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.
If you are considering booking travel or signing up for a new credit card please click here. Both support LiveAndLetsFly.com.
If you haven’t followed us on Facebook or Instagram, add us today.
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?
This menu puts the EWR polaris lounge to shame. Has 2-3x options.
I thought they had the same number of choices in all of them? Oh well.
I am pretty sure it is all the same. I have only been to LAX and IAD Polaris lounges but menus are basically identical with the exception of a few local ones unique to that lounge.
They all have 4 unique appetizer options and 4 mains. For mains, they typically have one chicken, one fish, one vegetarian/vegan, and all Polaris Lounges have the burger. I believe that they all have the skillet cookie as well.
My parents recently went through Dulles and I told them to visit the Polaris lounge as they were in J on their fight to Europe. They were not impressed.
The biggest issue was the lounge was not so much a space to refresh and relax, but was instead a children’s playpen. No matter how nice a lounge’s hard and soft product is, it can always be ruined by boorish passengers and their broods.
As someone who frequents IAD and a United loyalist that’s grown tired of the regular United Club experience at the airport (its horrid but better than being out in the drab terminal), I look forward to finally experiencing this option later this year.
Note- contrary to the authors statement, “Never change Dulles, Never change”. I disagree. The airport is not ideal particularly the United concourse. Also being jam-packed onto the mobile lounges after arriving from an international flight instead of a leisurely walk to immigration is annoying. Most of this dysfunctionality comes from the corrupt airport board AND United treating Dulles as an afterthought since acquiring Continental thus focusing on EWR.
Concourse A-B are fine, it’s C-D that needs to change.
Exactly! Terminal A & B for the foreign carriers is nice as is the main terminal. C & D, where UA flies out of are a dump, and too small for the volume of traffic.
United didn’t acquire Continental. It was a stock swap merger and a premium was attached to the Continental shares since it was the more valuable company. With the exception of the Airbus, 767-300 and P&W 777s every plane at United came from Continental.
Washington Dulles is a jumbled mess with a subway that travels to a terminal that doesn’t exist and a walk back to the sorry terminal that does. I’d much rather connect in EWR than IAD.
Not having tje cookie skillet for dessert? Oh dear…
Whether on an airplane or on the ground most all of the reviews on airline sites tend to be geared towards the food. Always found this so odd.
Matthew covers the cabin in more detail. I linked to him in the post.
“It’s always better to eat on the ground than in the air.”
I gotta disagree with you there. Maybe for business class and some first class, but there are some first class products where the food in the air is much better than on the ground. I’m not aware of a lounge that serves caviar. ANA Suites have Hibiki 21 whiskey and a full kaiseki multi course meal, yet their Suites lounges in NRT and HND are pretty lackluster.
Great club but UA also needs a new world class terminal at IAD…
Heading to the Dulles Polaris lounge in 5.5 hours actually for our 5:35 flight to Rome. Excited to try your recommendations.