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Inexpensive food near Natl Mall attractions? Maybe happy hour deals, etc, too?

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I apologize if this has been asked and answered 100 times but I've been tyring to use the site search and not getting much that way.

We'll be visiting DC on a Tuesday & Weds, no kids. I know we'll be touring the Capitol bldg but nothing else is decided. I suppose we'll visit some Smithsonian museums (although I just read that the one housing Julia's kitchen is closed for renovations!), maybe the Library of Congress... beyond that I don't know, we're pretty open. Are there good but inexpensive places to eat in the area? Also, maybe happy hours offering a super deal on bar fare? Any tips for saving some money but not eating poorly? This trip wasn't in the budget but something came along and we're off. Still, trying to do it really inexpensively.

Many thanks.

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  1. My first thought is Teaism behind the navy archives. We usually pop in there for a quick breakfast or lunch. My personal fave is the cilantro scrambled eggs with tea cured salmon. Beware the chocolate salty oat cookie..addictive. Let us know if this is within the budget. Inexpensive can mean different things to different people.


    1. Near the Capitol, the best places are Sonoma (wine bar/restaurant) at 2nd and Pennsylvania SE and Montmartre (French bistro) near 7th and Penn SE. Murky Coffee near Montmartre is also an excellent place for coffee and hot chocolate.

      Near the Smithsonian museums: Teaism at 8th and D NW (great breakfasts/lunches/teas), Jaleo at 480 7th NW (tapas), Zaytinya (Mediterranean tapas at 9th and G). Burma (excellent and inexpensive Burmese place at 740 6th NW), Poste (bistro) at 555 8th NW)

      Also try also the American Indian Museum cafeteria. It has its detractors on here, but it's got an interesting assortment of food.

      1. The menu looks great. Actually, that would be on the upper end of what we'd like to spend. Perhaps I'm being unrealistic though?
        Maybe we'll pop in for a cup of coffee and a couple of those wonderful sounding salty oat cookies!
        Thanks for your help.

        1. Teasim is very inexpensive by DC standards.

          1 Reply
          1. re: chazas

            I agree with chazas. By DC standards, Teaism is quite inexpensive. You'll have a hard time finding food comparably good and comparably priced anywhere near the Nat'l. Mall.

          2. The area just to the East of the Capitol Building is a residential area of families and has lots of underpaid Hill staffers and students therefore lots of cheap eats. It's the Capital Hill Historic District, the largest intact Victorian neighborhood in the US.
            There are cafeterias in the House and Senate Office Buildings with cheap but very pedestrian food. If you get passes from Congressional Offices you can eat in the Senate and House Members' Dining Rooms which have better food (sometimes actually pretty good) and lovely historic surroundings. The Supreme Court and Library of Congress cafs are also open to the public.
            On E. Capital St. at 5th, Jimmy T's is a major local greasy spoon hangout.
            On Mass Ave, NE, the White Tiger has an Indian buffet at lunch for around $10. Pizza at Armand's. Mexican at La Loma. German at Café Berlin. All reasonable.
            On Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, the Tune Inn is cheap and a classic of the greasy spoon genre. Hawk and Dove and Capital Lounge have good bar food. Several other choices in that row less expensive than the very good Sonoma.
            Around the corner on 2nd Street, SE, Pete's has good breakfast and lunch at bargain prices. The little French café has good food too.
            Near Montmartre (the best of what's been mentioned above by far) and Murky Coffee, you'll find Tunnicliff's which has nightly bar specials on cheap drinks and food if you eat in the bar area. Something different each night. The Eastern Market itself has a great lunch counter that also serves breakfast.
            If you are watching a tight budget, you can pick up great prepared foods to carry for lunch as the choices near the museums are either boring institutional or downtown prices.
            Check out the Spy Museum. Major entertainment. Worth what may seem like a steep admission compared to the free museums. Several good restaurants close to it in Penn Quarter have been mentioned above. Check out Cowgirl Creamery for a fabulous selection of artisanal cheeses and bread for lunch. It's also close to the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery.
            If you go to the Renwick, Phillips or Corcoran, you should try CF Folks or Breadline. Both are terrific for lunch but a little far from the Mall and across town from the Capitol.

            1. I haven't been to DC for awhile, but there was a very nice food court in the Old Post Office building. I especially liked the Indian place. Might be a good lunch possibility.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Gin and It

                Not sure there's a thing left in the Old Post Office.
                There is a food court in National Place at 13th and F with a fairly wide variety of offerings including a Five Guys, a local burger chain, and a SoHo, a hot and cold buffet.
                A McDonald's at the same corner.

              2. You can always grab an Ollieburger at Ollie's Trolley, near 12th and E. Ask for Medium Rare if you like.

                Get the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at Chinatown Express for only about $5. In Chinatown.

                A Felafel or Italian Sauasage sandwich at Breadline (near the White House) will be about $7. Get the flavored water to drink for another 50 cents. Lunch only.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Steve

                  Since the American History Museum closed, Breadline is really a hike from any of the museums on the National Mall. It's only close to the Renwick or Corcoran if museum-goers are looking for lunch breaks. It's at 18th and Penn., 6 blocks north plus 6 blocks west of Natural History which is the furthest NW of the museums.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    In case the OP would like to visit or at least pass in front of the White House, which most vistors are interested in, Breadline is a fantastic choice. Washington visitors are lucky to have such an inexpensive Chowhound address so close to a major tourist destination. It's in the 1700 block of Pennsylvania, one block from the White House.

                    Anyone in the area should also visit the Renwick, the Smithsonian gallery of decorative arts.

                2. Here is one more suggestion. How about Full Kee for their lunch special? Then head to the Portrait Gallery in Penn Quarter. What I have seen so far, as I am working my way slowly through it room by room, is fabulous.


                  1. Although not mentioned previously, there are a plethora of options at Union Station from the expensive to the fast food (http://www.unionstationdc.com/dinning...). In addition, across the street from the Station is the Capital City Brewery (http://www.capcitybrew.com/)

                    1. There's a food court in the Ronald Reagan Bldg. BUT you have to go through metal detectors to get there. I concur with others recommending that you visit the National Portrait Gallery (and the co-located National Museum of American Art) in the late morning and eat somewhere around the MCI/Verizon Center. Alas, the really good Chinese places were displaced by that arena, but Burma is okay (just okay, though) and Capital Q has some decent Texas style BBQ.

                      1. Wow, many thanks to you all for such wonderful information. I'm printing it off and taking it along with us.
                        There are some real bargains here, I wasn't sure what to expect or hope for. Teaism does sound nice, if we're still feeling as tight as we are now we may just go in for a light breakfast and then hit one of the bargain lunches later on. Should work out just fine.
                        Love the suggestion to pick up prepared foods, too. We've done that alot while in Europe and once while visiting the Hill (the Italian neighborhood) in St Louis, Mo, we decided to skip the restaurants altogether, went into a grocery and bought bread, cheese, salamis, olives, some sweets and a bottle of wine, sat outside at their sidewalk table and had the best meal of our entire visit. Really, now that I'm thinking of it those truly are some of our favorite vacation meal memories.
                        With your help finding good and inexpensive restaurants, and mostly free attractions, it looks like DC will be pretty stress-free, budgetwise. Nice. Thank you, thank you.

                        1. Hope I'm not too late - but drop into the food court at the National Gallery of Art for a gelatto - you won't regret it.

                          1. Wanted to report back briefly about our trip. Had lunch at Teaism which I really enjoyed. Husband had Thai chicken curry that he liked but didn't love. Frankly, I think there were other things on the menu he'd have liked more so it was really an ordering issue here. I had a boxed chicken lunch that was delicious and very filling. The cold cubed sweet potato with miso sauce was great as was the very refreshing cucumber and ginger salad. Even the rice was pretty and tasted special. We were so full when we finished that we skipped the salty oat cookie. Why we didn't get a couple to carry in our pockets for later I just don't know. It was very reasonably priced, as you all told me it would be! That was our only meal in the city that day. In Arlington we ate at an Afghan restaurant, Bamian, that we both enjoyed. We shared a lamb kabob platter and a couple of appetizers. Boolawnee, pastry filled with scallions, leek & potatoes with yogurt sauce, was very good and mantu, a meat & scallion filled dumpling with a lentil sauce and mint was good, too, though not as tasty as the boolawnee. (Or was it the other way around? We packed so much into a few days that I'm on info overload and could be confusing things.)
                            A spicy condiment, don't know what it's called, was very good. We ate the first part of our meal without it so we could really taste everything and then began using it and enjoyed how it tasted with everything, really. This was our first experience with Afghan cuisine. A hit with us.

                            Before heading into the Natl Portrait Gallery (fabulous, by the way) we ducked into Cowgirl Creamery where we had to settle for tastes as there is no place to sit, it was too wet outside, and we had many hours ahead of us before we'd be taking the Metro back to the home of our hosts. Just wouldn't have worked out which was sort of heartbreaking for me. At least we tasted and it was just delicious. Loved the Redhawk. Really wonderful. Next time I will plan things differently.
                            At some point we had tea and oranges (very cheap & tasty snack!) at the Natl History museum cafe and watched the ice skaters, which was a relaxing and much needed break for us.
                            Our only other real meal eaten out was at Dockside in Colonial Beach, VA, a bit far from this board's covered area.
                            Many thanks to you all for your input. I have saved it all and will pull it out again next time. I've left a copy with our hosts who will no doubt benefit from it also. We ran so much and so quickly - we really saw alot! - that it seemed we were seldom in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the restaurants but what we did eat we enjoyed.
                            Your input allowed us to feel that, armed with your suggestions, we'd be able to eat well and still pay the kid's college tuition no matter where we ended up. Helped us relax and have fun. Many thanks.

                            Oh, by the way, Julia's kitchen isn't available for viewing but the Air & Space museum has a room filled with things from the Amer Hist museum and there's a handwritten recipe for pain de mie of hers on display.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: xena

                              Xena--Thanks so much for reporting back! I think it can be really frustrating when visitors pop in, ask for advice, and never let us know what they liked/didn't like!