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We’ve been there! You’re touring the National Mall in Washington, D.C., visiting the monuments, memorials, and museums. It’s hot. You’re tired. Everyone is complaining. It’s time to eat! Unfortunately the dining options on the Mall are, shall we say, somewhat limited and unspectacular. There’s hope though! As D.C. locals, we share where to eat near the National Mall. These are the places that we ourselves go when showing family and friends around the nation’s capital.
Visitors to Washington, D.C. are likely to spend much of their time on the National Mall taking in the city’s famous monuments, memorials, and museums. Most first-time visitors are surprised by the sheer size of the Mall (2 miles from end-to end, and 1/2 mile wide, which makes for a 5 mile loop), and that’s before you’ve even ventured off the Mall to visit the Tidal Basin (Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial), the Kennedy Center, Georgetown, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the National Cathedral, the National Zoo, etc.
Given the National Mall’s size, you don’t want to find yourself getting “hangry” only to realize there are no food options nearby. We are here to help! Below are the places that we, as locals, eat when taking family and friends to tour our nation’s capital.
Where to Eat on the National Mall
Directly on the Mall, your food choices are pretty average. If you are willing to venture a few blocks away, however, you can get some great eats. We present the best of both categories below (because honestly, sometimes you just have to eat NOW).
Easy but average
Food choices directly on the Mall are limited to the museum cafeterias and tourist-oriented food trucks. The museum cafeterias generally serve very average fare that appeals to school groups (think burgers, pizza, and chicken nuggets).
Two notable exceptions are: the Mitsitam Café at the Museum of the American Indian, which serves indigenous cuisines, and the Sweet Home Café at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which showcases dishes that are representative of African American culture. These are both great options for a tasty lunch.
D.C. has a fantastic food truck scene, and you can get some excellent food from the trucks. There is a caveat though: the trucks that park directly on the Mall tend to offer very average food at a tourist premium.
These two food options will work for you if your priority is to have something fast and easy.
If, however, you are interested in eating well and venturing into local neighborhoods, there are many fantastic lunch and dinner choices just a few blocks off the National Mall.
Foodie-approved neighborhood favorites
You can find great food trucks just a few blocks off the Mall in areas where they serve local office workers. This map from Mobile Food News shows the neighborhoods where the trucks are typically parked.
You can find where the hundreds of trucks are parked on any given day at: https://twitter.com/goodfynd. The sheer variety of food truck offerings, which range from crepes and cupcakes and burgers and BBQ to Greek and Gumbo and tapas and Thai, is astounding.
Restaurants near the Western end of the Mall (Lincoln, Vietnam Veterans , Korean War Veterans, and WWII Memorials, Washington Monument, & White House)
Founding Farmers DC
1924 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006
This neighborhood mainstay serves a varied menu using local ingredients. This full-service, sit-down restaurant is popular with the nearby IMF and World Bank lunch crowds. This is a higher-end option.
Old Ebbitt Grill
657 15th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20005
The Old Ebbitt is a D.C. institution (founded in 1856) and is that rare breed of restaurant that is popular with both tourists and locals. Located near in a beautiful Beaux-Arts building the White House, you’ll feel like you are hobnobbing with politicos. If it looks busy (and it will), you can usually find a seat at the bar for lunch.
Immigrant Food (Open Monday-Friday only)
1701 Pennsylvania Ave NW , Washington, D. C. 20006
If global flavors at a lively, fast-casual gathering spot with a social justice bent sounds like your vibe, you will not be disappointed with the fusion bowls at Immigrant Food.
2201 I St NW, Washington, DC 20037
For a quick, budget option, from the Lincoln Memorial, head north on 23rd St NW, past the U.S. State Department, turn right on I St NW and you will find Whole Foods in the first block. While this is technically a grocery store, it has a lunch bar with prepared foods and eating area that make this a fast and delicious lunch stop.
The store is on the campus of George Washington University, so you can find other fast lunch options in the area, such as &pizza and Chik-Fil-A, as well.
Restaurants near the Eastern end of the Mall (U.S. Capitol, Archives, National Gallery of Art, Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History)
The 7th St NW corridor is our go-to destination for a variety of excellent options:
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana (Modern Mexican)
401 7th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20004
China Chilcano (Peruvian fusion)
418 7th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20004
Jaleo (Spanish tapas)
480 7th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20004
These three restaurants by famed chef José Andrés are all found within a block of each other on 7th St. are all great choices if your priority is good eats! Reservations are suggested.
Bantam King (Ramen & Fried Chicken)
501 G St NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
This is one of our boys’ favorite places to eat in D.C. This quirky spot has two specialties that sound like strange bedfellows: ramen and fried chicken. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with either. The food here is consistently delicious, service is fast, and the decor is fun (think a wall adorned with cafeteria trays, Chinese lanterns hanging over tables, etc.).
Shake Shack (Burgers and Shakes)
800 F St NW, Washington D.C. 20004
Across from the National Portrait Gallery you’ll find this outpost of the Brooklyn chain. It’s hopping at lunch! Order your burger and shake at the counter, then scope out a place to sit. Tables may be full, but turnover here is fairly quick, and something should open up by the time your food is ready. If not, grab your food to go and picnic on the stairs of the Portrait Gallery.
There you have it. These are our go-to dining stops when touring the Mall. Do you have recommendations to share? Please share your suggestions of where to eat near the National Mall in the comments!