Tag Archives: piano bar

SOS From the National Harbor

10 Jan

The piano players battle it out nightly at National Harbor's Bobby McKey's.

By DC standards, I’m a local. I’ve lived in this town for three and a half years, which compared to many is a lifetime. If I make it five years I’ve heard I’ll get a plaque in my honor and a key to the city for enduring this town’s daily shenanigans (Saturday parking fees, WMATA, and plastic bag tax anyone?)

Over the summer my friends and I decided it was time to expand our horizons a bit and take in a wider variety of what this city has to offer. As locals, we had already hit all the highlights and our weekly routine of dinner/drinks needed some spice. Being the over-zealous, A-Type, DC personalities that we are, a (rather long) list was started to track all our ideas.

Topping the list has been an evening at the dueling piano bar in National Harbor, Bobby McKey’s. The bar features a rotation of four piano players singing a variety of Top 40ish hits from the last few decades. Patrons request songs or phrases to be written on the boards behind the piano players by outbidding the dollar amount of the last person to put in a request. Sounds fun, right?

Last night we decided to brave the cold and venture far, far away to Maryland to see what the place was all about. Here’s my advice: Unless you are going for a party or special occasion, don’t bother. The experience won’t make up for the steep cost, mediocre food, or hassle of getting there.

If you want a table you have to call ahead and make reservations for priority seating. It costs $15.00 per person to have a seat. I’ll admit, we should have made reservations and the Web site clearly states this fact. Regardless, $15 is a lot to pay for a seat when you are also paying for food, drinks, and song requests.

We paid McKey’s $5 general admission cover and ordered food from the upstairs bar. I didn’t expect the food to be Michelin Star winning, but the menu lacked cohesion, vision, and execution. The bar also served all its draft beer in solo cups, including Stella. Lots of bars serve great food – there is no excuse in this town to fall short on the menu.

At 8:00 p.m. the show started and we were entertained with tunes ranging from “Sweet Caroline” to “Baby Got Back.” I won’t dispute the musicians are talented and deserve credit for making a variety of songs work in a piano bar setting, but the show lacked true entertainment value. The musicians had limited witty banter with each other or the crowd, making the show feel more like a “Now Music” CD.

Based on the crowd last night, Bobby McKey’s isn’t hurting for business, despite these reviews that generally support my experience. This is likely because of its tourist trap location (another reason to stay away from the harbor in general). But I advise DC locals to steer clear unless attending an arranged event. I’d much rather pay the cover for a night at New Vegas Lounge. It can be hard to get a drink at the crowded bar, but the music and dancing always make for an entertaining night.

Let me know if you have a different take on National Harbor and Bobby McKey’s. Post a comment with your experience!

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