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Jul 14, 2000 01:53 AM

good eats in Smithsonian / Capitol area

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My family is attending a conference in DC in August and we'll be wandering around the usual tourist areas. Where can we eat that is walking distance, but not the usual museum cafeteria food?

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  1. Cafe Atlantico is about 3-4 blocks away from the National Galleries and I would recommend them. Good food altho a bit pricey. Same with Jaleo. Chinatown is at Gallery Place metro and it's walkable from the Smithsonian. Pricey but very very very good French at La Colline is nearby.

    Can't remember the name of the dim sum place I usually frequent. If you're here on a Saturday you should go have breakfast at Eastern Market - very cool and fun. I think there's a breakfast discussion below. Or check out Jimmy T's - very capitol Hill. Also on the Hill - You can go famous Republican spotting at The Monocle for steaks for dinner.

    There's a couple of pubs that are very hidden (behind the HUD building) and quite close to the National Gallery and you can probably get a pretty good burger for a decent price. One of them is:
    My Brother's Place
    130 C St. NW
    Washington, D.C. 20001
    Probably worth calling ahead because they are kind of hard to find.

    Another option is to go to the Waterfront, but it's really, really touristy so you should do a drive by and see if there's anything you like. Maybe someone here has checked some of those places out?

    Finally, if you're willing to go up the hill (Southeast), Mr. Henry's has good burgers (meat loaf on Wednesday p.m.!!), Ellington's on Eighth has good food and nice jazz nights, You can get an edible and not too expensive meal at Hawk and Dove, passable Mexican at La Lomita (I prefer the one on 13th street - which is actually not owned by the same guy as the one on 3rd), El Salvadorian at Las Placitas and Thai at Thai Talay on 1st SW??

    If you want to go Northeast you can get pretty good Indian food at White Tiger, and German at Berliner.

    I don't recommend anywhere in Union Station (and I have eaten at every restaurant there). Also not big on Bullfeathers, Red River Grill, Tortilla Coast or some of the other larger Hill places.

    have fun!

    7 Replies
    1. re: Cap Hill

      Move along for dinner, definitely, and lunch if you can. Chinatown -- "China Street," more accurately -- is fine for lunch; and I had a decent bbq brisket at a Tejas-style jernt on H Street. But avoid -- at any and all costs! -- the Smiths'ian cafeterias, unless you're eating freeze-dried space food from the A&S museum

      1. re: John
        Leedom Lefferts

        Disagree about "ain't none" - There is a good, hidden, Burmese restaurant in the Chinatown area - on the southwest corner of 6th & H Sts, NW, look up at the 2nd floor windows above the Chinese & Vietnamese restaurants on the ground floor. Recommended for dinner . . . quiet and pleasant.

        1. re: Leedom Lefferts

          Burmese! Good find!

          Is it any good? Is it serious Burmese, or Burmese-tinged Chinese? Details, please!


          1. re: Jim Leff

            there is a very short but detailed discussion about the "burma restaurant" on 04/03 further down on this page.

            1. re: dw

              Steve: don't mean to nag, but told you so! Big, big warning to those visiting the Smith'ian, especially with kids: eat first, then browse, or browse first and eat. As I said, you're better off with the astronaut food sold in the gift shop -- my 6-year old niece though it was totally cool -- than with the cafeterias. For those with a federal i.d. (how many of us are out there?), the Labor Department cafeteria has perfectly edible food and a fabulous outdoor seating area with views of the Capitol.

              In answer to Jim's question, "Burma" is authentic, if uneven. Somewhat dingy, too. But a big spot for the birkenstock crowd on first dates (earthy women are impressed: "Burmese?! Nice.") Tell John Tempe and his mom I say hello. Mama Tempe cooks nearly everything.

        2. re: John

          Oh God! It was awful! As unsuspecting tourists to DC last weekend, my wife and I along with our 2 kids patronized the Air/Space Museum cafeteria. Little did we know how abominable an experience it would be. First, there was a ski-lift cattle line to get in, so we never considered that it could be as bad as it was; after all that many people can't be wrong, can they?
          Yes, they can.

          The food (sic!) was was bad enough: gray hot dogs, faux pizza, etc. What really got me angry, though, was the complete RIP-OFF prices. Where do they get the gall to charge what they do? We had three crappy, 6-inch pizzas, one foot-long dog, four sodas, one nectarine, one small bag of chips. Price: over $42!

          Do not go there! You'd be better off at McDonald's!

        3. re: Cap Hill

          Jaleo is not as expensive as Cafe Atlantico, at least if you get a few Tapas to share, and probably no worse than the tourist-gouging caffeterias in the museums. Cafe Atlantico's menu and food has been in a weird schizophrenic state also. Jaleo is at 7th and (I think) E, quite close to the Gallery.

          Nearer to the American History museum the roof of the Hotel Washington, 15th & Penn, is where I like to take visitors. The food is mostly mushy sandwiches, but it's an expense-account outdoor view of the city at very reasonable prices and rather unfrequented by tourists.

          On the Hill, I think Sherry's Diner is still on Pennsylvania and maybe 6th or 7th SE. Don't remember much about the food except the breakfast pastries, but loads of atmosphere and geriatric waitresses working alongside their mothers.

        4. Let me add that there is one possible cafeteria you might want to consider. There is a fairly hidden, pretty decent cafeteria in the top of the Adams building in the library of Congress. It actually has interesting views of the Anacostia, not too expensive and you can find edible food there.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Cap Hill

            Or was that the Madison building -

            whichever building it is, it's the one with the law library in it.

            1. re: Cap Hill

              It's the Madison Building. The newest one, across Pennsylvania from the big old main Jefferson Bldg.