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Jan 3, 2011 12:23 PM

Not so touristy food in touristy DC

Hi, I'll be in DC checking out museums (smithsonian art, history, newseum, spy museum). I'm hoping to grab lunch at some not-awful/touristy places. I'm a big sandwich fan and I'm also interested in finding places that do "manageable" (not overstuffed, not sloppy) sandwiches that I can bring to the museums and snack on without having to leave.

Feel free to note non-sandwich spots...I'll probably stop in for a sit-down lunch once or twice.


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  1. You can pick up a very neat sandwich at Pret a Manger near Metro Center, and walk over to the Mall. It's all fresh made that day and delicious. They're all neatly packed in little boxes and very tea-sandwich-esque. Could fit your needs quite nicely.

    I've also heard good things about the take-out sandwiches at Cowgirl Creamery, also near the Mall.

    One more sandwich recommendation, though not neat, would be to go to Taylor Gourmet (multiple locations, closest to the Mall is the one at Mount Vernon Square). Try the roast pork and broccoli rabe, outstanding.

    Taylor Gourmet
    1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

    2 Replies
    1. re: hamster

      I'm with hamster re: Taylor Gourmet and Cowgirl Creamery. I've never had a sandwich from Pret a Manger; they look unappealing to me because they are pre-made and pre-wrapped -- but for your purposes, that may be just the thing.

      Taylor Gourmet
      1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

      1. re: woodleyparkhound

        You really should give Pret a chance. They make all the sandwiches in store that day, they are no ordinary sandwiches.

    2. I think you will find that most of the museums do not allow you to bring in food and beverages, other than bottled water. The National Zoo encourages picnicking, but that would not be much fun on a cold winter day.

      If you want to dine in the Smithsonian museums, there are a variety of options. None are outstanding, so far as I know, but here are a few interesting ones:

      1. Mitsitam Cafe - Museum of the American Indian - advertises "authentic Native foods" from around the Western hemisphere

      2. Courtyard Cafe - National Portrait Gallery - has seasonal menus in a pleasant setting

      3. Castle Cafe and Coffee Bar - Smithsonian Castle - espresso, cappuccino, gelato, panini and more in one of DC's coolest buildings

      You can see more at

      The Newseum has a Wolfgang Puck restaurant called "The Source" as well as a food court,

      You can see Spy Museum's dining recs at

      Hope that helps!

      1. Be careful with food in the museums. I've had food confiscated (leftovers packed in boxes) during the bag check process at one of the Smithsonians. You might plan to enjoy your sandwich before going into the museums.

        1. I worked in federal buildings on the Mall for six years, the cafeteria in the National Gallery of Art back then was good enough that I would meet friends there for lunch rather than in a restaurant. There are two buildings that are the National Gallery of Art, the cafeteria is in the newer one, with the interior waterfall/sculpture thingy. It is adjacent to the gift shop which is really good for a museum gift shop, I got some nice prints there at very reasonable prices.

          You can find reviews of it on the web, apparently it is still good, I guess the official name is "Cascade Cafe"

          I'm a big fan of the National Gallery of Art in general, never cared much for the other museums. They rotate exhibits pretty often and have a great permanent collection, it is a very serene place. I spent countless happy hours there.

          1. The Garden Cafe at the National Gallery of Art (West Building) has a $20 buffet with a menu devised by noted French chef Michel Richard. It's an amazing deal. Especially that the faux gras, charcutie, cheese course, chocolate mousse (and a very good one at that) included. Sensational.

            If you are near the White House midweek, then you could check out the sandwiches at Breadline. The cubano on Thursday, the bbq on Friday, the Philly cheesesteak on Monday, or the Italian Sausage any day of the week are absolutely great.

            The Pattison Ave sandwich (roast pork, broccoli rabe, sharp provolone) at Taylor Gourmet is the stuff dreams are made on.

            If you want to sit down somewhere, then I love the tapas at Jaleo. Especially the spinach with raisins and the baby wrinkled potatoes.