Where to Eat Near the National Mall

There are no shortage of great places to eat in Washington, DC. However, most of them are not located near the major sites on the National Mall.  Historically, the National Mall has been a bit of a restaurant desert. However, there are a few diamonds in the rough. These are five of our favorite places to eat near the National Mall.

BEST Places to Eat on the National Mall

1. Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is a cultural museum. This is an important distinction from many of the history museums that are located nearby. They want to immerse you in the culture of the various American Indian tribes which includes giving you a taste of their food. The Mitsitam Cafe is split up into four stations representing different cuisines from tribes all over North, Central, and South America. Mix and match your bison chili with some of the best salsas you’ve ever tried.

2. Sweet Home Cafe at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Sweet Home Cafe is in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Check the museum website to see if you need a free timed entry pass on the date you plan to visit. 

This is an amazing museum that is worth visiting both for the exhibits and the food. Sweet Home Cafe showcases the rich culinary history of African American people at four different tasting stations. Agricultural South has things such as Virginia ham, corn and peaches. Creole Coast has things like gulf shrimp and grits. At North States, you can get things such as a New York City oyster pan roast. At the Western Range, you can get things such as a stuffed rainbow trout.

3. The Cafeteria at the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Now, a cafeteria in a government office building is not exactly what most people may think of when they think good food. But, as far as places to eat near the National Mall, the USDA is one of the best gems.

However, the biggest downside is that since it is in an office building, it is not open on weekends or holidays. At this cafeteria, you will find hot and cold foods, a salad bar, whole fruit and some themed stations such as the Asian station and other rotating themes. Check out our blog post with detailed information about how to eat here.

4. Food Trucks

Food trucks on the National Mall usually line up on 14th Street near the Washington Monument and 7th Street near the museums. The best thing about eating a food trucks is that there’s usually a pretty good variety. So, everybody in your family or group can usually find something that makes them happy.

The quality of food trucks can be a bit hard to judge. As a general rule, the best food trucks in DC are not the ones where you eat near the National Mall. A tip is to simply look at the food that people are buying from the trucks and judge for yourself to decide if you would like it. You can also Google the name of a food truck or look them up on Yelp. The best food trucks have a solid social media following.

5. The Sculpture Garden Pavilion Cafe

You probably shouldn’t come here expecting anything fancy. On a nice summer day, you can sit outside and catch a nice breeze coming off of the big fountain. In the winter, you can sit and watch people ice-skating on the rink. On Friday nights during the summer, they have Jazz in the Garden, which is an extremely popular and fun thing to do, The other nice thing about the Pavilion Cafe is that it’s not inside of a museum so you don’t have to worry about standing in line or going through security.

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About Trip Hacks DC

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

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