Hello, friends! I’ve taken a little blog breather since I have so many upcoming travels that I’ll be writing about over the next few months. But a new “Ask Chris” question has me back in action once again! This question comes from Facebook. And, here we go!
I’m going to be in DC doing the typical touristy things- museums, monuments, the whole shebang. But, as far as where to eat, I was wondering if you have any non-touristy restaurant suggestions. I know the DC food scene is awesome and I really want to try someplace good. Are there any unique restaurant options close to the Mall?
Hungry for More than Food Courts
Hi there, “Hungry.” I totally feel your pain.
DC is indeed a town with incredible food, but you kind of have to get away from the monuments and museums to really find the food we’re known for.
The National Mall is deceptively long. Would you believe that the distance between the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capital Building is about 2.2. miles! When it comes to food options, there are VERY few places to eat that aren’t museum food courts on the mall. But if you’re willing to walk a little, you’ll find a number of really delicious options… and places that won’t judge you for sneakers, camera bags and sightseeing attire. (Although, if you’re wearing a fanny pack and jorts, you may get some curious looks from passersby…)
First, your on-the-Mall options:
If you really don’t want to leave the main museum area, there is one food court that is actually worth a visit! Check out the Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian. Featuring 5 stations representing five geographical regions of Native American cuisine (the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Meso America and the Great Plains) the food is fresh, creative, seasonal and way better than the typical food court. Plus, I had a lobster roll when I last visited. SOLD!
On the mall, my favorite place to rest my weary feet is in the Sculpture Garden between the National Gallery of Art and the National History Museum. They serve light refreshments like sandwiches and salads, as well as beer and wine. Honestly, there’s nothing better than relaxing after a long day of sightseeing with a drink by the garden’s fountain. Also, note that on most summer Friday’s they host a popular Jazz in the Garden event.
A few options pretty close to the Mall:
Note: If you’re planning to eat after 6 at any of these next spots, you should probably try to get reservations just to be safe.
Hill Country Barbecue is a Texas-style BBQ restaurant that’s very informal but also a ton of fun. And the food is GOOD. All this makes Hill Country my top recommendation for a hearty meal after a day of sightseeing. If you have time and you’re there in the evening, check to see if there’s live music playing downstairs.
Old Ebbitt Grill is a historic DC establishment that’s been around since the 1800s. It’s the “Oldest Saloon in Washington” and while I have never been there for anything but drinks, people rave that it’s a prime dinner spot for tourists and locals alike.
Jose Andres is one of DC’s most popular celebrity chefs, and those looking for a bit of a nicer meal should check out his Oyamel restaurant. Here, upscale Mexican is served in a lively, hip atmosphere. Don’t miss the margaritas with a salt “air” (ooh, fancy!) and the delicious tableside-made guacamole.
A little further off the Mall:
If you have time during your visit, I really suggest that you walk a little farther and get some local flavor by heading into one of the nearby neighborhoods. These suggestions are all within about 1 – 1 1/2 miles max.
Dupont Circle’s home to Pizzeria Paradiso, known for an incredible beer list and pizza so authentic, I felt like I was back in Florence. Also, Lauriol Plaza is super laid back, with casual Mexican Food and lots of outdoor seating.
DC’s Chinatown is not only home to supposedly the largest Friendship Arch in the world, but also to a bunch of popular restaurants. From Irish to Italian, to Spanish, to American, to, yes, Chinese, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in this bustling neighborhood. My pick is Daikaya, DC’s newest Ramen hotspot. It’s super filling… and it’s super affordable to boot!
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU:
What do you think of my suggestions? Do you have any to add to my list?