Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
An unconventionally small, relaxed, and modern Ritz located in a former incinerator
The Ritz-Carlton brand is synonymous with classic, conservative, stately luxury, which typically means lots of gilded mirrors, crystal chandeliers, and traditional oil paintings -- always luxe, rarely adventurous. Little of this holds true at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, a relaxed and intimate 86-room boutique that opened in April 2003 in a renovated industrial brick building that housed Georgetown's local trash incinerator from 1932 until 1971.
With exception of the rooms, this outpost of the Ritz is unconventional in almost every way, from the brick walls and steel beams in the lobby, nearly all of which are part of the original structure, to the 130-foot smokestack that's been repurposed into a 12-person dining room. The unorthodox architectural heritage can make the building feel a little labyrinthine at times. Guests staying in rooms on the lower level must navigate down an elevator and through a hallway, or a flight of stairs, to get to their rooms -- but the quirks give the hotel more charm than a typical Ritz has. Guests sit down to check in, the front desk doubles as the concierge, and the 86 rooms are a third of what you'll find at many Ritzes. Yet for all its modern, uncharacteristically Ritz feel, the hotel still manages to exude warmth and comfort.
These charms, though, go no further than the hotel's public spaces. Rooms are a yawn. Sure they have the luxury amenities that are standard for a Ritz -- supremely comfortable beds, flat-screen TVs, and large bathrooms with sunken tubs -- but the standard rooms lack any kind of wow factor or small details that justify the hefty, hefty price tag -- one of the highest in the city. Don't get me wrong, guests will have an all-around enjoyable stay, but they'll find nothing especially exciting about the hotel beyond its architectural history.
The service is what you'd expect from a Ritz -- doting, attentive, and warm -- but with dull rooms, and a pathetically small gym, it's worth questioning the nightly price tag. The only other comparable hotel in Georgetown is the Four Seasons down the street, which has slightly more luxurious rooms with much bigger bathtubs and cool Tivoli radios, better all-around service, and a superb gym.
But staying in Georgetown -- and especially at this particular Ritz -- is a matter of taste and preference. If you're not married to Georgetown, consider the newly renovated Jefferson or the Hay-Adams, where Obama stayed during the inauguration. Both are located near the White House and significantly closer to the Mall and other major sites. The luxuriously appointed Park Hyatt, which is home to the fabulous Blue Duck Tavern restaurant, is also a great alternative, but it's located in Foggy Bottom, which is much sleepier than Georgetown and not nearly as convenient to the White House and the Mall as the Jefferson or Hay-Adams.
Same top-notch service you'd expect at a Ritz, but a little less formal (in a good way)
Perhaps it goes without saying, but as far as services offered, this is about as much as you get at any of the top luxe places -- but it all feels a little less formal, in a good way. Service is warm and friendly without being stiff, competent and always prompt without feeling robotic. Everyone is always addressed as "Mr. or Ms. B____." Rather than having a traditional desk where guests stand up to check-in, this Ritz lets guests sit to deal with the paperwork at one of two desks with soft, comfortable chairs. While this could easily feel like you're buying a used car, it's actually quite relaxing. The staff member who checks you in also gives you a tour and brief history of the hotel and shows you to your room. I did experience one service hitch when I wasn't able to access the Wi-Fi connection. I was directed to outsourced tech support, and a Ritz staff member called once during the phone call to make sure I was being helped, and again later to follow up. Everything on the Ritz's end was attentive -- but I never ended up being able to access the hotel's Wi-Fi.
In the heart of Georgetown, but 15 to 20 minutes from the nearest Metro stop
The Ritz-Carlton is located on a charming, bricklined sidestreet off M Street in the heart of the historic, stylish, and ever-rarified neighborhood of Georgetown. It really doesn't get any more central than this in Georgetown -- some of the city's best shopping and restaurants are less than two blocks away. Within just a few minutes' walk, you'll run into the Potomac waterfront, the charming C&O Canal towpath, and Rock Creek Park, all great places for a stroll or a jog. The most significant downside to Georgetown is that it's not connected to the city's Metro system. The nearest Metro stop is a 15-minute walk from the hotel in Foggy Bottom (Foggy Bottom/GWU), although there are a number of bus options to the city. This means the hotel is located farther from the White House, the Mall, and other major tourist attractions than hotels in other neighborhoods, but it's one of the most charming areas of the city to be sure.
Rooms are as luxurious as they are underwhelming for the price.
Rooms are classy and spacious but dull. The most basic room (dubbed "Premier") starts at 450 square feet and has a large slate and limestone bathroom with a separate deep soaking tub, a huge flat-screen TV, and a plush feather-topped bed. But between the drab beige-and-white color scheme, the sparse furnishings, and the terrible views of a small patch of grass from rooms on the lower level like mine, the experience is underwhelming at best. Rooms here are often closer to four digits a night than two. For that price, it seems something should stand out, other than the "Made in China" sticker on the back of my alarm clock.
It's pretty bare-bones, especially for a Ritz: basically just a small spa and a gym that feels like a repurposed closet. One hotel guest echoed my thoughts, and it's a common complaint among reviewers online. The immaculate tri-level gym at the Four Seasons makes the Ritz look like amateur hour.
Fido's welcome for a fee, but keep him a svelte 35 pounds.
Small pets under 35 pounds are allowed.
Not the most thrilling atmosphere for kids, but they're well taken care of
You won't find any minivans clogging the driveway here -- and the vibe is quiet and discrete -- but the Ritz does lots to welcome kids, offering children's menus, connecting rooms, cookies and milk, and age-appropriate toys on arrival (upon request).
It's a Ritz. Cleanliness is never a problem.
With exception of as-needed fixes and upgrades, the hotel hasn't been renovated since it opened in 2003. It's impossible to tell though -- the rooms and the public spaces are spotless inside and out. Sure, some of the furniture in the lobby is showing some nicks and scratches, but that's nitpicking. This property has been extremely well maintained.
A charming restaurant and bar in a postindustrial space with soaring ceilings
The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown doesn't boast an A-list chef like Eric Ripert at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C.. What it does have is Degrees Bar and Lounge, which classifies itself as French bistro cuisine. Offering dishes such as crab cake sandwiches, roasted chicken grand mere, French onion soup, and steak frites, it's not always clear that Degrees sticks to its French bistro theme, but the food is satisfying if unexciting. You will have to open your wallet to eat here, but there's also a well-chosen wine list, as well as a limited bar-type menu served in the lobby. Keep in mind, however, that this restaurant does not get nearly the acclaim of the Blue Duck Tavern at the Park Hyatt, which I highly recommend.
Forget gilded mirrors. The 86-room Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, housed in an historic industrial building, has the original brick and steel beams and a cozy slate fireplace in the lobby. But its aesthetic allure drops off from there. Service is excellent and its central Georgetown location is superb, but rooms are dull and the gym is disappointingly small.