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Dec 23, 2013 07:03 PM

Lunch near National Mall

We will be in DC this weekend on the way to a wedding and we are looking for a place to have lunch - near the National Mall - we're going to hit some museums before heading to our hotel in Virginia. We're parents with two adult children - we have very few limits as to what we'll eat, but we're not looking for a fancy lunch - just something to hold us over after a long train ride and before a late afternoon/early eve walking around a museum.

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  1. For "not fancy" my go-to is the Teaism in Penn Quarter. but if you do a search on "Penn Quarter" you'll find lots of options close to the museums.

    Alternately, you could try the cafeteria-style food at the National Museum of the American Indian. The menu changes frequently, but I've had some good dishes there.

    1. Try the new Shake Shack in Chinatown for high-quality fast-food burgers, fries, and shakes, or Paul bakery for great French sandwiches and desserts.

      1. Your best bet is right on the Mall: in the National Gallery of Art is the Garden Cafe with a special buffet menu devised by chef Michel Richard in conjunction with the Charles Marville photo exhibit.


        5 Replies
        1. re: Steve

          This is interesting to me as I had lunch at the Garden Cafe last summer. It was not very crowded and yet it was chaotic. The system is cafeteria-style ordering and then they buzz you when the food is ready. The physical layout puts the crowd right in the center and you have to push through the line to get to the pick-up station and push back again. The menu at the time was fairly ordinary sandwiches and, not surprisingly, was way overpriced.

          If that new menu is co-extensive with the exhibit, then it ends on January 5.

          I personally favor the cafeteria in the National Museum of the American Indian. It is critical that you go on the early side when it is not too crowded to walk around to the various food stations so you can see all the options before you order. We've always had very good meals there. Also on the pricey side, but well worth it, in my opinion.

          1. re: Just Visiting

            I think you're confusing the Garden Cafe with someplace else. The Garden Cafe is not cafeteria-style, and there's no pick-up station.

            The Garden Cafe is not a sandwich shop, it's offers a buffet and à la carte menu. The current menu was created by Michel Richard.


            You may be thinking of the Cascade Café, which is also at the NGA.

            1. re: bcarter3

              Sounds like the cafe in the center of the Corcoran.

              1. re: bcarter3

                Thanks for linking the menu.

                The chocolate mousse is worth a few exclamation points, BTW.

                1. re: bcarter3

                  We are both wrong. I was thinking of the Pavilion Cafe next to the skating rink. Sorry about that!

            2. .... but we're not looking for a fancy lunch - just something to hold us over after a long train ride and before a late afternoon/early eve walking around a museum.

              Really? That's your point of reference?

              If you're serious about that there's a Cosi and a Potbelly right around a block and a half north of the Mall.

              But, if you can summon even just an ounce of your inner Chowhound (and I know you can), and aim just a millimeter or two higher, how about Carving Room?