Lunch in L'enfant or Close to
A friend of mine recently started a new job at L'enfant Plaza and has pretty much been eating lunch everyday at Quiznos if they don't bring lunch to work. I know that there has to be some place better than Quiznos that he can eat at. But here's the thing, he only has 30 minutes for lunch and it has to be cheap. So, that pretty much takes out places in Penn Quarter, the Hill and Chinatown. I know that there is supposed to be this really good salad bar at the Department of Energy, but besides that I can't think of anything else. Or is there nothing else to eat out here? Help this guy out people! Thank you!
This part of town is lacking for quick and good lunches. The Atrium Cafe on School Street has hand carved sandwiches. Depending where friend is located maybe walk down to Maine Ave warf for some seafood. The various Smithsonian cafeterias might be a push during summer for 30 minutes I know some co-workers like the GSA cafeteria. There is a farmer's market on Fridays in the Dept of Ag parking lot. If you can time the green line right, there is a 5 Guys at Navy Yard stop. And there is a Vie de France by USDA Grad School and Au Bon Pain in L'enfant plaza shops. Other than that its brown bag time or the hot dog stand.
I used to work at the Dept. of Energy. The salad bar is so-so. Apparently there's an agreement among local Gov't Departments to allow their cafeterias to be relatively open, and the Dept. of Agriculture a few blocks away is a pretty good one. Also, I second the farmer's market in the parking lot.
Believe it or not, the Loews at L'Enfant has a very good little restaurant. Not too expensive and quite good. I like the Cobb salad, but the sandwiches are some of the best around, mostly under 10 bucks. This is a kitchen that is over-achieving as a hotel restaurant. Underneath Loews in the L'Enfant underground is an oriental buffet place that actually has decent sushi and other nice nibbles if he wants to carry it all back to his desk.
The best of the best was the restaurant in the Smithsonian castle across from DOE, but it has closed. It's also worth the 2-3 block walk to go to the newer Smithsonian American Indain museum -- the cafeteria has regional native American foods, like cedar plank salmon for the northwest, buffalo burgers for the midwest, spponbread and maple turkey for the northeast, etc.
The Ford HOB cafeteria (across from Federal Center SW Metro) is quick and cheap. They have standard cafeteria fare and hot/cold sandwich lines, but the best stuff to be had are their Greek specialties (spanakopita...mmmm). Platters are generous and run from $5.25-$6.99. No sales tax is charged, so that's a nice 10% bonus in your pocket right there.
Other than a high-end meal at the Mandarin Oriental, there's little worth going out of your way for in all of Southwest, let alone the area around L'Enfant Plaza. For the most part, your friend will be doomed to a life of fast food, hot/cold $6.99/lb buffets, hot dogs off the street, and brown-bagging it.
There is also a popcorn vendor near 7th and D St, SW next to the Dept of Transportation (assuming that they have yet to move to the Navy Yard) and HUD. Not the best of lunches healthwise but quite a yummy filler until dinner.
Also, there is the Market Inn: http://www.marketinnrestaurant.com/
When I worked in that area (FAA) I ate lunch out every day. I'll admit that it got kind of boring at times, but there are some bright spots. The cafeteria in the new National Gallery of Art is nice as is the Native American museum cafeteria, but those should be reserved for special treats. There are a couple of New York style salad bars (salad stuff with pastas and Chinese food) that aren't bad. And on nice days, walk down to the wharf for a fish sandwich.
And is anyone really standing at the door with a stopwatch? As a former Government worker, I officially had 30 minutes for lunch, but nobody got excited if I took 35 minutes some days, because other days, I took only 25 minutes or ate at my desk. But that's between your friend and his boss.
Mike R->That's what I told him too, but he just started this job so he wants to make a good impression. Which I understand completely.
Thank you everyone for the good suggestions. I forwarded him the URL last night to give him a swift kick in the butt to try something new and to "explore."