Food Courts in Washington DC: What You Need to Know

Our nation’s capital has an overwhelming number of great restaurants. But sometimes just need something quick, convenient and easy. And it doesn’t get quicker, easier, or more convenient than the food courts in Washington, DC.

Now bear in mind that, if you visit during 8th grade field trip season, all of these food courts are going to be mobbed with 13-year-olds. Especially during the lunch rush. So if hordes of adolescents aren’t your preferred lunch guests, try to come during off-peak hours.

Best FOOD COURTS to Eat in Washington DC

The Food Court at Union Station

Union Station actually has a good number of food options. There are a few on the upper-level, near where you catch trains. These are more upscale options, like Shake Shack, Magnolia Bakery, and Chopt. But if you’re looking for the actual food court, that’s one level down. 

If you’ve been to your local mall food court recently, you generally know what to expect. My personal favorite place to eat here is &Pizza. It’s a popular recommendation here at Trip Hacks DC and we’ve mentioned in several of our previous blog posts, including our best cheap eats guide. Every pie is made-to-order and delicious.

Eat at National Place

Much to our regret, this food court has closed since we made this video. But don’t worry—there are plenty of other great places to grab a bite. Keep reading 😉.

The Food Court at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

This is a federal government building, so in order to eat here you have to pass through metal detectors and security. It shouldn’t take long, but if you’re on a tight schedule, be sure to factor in a few extra minutes.

There are about 20 eateries here—generally all very standard food court options. There’s a particularly great place called Nook. It’s got an eclectic mix of food and is a little more adventurous than your typical food court spot. 

Café at USDA Headquarters

This one gets an honorable mention. It’s technically more of a cafeteria than a food court, but it’s a great weekday lunch option. If you’re looking for an up-close-and-personal look, you can watch our video on it.

The Food Court at L’Enfant Plaza

This is the only one of the food courts in Washington, DC that’s located south of the National Mall. So it’s convenient if you’re exploring the Air and Space Museum, Hirshhorn Museum, or if you’re staying on that side of the city. 

L’Enfant Plaza is actually split into two food courts. The first is closer to the Metro station—then down a long hallway, there’s another that’s close to the International Spy Museum

Of all the food courts, I think this is my favorite because it has two of my favorite eateries: Roti and Maizal. Roti is located in the part closer to the Metro station and it serves Mediterranean bowls. You can learn more in one of our $20 challenge video series.  

At the other end of the food court you can find Maizal, a restaurant that advertises itself as South American Street Food. As far as I know, there aren’t many South American street food places around, so Maizal is a rare gem. If you’re on a budget or not that hungry, they have arepas for about five dollars. I usually get a rice bowl, which may cost a little more but is very filling and worth it.

Bonus Trip Hack for Food Courts in Washington, DC

Here’s a pro tip: Many of the fast-casual eateries at food courts in Washington, DC use the Level Up app, which can offer significant discounts as you’re eating out in DC. Here’s a little primer on how to get started and some examples of restaurants that use Level Up.

About Trip Hacks DC

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation's Capital.

Everyone wants to get the most out of travel experience; we know that planning a trip can be fun but sometimes stressful. The tips and travel hacks offered here will help you make the most of your trip and avoid missing out on the best things the city has to offer. Our trip planning e-book is the perfect resource for every first-time Washington, DC visitor.

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