United’s Polaris Lounge at Washington Dulles International Airport is newly opened and impressive, but it’s their restaurant “IAD” that helps truly distinguish United’s business class product from the competition.
Matthew collected some great shots of the lounge right around when it first opened. He covered almost every aspect of the lounge but I want to focus solely on the dining experience in the restaurant, IAD.
The United Polaris lounge is located in Terminal C, just near gate C18. It is opposite the United Club making it convenient for premium flyers regardless of which lounge they qualify for entry.
But first, it’s worthwhile for those like me who don’t fly out of Dulles often, to just appreciate the beauty of the airport – a national treasure. Its design issues, insightful when built, but outmoded in the modern era are still charming from the NASA font signage, to the grandiosity of its sweeping roof. Even the moon buggies, while inconvenient add a much more scenic way to move from terminal to terminal allowing for planespotting along the way.
Never change, Dulles. Never change.
While Matthew covered the exact ins and outs of access, in summary:
- Business and First Class passengers are permitted
- Must be traveling on international flights outside of North America
- Does not include transcontinental first and business class flyers without an accompanying qualified international flights
- Does not include United Airlines club access granted by a bank credit card issuer or United credit card offered certificates
There was a short line but I was inside in just a few minutes. The lounge was full, it was a Saturday night ahead of the European and South American block of evening flights.
I grabbed a few photos of the lounge generally, it really is stunning. I headed straight to the Dining Room to grab a table, I had about an hour and a half before boarding was to commence.
While the louge has a decent amount of bathrooms, this is the only area in which the lounge really started to show signs of crowding. The wait for a toilet was about 5-10 minutes from my estimates. Not terrible, but not great either.
At other Polaris lounges I have visited (Newark, San Francisco, and Houston) there is typically some sort of a wait to get access to The Dining Room, a sit down, menu, plated-meal restaurant. I’ve visited Polaris lounges maybe a dozen times but this was the very first time that there was no wait and it was self-seating. While I can appreciate that a host at the front taking you to your table adds a little bit extra, I also liked that there was no wait and was shocked to see the Dining Room about half full.
It’s always better to eat on the ground than in the air.
My departure time was just after 5 PM, so I was on the dinner menu. There were so many attractive menu items but I chose to start with the pork belly lettuce wrap, then the shrimp and grits, before ending on the strawberry goat cheese panna cotta.
Service was relatively quick, though my starter and entree came out at the same time. The pork belly lettuce wrap would have been a mess to eat with my hands (though every other lettuce wrap I have had is eaten that way.) The ingredient and flavor combinations were spot on with a mix of soft and crunchy textures, sweet and savory with some appropriate bitterness from the leaf of bibb lettuce.
Spicy tomato and red peppers were placed over five grilled shrimp and creamy grits. In the past, I have also enjoyed the lounge’s signature item, a beef short rib burger and fries but I was pleased with my choice.
I had to try the strawberry goat cheese panna cotta. I wasn’t sure if the goat cheese was going to be tamed or infused into panna cotta in some way but was shocked to see crumbles on top. I took a spoonful and it was exactly the goat cheese crumbles you’d expect to find with the savory, pungent flavor but it somehow worked. I loved the dessert but also the creativity. The mixture of a savory cheese with the sweet strawberry and creamy panna cotta worked really well together. One of the dishes my family has taken from our travels is a sausage and mascarpone pasta we had in Pisa, Italy which uses a sweet (dessert) cheese in a savory dish and that also works well.
The plates were reasonably sized but I decided to add the melon sorbet and Virginia cherries too. I am so glad I did, this dessert was an absolute show stopper. It was light but satisfying and integrated the season and the local area for flavor and charm.
Competition among “flagship lounges” with enhanced dining experiences is fierce. American Airlines has a private dining room for their long-haul flight customers, but only in First, for example. With no wait, an excellent menu, delicious food, superb presentation and service that was friendly and apt, United’s Polaris lounge at Washington Dulles really is the best Dining Room experience I have had of any Polaris lounge. Make time for this experience if you find yourself on an eligible itinerary.
What do you think? Have you dined at United’s Polaris Lounge at Washington Dulles? How was your experience?