Visiting the National Mall will easily fill your big family’s schedule from early morning to dinner. So what should you plan for lunch?
All of the Smithsonian museums have a no food policy. At the security checkpoints, there are no snacks allowed in. Not even just left in your bag. There is no tolerance for any food that could lead to messes, bugs, and/or destruction of the displays.
So this means if you pack a lunch for the day, you’ll have to find somewhere with lockers to store your bag during your visit. Please see this list of Smithsonian museums with checkroom/lockers. Please note that the lockers are located after security checks and I do not think they will let your lunch bag pass through to be stored in a locker.
“A reminder: no accommodations are available for eating bag lunches within the museums except in the Kogod Courtyard of the Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.”
So where do you eat? You could take the time to visit the local eateries located north of the mall. However, with so much to see and do, you might not want to spend time waiting at a restaurant to be seated and served. Therefore, I suggest eating at one of the museums or institutions on the mall.
Two dining and food service areas are in the James Madison Memorial Building. One on the ground floor and one on the 6th floor. One food service area is available in the John Adams Buiding.
The Restaurant is on the lower level and offers continental breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Atrium Cafe, 10th Street and Constitution Ave., NW – Open 11-3. Offering BBQ beef brisket, rotisserie chicken, burgers, pizza, hot dogs, gourmet sandwiches, house-prepared soups, fresh salads, organic fruit, bottled and fountain beverages, and homemade desserts.
Cafe Natural – Open 11-5. Ice cream, homemade desserts, specialty coffees, gourmet sandwiches, and fresh salads.
Stars and Stripes Cafeteria, 14th Street and Constitution Ave., NW – Open 11-2 weekdays, 11-3 weekends and during extended hours. Serving natural beef burgers, pizza, hot dogs, BBQ, Sandwiches, soups, salad bar, fountain and bottled beverages, and desserts. Six of us ate for $78.
Jazz Cafe – Open 10-5. Offering Sandwiches, salads, and soups made with natural and locally grown ingredients. Pastries, ice cream, and specialty coffees, bottled sodas, and water.
McDonald’s, 6th Street and Independence Ave., SW – This McDonald’s had bad Yelp reviews but I found it to be quite good. The service was fast, the food was good and there was plenty of seating. Six of us ate for $53.
Smithsonian Institution Building
Castle Cafe, 1000 Jefferson Dr. SW – Open 8:30-5 daily. Serving specialty sandwiches, soups, pastries, organic salads, antipasti, Peet’s coffee, espresso/cappuccino bar, teas, bottled beverages, beer, wine, and novelty ice cream (seasonal). Outdoor carts are open seasonally.
Sweet Home Cafe, 15th Street and Constitution Ave, NW – Open 10-5 daily. The café showcases the rich culture and history of the African American people with traditionally authentic offerings as well as modern-day-inspired foods.
Misitam Cafe, 4th Street and Independence Ave., SW – Open 11-5. Serving Tamales, roasted turkey, grilled salmon, homemade seasonal soups, buffalo burgers, Indian fry bread, a seasonal variety of aqua fresca and desserts.
Cafe, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW (just one block south of the National Mall) – Open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except for Yom Kippur, October 12, 2016, and Christmas Day, December 25. Serving breakfast, soups, salads, and sandwiches including vegetarian-friendly and kosher options. We ate here for $60 for six of us.
Guest Services, A National ParkService Concessioner, manages many of the above dining options and the below food kiosks. Check out their interactive map of locations and healthier food options.
- The Lincoln Memorial South refreshment kiosk, Daniel French Drive SE. Offering beef hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and black bean and Boca burgers.
- The Lincoln Memorial North refreshment kiosk, Henry Bacon Drive NE., open 8AM-9PM. Serving gourmet fruit and cheese plates, hummus and pretzel chips, and a variety of box lunches including smoked turkey, ham, and egg.
- Constitution Gardens Food Kiosk, 1900 Constitution Ave NW, Open 9:30-6
- Tidal Basin Food Kiosk, 1501 Main Ave SW, Open 9:30-6
- Jefferson Memorial Food Kiosk, E Basin Dr. SW, Open 9:30-6
Check out our suggested 3-day itinerary for visiting DC.