store-bought scoop, there are only three places we’d go – and one is technically a gelato joint.

    Trickling Springs Creamery
    Located in Union Market, the shakes, malts and cones from Trickling Springs are unique in that they use milk and dairy products from the farm’s own cows. We love light summer flavors like Lemon Chiffon or decadent Butterscotch Toffee Parfait as well as your standard Vanilla and Chocolate.

    Larry’s Homemade Ice Cream
    When it comes to homemade ice cream, few do it better than Larry’s, which offers locations in Dupont, Crystal City and Clarendon. We like nothing better than the salted caramel when it’s available, although flavors like Green Tea, Cleopatra (coconut and date) and Crème de Menthe Chocolate Chip are pretty delicious too.

    Dolcezza Gelato
    This local gelateria is the closest thing one can get to Italy in DC. Serving up seasonal, artisanal and locally-inspired flavors, this sweet treat is sure to please everyone from young to old. Look for Dolcezza in Dupont, Georgetown and Bethesda, as well as at local farmer’s markets.
  • On May 29, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What is the best hamburger in Washington D.C.?

    From fast food to fine dining, the hamburger is everywhere these days. Washingtonians certainly have their choice when it comes to the barbeque classic. Nearly every restaurant in the city has some sort of “burger” on the menu, but not all are created equal. Here are a few of our favorites:

    Ray’s Hell Burger
    Cross the river to Arlington and you’ll find a burger joint that President Obama has returned to time and again. Here, you’ll enjoy giant burgers served with tater tots – no fries, and make-to-order milkshakes from the same team that brought you Rays the Steaks.

    Palena Café
    Tucked away in a Cleveland Park strip mall, the café at the acclaimed Palena restaurant doesn’t look like much. But their burger, juicy and full of flavor and served on a buttery brioche bun, is a true menu standout.

    BOURBON Steak
    The bar at BOURBON Steak by Michael Mina in the Four Seasons is where the city’s elite go to drink – and often, to dine. The juicy burgers here are some of the city’s best. We personally prefer the standard Prime Steak variety, but you can also sample a turkey, salmon, lamb or veggie variety. For a true splurge, pair with duck fat fries or truffled popcorn.

    Good Stuff Eatery
    Owned by former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn, Capitol Hill’s Good Stuff stays true to its name, dishing out good, nearly great burgers, fries, shakes and sodas. The most similar to fast food on the list, order at the counter and wait in line for your purchase (and yes, you will wait) for a greasy yet glorious patty dripping with your choice of cheese and toppings.
  • On May 9, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the newest shows in Washington D.C.?

    Washington, D.C. is a culture-lovers paradise, boasting a wide array of ever-changing shows, music performances and limited run engagements straight from Broadway. Here are a few of our favorites currently in the city as of May 2013.

    It’s always worth a visit to The Kennedy Center to see the city’s famed National Symphony Orchestra, which plays weekly engagements, but we’d also suggest that The Washington Ballet makes for a worthy trip. Hemmingway: The Sun Also Rises is the current show. Long-running yet extremely popular Shear Madness is also worth taking in. The Washington National Opera also currently operates out of the Kennedy Center space, and is currently performing Show Boat. If you’re in town on May 22, we’d suggest doing a virtual performance at Nationals Park, where they’ll broadcast the show live during Opera In the Outfield.
  • On May 9, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best art galleries in Washington D.C.?

    Art lovers, take note. It’s easy to plan an entire vacation around gallery hopping in Washington, D.C.. Venture beyond the expected – the impressive yet well-known National Gallery of Art and its associated Sculpture Garden – to the Smithsonian-operated Freer & Sackler Galleries, where you’ll see a wide variety of Eastern art. You’ll also want to escape the National Mall entirely for three art museums owned by the Smithsonian collection – the Renwick Gallery, which features American craft arts, and the two-in-one museums in Chinatown, the National Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery. But we haven’t even begun to complete our artistic journey yet – you’ll also want to stop by the gorgeous downtown National Museum of Women in the Arts (bonus points if you can attend an evening gala or lecture) and the famed Corcoran Gallery of Art, which offers an ever-rotating selection of works by master painters, sculptors and photographers alike.
  • On May 9, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What festivals are going on in Washington D.C.?

    Any major city will have some sort of festival or cultural event at least a few times each month, but visitors to the Nation’s Capital are luckier than most – Washington, D.C. boasts some of the country’s most enticing annual events.

    Summer visitors should consider planning a visit over 4th of July weekend. The city’s Independence Day celebration, "A Capitol Fourth,"  is one of the nation’s best, if not the best in the country, featuring a massive concert and orchestral performance, plus big name acts. Airing live on PBS each year, the Thursday-evening concert will celebrate America’s 236th birthday with the famed “1812 Overture” as well a number of celebrity performances.

    But we have a secret – the best day to watch the concert isn’t even on Thursday, but at the open-to-the-public rehearsal the day before. Gates usually open mid-afternoon, and almost all of the performers and emcees taking place in the event will participate in this dress “practice round.”
  • On May 9, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best kids activities in Washington D.C.?

    Washington, D.C. is an ideal city for family travel – it’s easy to find activities that suit kids and kids at heart a like. Some of the city’s best cultural attractions have special activities suited just for little ones. One of our favorites is the Spy Museum downtown, which offers kids-friendly programming and a slew of interactive exhibits.

    We’d also suggest a ride around the Tidal Basin on a paddleboat. As long as your children are old enough to reach the pedals, it’s a fun and relatively low-cost activity the whole family can enjoy. If your children are animal fans, a visit to the National Zoo is also always in order – the spacious and Metro-accessible Zoo is free and offers the standard lions, tigers and bears plus special reptile, elephant, bird and famed Panda exhibits that are fun for all ages.

    Parental note: Most of Washington, D.C.’s luxury hotels (and all of the properties on our Forbes-rated list) offer some sort of concierge-suggested list of activities for parents traveling with VIK’s (Very Important Kids). The concierge at most any hotel can also arrange custom tours and special activities to suit a child’s age or special interests.