The National Mall in Washington, DC is packed with great sights: the U.S. Capitol, the monuments and memorials, and all the fabulous museums bring the tourists in droves this time of year. Unfortunately, most of the food options on the Mall are totally forgettable (think boiled hot dogs and reheated chicken fingers). But I am here to tell you about a museum cafe that would merit a visit even if you had no interest in visiting the museum it is a part of: Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian.
This is not your average museum food. The cafe features native foods from throughout the Western Hemisphere, including the Great Plains, Mesoamerica, the Northern Woodlands, and the Pacific Northwest. You can enjoy things like buffalo chili, cedar plank roasted salmon, and wild rice salad with dried cranberries and watercress. My family visited the museum over the weekend and I was reminded anew how much I love this place. I had a cold green tomato soup that reminded me of a tangy gazpacho, the aforementioned wild rice salad, and a delicious black lentil salad with roasted tomatoes and an agave vinaigrette. My three-year-old enjoyed a fry bread grilled cheese, and my husband went with a buffalo burger. For dessert we had fabulous fresh fruit tarts.
Mitsitam Cafe is definitely more expensive than your average snack bar, but the quality is so good that it still feels like a decent value. Check out the current menu here for a sense of the prices. The setting is also lovely; the cafe looks out onto one of the fountains surrounding the museum.
So if you ever find yourself looking for a meal on the National Mall, head straight for the National Museum of the American Indian. (I have generally not been blown away by the museum itself, although the building is a beautiful space. But on this visit we focused on the kids' center on the third floor, which was a huge hit with my son and which I would recommend to anyone traveling to DC with young kids).