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Hidden restaurants in office building basements

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Many of the office buildings downtown (and this probably true of the 'burbs as well) have small restaurants or snack bars that serve principally the "captive" clientele from the floors above, people who can't get away from their desks for more than a few minutes. People from outside the building don't know they exist, as their advertising usually consists of, at most, a small sign in the lobby.

Most of what they offer is pretty predictable--routine sandwiches and salads. But once in a while they'll have something remarkable. A really good burger or soup or, since many of them are owned by Koreans or Latinos, occasionally something ethnic.

Anything good in YOUR building?

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  1. The Purple Onion, on the lower level of 12450 Fair Lakes Circle, Fairfax, VA

    1. In a satellite Red Cross building, on the south side of E St. between 17th and 18th (NOT the main building on the north side of E between 19th and 20th), is an open-to-the-public cafeteria run by a Greek family. I think it's called the Clara Barton Cafe. The deli and grilled items are better than average for a deli like this, and the gyros are only ok. But whatever "Greek Special" they cooked up that morning is usually amazing.

      1. This isn't a great restaurant, but back in the day when I worked there, Smithsonian Castle had a super secret Subway in its basement. It was a decent alternative from dining with the hoards of tourists on the mall as you could only access it if you were a Fed or worked for Smithsonian. I heard that the Subway isn't there anymore, but now there is an in-house sandwhich shop?

        1. Not my building, but out in Falls Church, in the building with the 2941 restaurant, is Cafe 2941. They are by the same chef, Jonathan Krinn, and feature the same breads. Good place to get a sandwich or salad.

          Before the restaurant was fully open, Chef Krinn himself cooked upstairs in the Cafe. It was a GREAT deal then.

          1. I think Shamshiry definitely fits this bill in Tyson's.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Dennis S

              I used to eat at Shamshiry a lot when I was stuck working in that souless office park--definitely fits the profile.

              There used to be a luggage store downtown (on Penn Ave?) that had an old lunch counter in it that served some Korean dishes... Anyone remember that place? Almost as strange and the dry cleaners that served Russian soups that used to be on Columbia Road.