Arlington’s Rotating Skydome Restaurant Reopens With Showy Cocktails and 360 Views

Space Needle of Crystal City, anyone?

Take in views of the Pentagon and National Mall from the rotating Skydome restaurant atop the DoubleTree by Hilton Crystal City hotel. Photograph by Deb Lindsey.

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A rotating restaurant with 360-degree views of the Pentagon and National Mall is an often-overlooked Crystal City oddity. But the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel where it resides is hoping to make it more of an upscale dining destination with its reopening after a nearly three-year closure.

“When it closed in the pandemic, it gave us an opportunity to kind of reset, see the market, see what’s out there, and reclaim like, an identity of what we wanted it to be,” says food and beverage director Rachel Kapelner.

The circulating 15th floor room was built with the hotel in 1972 and has morphed over the years between a restaurant, nightclub, karaoke spot, comedy club, and back to a restaurant. It’s one of only a handful of rotating restaurants around the country, including, of course, one atop the Space Needle in Seattle. The 100-seat space makes a full rotation every 45 minutes with floor-to-ceiling views of the Washington Monument, Potomac River, Reagan National Airport, and more.

Before it closed in 2020, the restaurant had a more casual, bar food-centric concept. The latest iteration of Skydome features a slightly more elevated, eclectic American menu, plus showy cocktails with tableside presentations. Executive chef Klaus Happel, who’s been overseeing the hotel’s food operations for the past year and a half, has worked across 10 cities in his three-decade career, including at other Hilton properties. His team prepares most of the dishes in a kitchen a floor below the restaurant, but there’s also a smaller kitchen and bar on the Skydome floor.

Executive Chef Klaus Happel’s menu ranges from green-curry hummus to truffle/mushroom pizza. Photograph by Deb Lindsey.

Expect “tapas,” as they’re advertised, like green-curry hummus, truffle/mushroom pizza, and grilled octopus with potato-chorizo-and-corn hash. A small selection of mains includes sauteed gnocchi alla vodka with shrimp and a grilled pork chop with honey-garlic glaze (the honey is sourced from the hotel’s rooftop apiary, which you can also get a view of). The restaurant also plans to host many private and semi-private events with customizable menus.

Skydome’s cocktail menu includes smoked and color-changing drinks. Photograph courtesy Deb Lindsey.

The rooftop honey also makes its way into a riff on an old fashioned called “Evening Thyme,” which is smoked in a wine decanter with cherrywood in front of guests. Other Instagrammable cocktails include a pear-vodka concoction sprinkled with 24k-gold flakes, and a non-alcoholic elderflower syrup, lemon, and tonic sipper with a butterfly-pea-flower cube that turns the drink from purple to pink.

Kapelner says she’s had some guests ask about motion-sickness in the restaurant. She advises that they sit facing the forward direction if they’re concerned about it, and they’re fine. For the most part, though, she says the space moves slow enough that you might not notice it shifting—until suddenly you do.

“At first glance you won’t notice the floor is moving,” Kapelner says. “Once you’re on it, in conversation, you’ll kind of look up and realize that you’re in a completely different space.”

Skydome at the DoubleTree by Hilton Crystal City. 300 Army/Navy Dr., Arlington.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.