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Oct 10, 2004 06:51 PM

Lunch Near the Museum of the American Indian in Washington

  • r

We're interested in a restaurant within walking distance of the Museum of the American Indian on the Mall near the Air and Space Museum. There will be three children in our group. Local favorites would really be appreiated. We love Southern places, Ethnic cuisine and hamburger joints. Thanks in advance.

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  1. When we go down to see nearly anything on the mall we do the following: park up on Cap Hill, around Penn and 4th-6th SE, either walk down and take metro up, vice versa, or walk both ways. This give the added benefit of walking the Capitol grounds, see the LOC, Supreme Court if you want to walk a block out of the way, and some of the Cap Hill neighborhoods.

    Starting about 4th and Penn SE, there is Thai Roma, one that's on our short list, the mexican place across the street isn't all that special. Don't know that the kids would go for thai, though. From that point east, there are a number of places, spread along both sides of Penn. Penn and 8th (barracks row) is really coming along, and if you're around on a weekend, then you can start at Eastern Market for the market itself (they serve food in it), take that metro down to the mall, walk back up, and pass most of the offerings in this section on your way back to the market.

    Double check with the museum on availability (AI museum), it's probably safe now, but they were ticketing for quite a while, and it'd be a dissapointment not to be able to get in.

    1. There is a Johnny Rockets, 50's burger place, in the Union Station food court.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Rob64

        My wife and I had a nasty shock a couple of years ago at Johnny Rocket's. When I produced my credit card to pay for our lunch, we were told they don't accept credit cards or checks, only cash. (This is mentioned somewhere on the menu, but not very prominently.) My wife had to find an ATM in Union Station so we could pay up.

        A sit-down restaurant in the heart of a tourist area that doesn't accept credit cards? Scr*w that. We've never gone back.

        1. re: Leo Scanlon

          I guess JR can be added to the list of fine eating establishments in this city that don't take credit :0).

          Another is Marrakesh on NY Ave, at least they didn't a hundred years ago. Last time I went there was a group of about 20 making a big stink about it. Nice touch at the end of a meal, isn't it? Personally, I prefer a peppermint or two...

      2. There nothing in this part of town i.e. SW. I understand there is a cafeteria in the museum. There is a 'food court' in Air and Space. The caferteria at National Gallery of Art is pretty good for what it is. I understand that the cafeteria at Natural History is good. If you want off the mall the best option is Penn Quarter area. Teaism is a block away from National Archives. If you do not want to cross the mall there is a Quiznos on the other side of Dept. of Education, along School St is "The Atrium" which has large pricey sandwiches or a Vie de France at L'Enfant Plaza metro entrance at Capital Gallery. It is also always fun to pack a picnic and dine on the Mall.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chris f

          A picnic is a good idea. The Botanical Gardens, a stone throw away, has some tables and chairs and very pleasant surroundings.

          1. re: chris f

            Oh yeah, the cafeteria in the American Indian museum is supposed to be very good, highlighting the foods, such as 'tacos'. You might get away with snacking at a few places over the day then settling for a big meal. The snacking is doubly true if you do the Eastern Market first.

            Union Station and the Post Office museum have the food courts - not really chow worthy, but if the kids are picky it may be a good solution. Not a rec from me, though.

          2. The restaurant in the museum is quite good, accoring to co-workers who've eaten there several times since the opening (It's also been praised in several of the articles I've read about the museum.) The menu features Native American dishes and is quite varied. There are, however, foods for the non-adventurous eaters in your group.

            I haven't eaten there yet, but will in the next few weeks. The cookbook, which includes some dishes served on site, looks wonderful.

            In other words, this is NOT the same fast food food-court-ish cuisine found in several of the other museums. Why not give it a try?

            5 Replies
            1. re: joanek

              I've been interested in their offering myself. Someone previously mentioned they have "tacos." There is an item called a "Navajo taco" which you will find in every diner on the reservation, I was wondering if they had it. Basically a chile con carne w/ beans on a fry bread. Seen it occassionally at native american gatherings and once at a folklife festival here, but no one has it on a regular basis. America at US puts chicken on the fry bread, which is similiar, but the real Navajo taco is meat. Looked for, but haven't seen, any articles discussing their food offering. Can you provide a link?

              1. re: Rob64

                Most major papers ran stories in their travel sections, all the ones I read talked about the cafe as being different from those usually found at national museums.
                I didn't save any, but a google search provided a couple of lots of links, including:
                and another I've placed below. There's also a link to some photos.

                You may also want search "Mitsitam Cafe." A bunch came up that way.



                1. re: joanek

                  oops, the photo link didn't work, but just search by "mitsitam cafe" for more info.

                  1. re: joanek

                    Thanks, I had not seen the sfgate article, I transcribe the relevant portion:

                    "Even the museum restaurant, called Mitsitam ("Let's eat'' in the Lenape language) veers far away from the burger and fries menus of most museums. There is a burger, for $4.95, but it's a buffalo burger. And there's also Quahog clam chowder, cedar planked juniper salmon and pueblo tortilla soup in the long menu, selected to represent five regions and prepared where possible with ingredients supplied by Native American vendors."

              2. Thanks everyone for your ideas. I just wanted to drop a note and say that we actually went to this cafeteria today based on all the comments and it was really really excellent. The only thing I would say is that we went really hungry and were slightly overwhelmed because everything looked so good, but once we weeded through the large selection and picked our lunch items we were thoroughly impressed.

                I had the chicken tamal with red corn salad and squash escabeche and fry bread with honey and sugar for desert. My husband ordered the buffalo chili Indian taco with corn bread and our BFF had the buffalo shank (a healthy portion) with fry bread.

                Highly highly recommended for tourists on the Mall Museum strip.