Best Restaurants and Dining Near the National Mall in DC

Food court at the National Air & Space Museum
Don DeBold / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Where are the best restaurants and places to dine on the National Mall in Washington, DC? The National Mall is the center of most visits to Washington, DC, but finding places to eat in this area of the city is not so obvious.

You can bring a picnic and eat on the grassy areas when the weather is nice. For just a few dollars you can buy a hotdog and a soda from a street vendor. The National Park Service also operates a few refreshment stands nearby. You can find them in front of the Natural History Museum, near the National Mall Carousel, near the Lincoln Memorial, and on the Tidal Basin near the paddle boat rentals.

Another option are the museum cafés, though they are expensive and often crowded but are the most convenient place to eat lunch. Most of Washington, DC’s museum cafés are open the same hours as the museums themselves.

Cascade Café

For the location with the most variety, check out the National Gallery of Art and the Cascade Café. In the East Building, the Cascade Café offers soups, salads, specialty entrees, wood-fired pizzas, sushi, sandwiches, and fresh-baked desserts. The Espresso and Gelato Bar offers a full espresso bar offers homemade gelato, panini, and sweets. The Pavilion Café has a panoramic view of the Sculpture Garden and serves specialty pizzas, sandwiches, salads, desserts, and assorted beverages. In the West Building, the Garden Café is a French-style bistro, offering an à la carte menu and buffet.

Mitsitam Café

For the most interesting cuisine, give the Mitsitam Café a try. This restaurant at the National Museum of the American Indian features native inspired sandwiches, entrees, soups, desserts and beverages from five regions of the Native Americans.

Other Museum Dining

  • National Air & Space MuseumWright Place Food Court features McDonald's, Donatos Pizza and Boston Market. The Mezzanine Café offers sandwiches, soups, and salads. An outdoor kiosk is open during the spring and summer.
  • National Museum of American HistoryThe Constitution Cafe offers sandwiches, salads, soups, and hand-dipped ice cream. Stars and Stripes Cafe offers American fare.
  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture GardenThe Outdoor Café offers sandwiches and salads and a nice view during the spring and summer months.
  • Natural History MuseumAtrium Café provides fast food options. Fossil Café features soups, sandwiches, salads, Gelato and an Espresso Bar. IMAX & Jazz Café, live music most Friday evenings.
  • Capitol Visitor CenterThe cafeteria-style restaurant is on the lower level and is open Monday through Saturday. The menu includes soups, salads, specialty entrées, pizzas, sandwiches, desserts, and beverages.

More Dining Options Nearby

  • Union Station: The Food Court at Union Station is a great place to enjoy a snack or take the whole family for a quick and inexpensive meal. Full-service restaurants include America's Spirit, East Street Café, Station Grill, Thunder Grill and Uno Chicago Grill.
  • Best Capitol Hill Restaurants: Looking to sit down and enjoy a meal at a fine dining restaurant? Here are the best restaurants within walking distance of the Capitol.
  • Eastern Market: Located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, the farmers market and flea market offers everything from local produce and flowers to fresh fish to arts and crafts.
  • The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center: This landmark building has a food court and an outdoor atrium open during the spring and summer.
  • L'Enfant Plaza: The recently remodeled shopping and dining area offers a variety of casual eateries.