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Hilton Models New McLean Dining Hall After Popular D.C. Eateries

Newly opened the Social features food inspired by Cava, Sweetgreen, and Taco Bamba

Hilton employees waiting to order at new McLean food hall, the Social.
Photo: Hilton Worldwide

Hospitality giant Hilton officially joined the food hall club Wednesday, November 15, with the debut of the Social, a new suburban dining hub that takes its cues from some of the hottest quick-service eateries in the area.

The 10,000-square-foot facility, located in the ground floor of Hilton’s headquarters in McLean (7930 Jones Branch Drive), was specifically designed to cater to the roughly 800 Hilton employees on site, as well as hotel guests, mall shoppers, and office workers in the surrounding office buildings. Hilton staff was allowed in a day early, enjoying a private reception November 14.

Shawn McGowan, senior director of food and beverage brand initiatives and programs at Hilton, tells Eater that the nearly year-long undertaking involved extensive research into what types of foods would most appeal to staff and the general public. He cited homegrown chains such as modern Mexican eatery Taco Bamba, rapidly expanding salad-slinger Sweetgreen — “It’s a very popular place for our team members to go,” McGowan says of the outpost in neighboring Tysons Galleria — and Mediterranean meal-maker Cava as key starting points. Sodexo chef Eric Phipps said his research led him to a number of iconic food halls including Union Market in D.C., Chelsea Market in New York, Eataly in New York, and Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.

The end product features six built-in eateries plus a standalone coffee shop. The dining options include:

  • Starbucks: the Seattle-based chain has set up a full-service coffee shop, with nitro cold brew on tap, as well as cold case filled with pre-packaged sandwiches, salads, and cold drinks.
  • Char: all-American grill with a house burger, French dip-style prime rib sandwich, chicken sandwiches, specialty chips (chipotle, cheddar, and Old Bay flavorings are available), and rotating specials.
  • Mangia: Italian option featuring flatbread pizzas and pressed-to-order paninis.
  • Home: upscale hot bar stocked with seasonally inspired, locally sourced specials (free-range chicken, butternut squash).
  • Graze: made-to-order salads and grain bowls topped with select proteins (marinated chicken, roast salmon).
  • Central bank: a combination make-your-own salad bar and soup station. There’s also pre-packaged snacks (chips, pre-packaged sushi, sparkling water) in a temperature-controlled case.
  • Sammies: deli counter specializing in classic sandwiches (corned beef, roast beef), salads, and specialty sides (potato salad, Sriracha coleslaw, pickles).
  • Spice: open kitchen with two circular griddles that’s expected to focus on different world cuisines (Mediterranean, Asian, Latin American) each week. Phipps says his team has worked up 12 different themes that will cycle through the space.

While there is no standalone dessert option, Phipps said Spice will incorporate different sweets into the breakfast offerings; he mentioned custom crepes, cinnamon rolls, and French toast stuffed with Nutella and strawberries, specifically. Phipps also mapped out plans to roll out assorted baked goods every Wednesday morning. Hilton is also expected to supply one of its standard treats: the complimentary chocolate chip cookies dispensed at Doubletree by Hilton hotels.

The adjacent dining room features a mix of booths, tables, and stadium seating (for team meetings, and such), as well as a ping pong table that doubles as a communal table. There is also a private dining room for corporate events. D.C.-based Core architecture and design spearheaded the renovation.

The embedded Starbucks is scheduled to operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Hilton-controlled eateries are currently scheduled to operate from 7 a..m. to 3 p.m, Monday through Friday — though McGowan said those hours could change based on demand.

In addition to beating other hotel operators to the punch in the race to dominate food service, Hilton also got the jump on restaurateur Mike Isabella. His take on mall dining, Isabella Eatery, continues to take shape inside Tysons Galleria.

Scroll down to look inside the Social.

Status: Certified open. 7930 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, Va.

The Starbucks stand at the Social.
Photo by Warren Rojas / Eater DC
Hilton employees scouting salad offerings at Graze.
Photo: Hilton Worldwide
The central salad bar and snack case at the Social.
Photo by Warren Rojas / Eater DC
The seating area at the Social.
Photo: Hilton Worldwide
Hilton employees playing ping pong at the Social.
Photo: Hilton Worldwide

A ping pong table at the Social. Photo: Hilton Worldwide