The Hilton Alexandria Mark Center (gets both raves and many brickbats from Web reviewers) This property is 5 miles west of DCA, right off 395 in a mature but not unpleasant office park. Bus shuttle every half hour to/from the Metro and the airport. Oddity: it's load/unload your own bags, or at least was according to the grumpy driver leaving the airport at 4 pm. The morning driver was much better. This by all appearances is a convention hotel, though there are nods here and there to a leisure trade. The lobby: large, spacious, rather comfortable in the 1980s-90s style. My welcome was pretty effusive. I was given a corner room on 27. The tower is tricotyledonous, with 12 normal rooms and 6 odd shape corner ones. This particular odd shape one was slightly larger than a normal room, I think, but with not so much more usable space, as there are these angles going on. Slightly musty, carpet cleanery smell. The room furnishings were pleasant though a bit dated; the bathroom had oldish but well functioning facilities and a slightly shorter and fatter tub than I'm accustomed to. The tap water, by the way, is surprisingly potable for Washington. Oddities: They must have planned to put in a second sink or a range or something, as there's this countertop in a little alcove next to the bathroom - no good for anything but a changing table I imagine; also, the door was slightly the wrong size, so quite a bit of hallway light came in. A nearly 180 degree view eastward - I could just make out the Washington Monument in the distance to my left. Unfortunately, most of the foreground is ugly office and apartment high-rises. Finn & Porter is the house restaurant. Many nasty things are said of it on the Web. Some may be true. The heavily maligned service goes, in fact, at a courtly pace; I wasn't displeased by it, though. Most of the employees seem to practice English as a second language (one of the great Internet cavils about the place), but that is pretty much the norm these days, and I didn't experience any breakdowns in communication, though I had to stifle a laugh when a waitress referred to the special as "monkey fish." Bread was excellent, with a shatteringly crisp crust and soft interior. Perhaps this is a parlor trick, but it impressed me. The butter was also good. I was going to get the $12 mussels, only it had slid up to $14 as the origin had gone from Maine to P.E.I.; so in protest and to compare with my other Belgian experience I got a half portion of gnocchi Bolognese; these came somewhat gummy and not able to hold a candle to those of leading culinary lights such as, say, United Airlines. The sauce was fresh and bright and disappointingly nonstandard. Attention chefs, Bolognese is not an excuse for you to exercise your creativity in hiding assorted odd leftover vegetables (in this case carrot dice and sliced shiitakes). A big scoop of black pepper ricotta - both peppery and bland - came on top. I'd have eaten the sticky gnocchi had they come with a proper Bolognese; I'd have tolerated the sauce on really good fluffy gnocchi. I'd have pushed aside the black-flecked white cheese in any case. The "half" serving, sad to say, was huge, so I left behind in my bowl dinner for two. Black Angus steak and fries - I ordered this very rare, and it came out ... bleu: I couldn't believe my eyes. It was I believe - it came sliced - short cut rump, unfortunately fatless; the fat of this cut is very tasty. I'd expected flatiron or skirt. Good tenderness and flavor. Fries were a disappointment - twice-cooked but at a too low temperature, so the outsides were a bit leathery. A spicy housemade chipoltle ketchup helped. Watercress salad was dressed in a very tart dressing - quite good; unfortunately, in the name of creative plating, it had been blopped right on top of the fries, making some of the fries sour, soggy, and cold and wilting the bottom part of the salad. On the whole, what do you say, C+, no, B- because the steak was done right. I'd ordered a Sam Adams lager; what came was something else, I think the Noble Pils. I drank it. When I came back from dinner I found that the heat, not needed during daylight, didn't work - lots of noise, but only cool air poured out. I cranked the thermostat by degrees and gave up at 88. There was an extra comforter in the closet, so I didn't suffer. Early to bed, early to rise. Breakfast, the standard Hilton buffet plus (leaden) biscuits and (quite good, sagey) sausage gravy. Again, a mixed bag. Bacon and sausage were good; eggs tolerable and possibly not synthetic; potatoes rather strange wedges, totally uncrisp, heavily flavored with bell pepper; very nice fruit; not so nice cold cuts, turkey salty as anything, deli ham wet and soft. A solicitous waitress, ready with the juice pitcher, earned her tip. Also, the breakfast breads were rather forlorn, in contrast to the terrific bread at dinner. The airport shuttle waited an extra 5 for a guest (points in favor or against? I'm not sure).