The new Capital One Lounge Washington Dulles has finally arrived.
Capital One opened its first airport lounge at Dallas – Fort Worth in November 2021. Since then we’ve been awaiting expansion and it’s about to happen. The Washington Dulles lounge opens Thursday, September 7. Then we’re about a month away from Denver opening. Then next year we should see Capital One’s new restaurant concept with Jose Andres at Washington National and New York LaGuardia next year.
I got a sneak peak of the Washington Dulles airport lounge. It’s really good, with I think the best food at the airport. But it’s too small, because cardmembers are going to want to visit and spend time here. And when you build a good airport lounge, passengers are going to stay longer and eat more. That’s true when when you expect they will stay longer and eat more.
This was the first lounge Capital One contracted for, but it was delayed by the pandemic. It’s in a special space, at the base of the old control tower, which has been in disuse since the airport inter-terminal train opened more than a dozen years ago. It used to be a food court, and if memory serves in the late 90s at least was once a TGI Friday’s.
The space is 8,500 square feet, and it is immediately past the airport’s PreCheck security checkpoint.
That’s located on the same level as ticketing, a level up from and between the east and west security checkpoints. If you’re coming from those checkpoints, you need to head upstairs. Also if you’re coming from another concourse you’ll return to the main terminal and do the same.
The sign at the top of the stairs up to this level where the Capital One lounge is located clearly says “DO NOT ENTER.” You’re walking up to where PreCheck exits. If you don’t want to disobey the signs you’ll have to take the elevator which lets out right beside the lounge.
You’ll take the elevator up to the C level which identifies in the elevator only as being for ‘Restroom’. Anyone going through the PreCheck checkpoint can’t miss the lounge. Perhaps this location actually serves to limit folks not in the know from using the space?
Capital One Venture X and cardmembers (and anyone with an authorized user card on a Venture X account) gets unlimited visits to Capital One Lounges, along with two free guests. Additional guests are $45 per visit.
Venture X Business primary cardmembers get unlimited visits to Capital One Lounges, along with two free guests. Additional guests are $45 per visit.
Venture and Spark Miles cardmembers get two complimentary visits to Capital One Lounges or Plaza Premium Lounges each year, whether for themselves or for authorized users or guests. Additional guests are $45 per visit.
Anyone without one of these cards can pay into the lounge for $65 per visit. Children under two are not charged.
Access is available beginning three hours prior to your flight. Note that unlike most other lounges with similar rules (American Express, Delta) this isn’t 3 hours prior to the first flight in your itinerary. Technically if you have a long layover you’d have to wait until 3 hours prior to your connecting flight for access.
In my experience the 3 hour rule hasn’t really been enforced in Dallas. However this lounge may get more crowded. On the other hand it may also cater to fewer connecting passengers, who have to return to the main terminal and in most cases head back out to other terminals for connections. That could offset use). And if it’s more crowded they may lean more heavily into enforcing the 3 hour rule.
This lounge is all about food. It’s meant for a quick pop-in, or a meal and a drink before flight. It’s really set up as a departures lounge, rather than as a connecting lounge between long haul flights.
With this in mind there is a grab and go section of food and beverages right at the entrance. There’s also a coffee shop with barista-made drinks and pastries there as well, and easy access to restrooms from the front of the lounge. Deeper inside is seating, the bar, and a buffet area of individually-portioned items
Since the lounge is in the base of the airport’s old control tower, they’ve brought in several elements of the airport’s design into the lounge. They draw on the mid-century modern architecture of the Eero Saarinen-designed terminal itself. The lounge includes historic imagines of the airport’s original control tower too.
What the lounge doesn’t have is nap rooms, showers, or exercise rooms. Those are features of the larger Dallas lounge, which is also situated inside of that airport’s international terminal.
In the front of the lounge, by the entrance (immediately on the right) are lockers with coded access (you set your own code).
The Capital One lounge Washington Dulles has a parents room for nursing and changing babies, inclduing wipes, disposable diapers, and a bottle warmer.
There are semi-private work areas.
While there’s no kids room, there are child-sized tables and chairs in the lounge.
And there are four private restrooms, rather than separate men’s and women’s restrooms.
What was a little bit odd about the restrooms was it seemed as though local code enforcement might have added a requirement for grab bars behind the toilets after they were put in? It seems like the toilets aren’t far enough forward, and as a result the toilet seat doesn’t go up all the way. It hits the grab bar and that means while a man goes to the bathroom standing he has to hold the toilet seat in an up position. I predict this will lead to messes.
There are several additional types of seating throughout the lounge. They’ve tried to create as many different areas as possible, in a limited footprint, and considering that they have a large area of the lounge dedicated to the kitchen to provide a very elevated food service.
Catering Towards Quick Stop Ins
The lounge is situated right past a security checkpoint. With many passengers heading out to midfield concourses, a heavy percentage may just stop in quickly. They’ve made that easy with their grab and go emphasis.
And while I do wonder how backed up the barista will become, I like the concept. Tended coffee bars are common in busy lounges in Australia so there’s no reason this can’t be managed very well and turn out to be a top-notch offering.
Packaged snacks and drinks are easily available, along with takeaway bags. And the food looks quite good for what it is, they promise “no sad salads.”
I’ve long noticed that the grab and go sections have nice drinks, but no bottled water. I always wondered if this was a cost thing, that too many people would take them? But I’m told that bottled water is coming. In Dallas the only option they had through the airport’s monopoly contract was plastic bottles. They didn’t want to go with plastic. They’ve now sourced a new more environmentally friendly option that will roll out through Capital One lounges in the coming weeks.
On the food side, I didn’t have a chance to try the sriracha chicken banh mi, but I’ll make a point to on my next visit.
Capital One Lounge Washington Dulles Beverage Program
The bar here is going to be a real highlight. It features interesting cocktails, quality spirits, and in my experience in Dallas really efficient service where you’re not waiting long even when the lounge is busy. Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t start by calling out the self-serve soft drinks in the lounge. Self pour fountains and an ice machine, the vanilla cream soda is a highlight for me:
The bar itself is good looking and fully stocked. You can call your own drink or select from a variety of curated cocktails.
In each lounge they ask their local brewery partner to develop their own take on “the perfect airport beer,” which in the case of the Dulles lounge is a Virginia Style IPA.
Capital One’s food and beverage director describes the concept as being that there are iconic moments, like having a beer at a ballpark or with a parent when you turn 21. There’s also a certain taste as you ‘set off for adventure’ or a journey at an airport and each lounge has a beer meant to evoke and commemorate this.
Here are the lounge’s beers on draft:
Here’s the wine list. The red blend I find especially drinkable.
They also have a list of ‘upgrades’ available for purchase, like a split of Krug.
Here is the cocktail menu:
Coasters at the bar have cocktail recipes on the reverse.
Also the bottom of these cups say “On permanent loan from Capital One lounge” in case you happen to take one.
And is it strange that one of the things I’m most impressed with is their straws? They aren’t using plastic. These are made from corn – so environmentally-conscious straws without being trash that’s a poor drinking experience. These really do work like plastic ones.
Capital One Lounge Washington Dulles Food
The first thing that’s notable about the Capital One lounge’s approach to food is that this isn’t a traditional buffet. Dishes are individually portioned. I really like the aesthetics of this. Buffets quickly degrade visually as they get picked over by guests. It also limits consumption, the way that providing small plates at a buffet will. You can of course take as much and as many of an item as you wish.
They offer some interesting pastries, like pop tarts.
Here’s chicken sausage and mashed potatoes
Thai shrimp curry bao
Truffle corn pudding
Goat cheese and spicy peach crostini
Tennessee hot deviled eggs
Asparagus guacamole didn’t quite seem like a hit to me. As a Texan I am very particular about avocados and it felt out of place to me here.
Stone-milled cheddar grits
Potato and artichoke kugel I get that they’re aiming towards healthy but as a kugel traditionalist it’s not how I’d like to see it prepared.
The breakfast sandwich, though, was actually amazing. It’s made with single farm eggs, applewood smoked bacon, tomato jam, cheddar, on a local Maryland bakery’s brioche bun.
I started off trying a few bites of sausage and a deviled egg.
And then moved on to small tastes each of the breakfast sandwich, shrimp bao, and corn pudding – all of which are recommended.
Capital One Lounge Washington Dulles Overall
Depending on your preferences you might prefer the business class-only United Airlines Polaris lounge with sit down menu-based dining. Overall I think the Capital One lounge Washington Dulles has the best food in the airport. It’s better than any of the pay-in restaurants, including Chef Geoff’s which is accessible via Priority Pass cards ($28 per person credit) issued by some banks.
The space is both really convenient and really special. It’s just that it is too small for what is likely to be the demand to visit. It’s convenient with great food and beverage offerings. I’d gladly camp here for a few hours, try a few different things to eat, and work my way through the bar over a series of visits.
With Washington Dulles added to Dallas – Fort Worth, with Denver coming online in a few weeks, and with Jose Andres Group tie-in restaurant concepts coming to Washington National and New York LaGuardia next year, Capital One will have a formidable high quality lounge product.