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Dismal eating options around the Mall?

Been to DC a handful of times, last time we were lucky enough to find Mitsitam which was delicious but over priced & crowded.
We will be spending the day at the Mall primarily going to the Art museum and then the Tidal basin (not sure what order yet) and then maybe the Capital. Are there any reasonably priced good restaurants that may have popped up since our last visits? do not really want cafeteria or fast food which seems to be the only option....
Thanks :-)

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  1. The National Gallery of Art has some relatively good food options. For example, they currently have a buffet menu created by Cathal Armstrong (of Restaurant Eve).

    If you are by the Tidal Basin you might be able to get to Mandarin Oriental, which has City Zen and Sou'wester (the distance isn't far, but it may not be pedestrian-friendly).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Doh

      Thanks for the quick reply. These seem pricey!!! we were hoping for something good, not so upscale.

    2. You could try the Garden Cafe in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art - they rotate the food across different local chefs and apparently now it's Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve fame:

      Nearby, next to the Archive metro stop, is Paul for deliciously simple French baguette sandwiches and pastries.

      1. Up 7th street from NGA:

        Hill Country BBQ - go only for the moist brisket, exceptional. Side dishes are good.

        Jaleo for Spanish tapas - for good value, focus on the verduras - grilled asparagus, spinach with raisins, beet salad with citrus, patatas bravas, baby wrinkled potatoes, roasted red pepper and eggplant, garlic mushrooms.

        Cap Hill:
        Honestly for the best stuff don't avoid fast food. Good Stuff Eatery has an exceptional toasted marshmallow milkshake, the sunny side burger, and village fries (to be shared). Sonoma is a good alternative for light Italian fare.

        1. For breakfast on Capitol Hill, I like Pete's Diner. It's on 2nd Street, SE about 3 blocks from the Capitol. Very decent breakfast and cheap, which makes Pete's a rarity and an anachronism in today's DC. If you go early between 6-7 a.m., you might spot some of the heavy hitters from both parties (breakfast is the only thing they seem to agree on) mixed in with us regular working folks. It's cash only.

          7 Replies
          1. re: flavrmeistr

            Second Pete's Diner.

            When I head to the Tidal Basin, I like to make a detour to Maine Avenue Fish Market. For al fresco dining, you can't beat a big plate of fried fish or a nice slice of pie. When I feel like oysters, I usually get a dozen on the half shell from Jessie Taylor. Shucked right in front of you and you can't beat the price.


            1. re: monkeyrotica

              I'd go to the Fish Market too. It is not far from the Tidal basin and you can get there on foot although there will be lots of crazy traffic so be careful.

              1. re: tcamp

                When I drive to the Tidal Basin, I'll often park near the fish market and walk to the basin from there.

                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  Thanks for the awesome suggestion! did not even know about the fish market!!!

                  2 more questions if i may ---

                  Can we park at the fish market, eat and then leave the car there and walk to the Tidal Basin?

                  What is the best place for Fish and Chips there? Also i saw a delicious pic of mac n cheese! where do i get that?

                  1. re: penny07

                    The parking at Maine Avenue fish market is limited, but there are 2-hour parking meters along Maine Avenue as well as a paid lot in front of Phillips Restaurant. Sunday parking is free. There's a covered area overlooking the river in front of Jessie Taylor seafood. No seating, just standing room only, but there's a bar where you can stand and eat your food and get out of the sun/drizzle.

                    The Mac and cheese is from Jimmy's Grill. There's no Irish pub style fish and chips; locals go for the fried whiting or croaker and a side of frenchfries. Skip the tartar sauce, go for the hot sauce.

                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      I see the lot next to Phillips on street view!
                      Is that exclusively for the restaurant? Is it a large lot? Do you happen to know the cost?

                      1. re: penny07

                        Pretty sure there's a metered section and one reserved for Philips customers. No idea what the cost is. Its usually something like $10 an hour. Also lots of meters running along Maine towards the Waterfront Metro stop.

          2. Up near the Capitol you might like Le Bon Cafe or Good Stuff Eatery (both on the House side of the Capitol). You can also head over to Eastern Market and check out the market itself (affordable sandwiches, half smokes, crab cakes etc) or some of the restaurants in the area including Matchbox and Zest.

            Another option (closer to the White House) is The Hamilton.

            If you are along the Mall, there are a lot of tasty options near Gallery Place/Chinatown (not far off of the Mall). You can try Jaleo, Teaism, Matchbox (again), and Hill Country BBQ.

            1. right.on.the.mall. - nuthin great, but not bad stuff within a short walk as is being pointed out.

              1. Why limit yourself? If you are near 7th Street, you can easily walk two blocks to either the L'Enfant (south) or Archives (north) Metro stations and go to many places fairly quickly.

                6 Replies
                1. re: teknikel

                  and hey hey (ahem), the Blue-Orange has a stop right on the Mall...

                  but to directly refer to the OP's f/f aversion, yes the only ones are in Air and Space and are 2+ x the $ than the regular and they're still just McDonald's or Boston Mkt. etc.

                  1. re: hill food

                    I am surprised that no one seems to like Art and Soul.

                    1. re: law_doc89

                      I think most like it, but in the context of 'near the Mall' it doesn't pop into mind, even though it is indeed near.

                  2. re: teknikel

                    Sure, Metro is a fine idea if you have time and money, but that can add a few dollars per person and at least half an hour to lunch. Tourists would probably rather grab something nearby.

                    When I worked downtown close to the mall maybe once every few months I'd get on the Metro but it would be nearly a two hour lunch.

                  3. I'm not sure this will be helpful, and I am not wanting to waste anyone's time. But...the last time the SO and I were in DC as tourists we visited the Air and Space and the Hirshhorn in the morning, and boy, were we ~starving~ by 11:30.

                    We sat in the cool, sunny April air and we watched. We watched for folks with their badges and lanyards. We followed them into the ground floor of an unassuming office (?) building not far off the Mall, and we got in line.

                    We found ourselves in a cafeteria-style eatery, with generous portions and low (for DC) prices. Not a chain and not "fast food"--yeah! We ate outside in the sun. I remember I had a lovely eggplant/roasted pepper sandwich on a croissant with a penne pasta and greens salad. It was quite good. My SO is surfing right now to see if he can come up with a name, but that is kind of not the point.

                    I think the point is...in a "tourist-heavy" spot, sit a bit. Observe. And find out where the local ~workers~ eat if you want hearty food at good cost/value.

                    I know we ate "cafeteria" style and that is not what the OP wants, but I think this way of finding restaurants can be applied to other dining options. I suppose if I wanted to spend more $$$ and a bit more time, I would "follow the suits" and see where those folks took their clients for lunch.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pedalfaster

                      pedal - that's a good approach. you're worthy of the title "Hunter and Gatherer".

                    2. I apologize in advance that this is not specific but the last time we were there our remarkable shuttle driver told us to jump on the Metro and head out a couple stops to Virginia and we'd find famous and not-so-famous eateries by the handful with more affordable than DC prices. So maybe someone more local than I can pop in and provide more information?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: KimMae

                        If you are looking for a nice restaurant for lunch in Arlington, you can't do better than Lyon Hall for Alsatian food near the Clarendon metro stop. Other very good options are Rays to the Third (burgers, cheesesteaks, fried chicken), Bayou Bakery, and Kabob Bazaar (Persian).