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Government Shutdown Leads to Lost Revenue For Smithsonian Restaurants

Dining options went dark Wednesday across 17 D.C. museums

Dolcezza’s gold-lined cafe inside the Hirshhorn closed on Wednesday, January 2 as a result of the government shutdown.
Farrah Skeiky/Farrah Skeiky
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

The Smithsonian’s vast footprint — including 11 museums and galleries on the National Mall, the National Zoo, six other museums in the D.C. area, and two in New York City — closed until further notice Wednesday due to the partial government shutdown.

As a result, all dining options tied to the free-to-enter museums are also dark. That means one less location for Dolcezza, which opened a super modern cafe inside the Hirshhorn a year ago and became the first homegrown chain to join a Smithsonian institution.

“The cafe is unfortunately shut down because of the government. That is going to be lost revenue until they can get their act together and act like grown-ups and work together,” co-owner Robb Duncan told Eater on Wednesday, adding employees will be shuffled around to its other eight area locations so they can keep working.

While it’s not located inside the zoo’s walls in Woodley Park, neighboring Duke’s Counter (3000 Connecticut Avenue NW) is also bracing for impact from the dearth of visitors.

“In general, this is not good for local businesses,” owner Daniel Kramer tells Eater, adding “we are a bit insulated because of the 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. happy hour and our great neighbors. Hopefully they can get it figured out.”

One of the biggest eating destinations affected is the National Museum of American History’s 600-seat cafe, Eat at America’s Table.

“It sucks for everybody. But I guess being connected to the government, you kind of go with the good and the bad and this is definitely one of the bad,” says Duncan.

The Smithsonian scrounged up enough unused prior-year funds to operate through the holidays, but now that money has run dry. The National Gallery of Art did the same, but its operations will also cease on Thursday, January 3.

Here’s a list of all the dining closures that fuel those who turn up to view renowned relics like the Star-Spangled Banner and the Hope Diamond:

National Museum of African American History and Culture

1400 Constitution Avenue NW

Closed: Sweet Home Café. The 2017 James Beard Award-nominated restaurant from veteran museum chef Jerome Grant serves Southern-style dishes that speak to African American culture in a 400-seat cafeteria setting.

National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, Virginia

Closed: McDonald’s

Smithsonian American Art Museum

8th and F Streets NW

Closed: Courtyard Cafe (soups, made-to-order salads and salad bar, sandwiches, bottled beverages, espresso/cappuccino bar, wine, beer, coffee, teas, pastries, and ice cream)

National Gallery of Art

Constitution Avenue NW

Closed: Garden Café (a full-service restaurant with seasonal salads, house-roasted proteins, and European desserts); Espresso & Gelato Bar (house-made gelato, sandwiches, salads, and pastries); Cascade Café (food court with soups, salads, specialty entrées, burgers, signature sandwiches, and fresh pastries and desserts); Terrace Café (hot and cold beverages, pastries, sandwiches, salads, and snacks); and Pavilion Café (pizzas, sandwiches, salads, desserts, wine, and beer).

The espresso and gelato bar at the National Gallery of Art.
NGA/official photo

National Museum of American History

14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW

Closed: Eat at America’s Table. The 600-seat cafe serves cheese and charcuterie, classic American sandwiches, barbecue, desserts, and Tex-Mex and Native American-inspired dishes, as well as coffee, wine, beer, and other bottled beverages. Its first floor Jazz Café, which offers sandwiches, salads, and soups, is also closed.

National Museum of the American Indian

4th Street and Independence Avenue SW

Closed: Mitsitam Café is known for its tamales, grilled salmon, seasonal soups, buffalo burgers, Indian fry bread, seasonal aqua frescas, and desserts. Its Mitsitam Espresso Bar slings pastries, casual fare, and organic, fair-trade coffee from Tribal Grounds Coffee.

Archives of American Art Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery

8th and F Streets NW

Closed: Courtyard cafe

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

2 East 91st Street New York, New York

Closed: Contemporary Italian restaurant and caterer Tarallucci e Vino offers pastries, espresso, salads, soups, and panini, as well as a large selection of wines by the glass.


Independence Avenue at 7th Street SW

Closed: Dolcezza Coffee & Gelato offers seasonal gelato, specialty espresso drinks, and small batch pastries out of a modern lobby bar designed by artist and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Smithsonian Zoo

3001 Connecticut Avenue NW

Closed: The Woodley Park zoo’s vast dining options include the Mane Grill (burgers and hormone-free grilled chicken); Heirloom Grille (angus burgers, grilled salmon, bratwurst, salads); Seal Rock Cafe (hot-pressed panini sandwiches, salads, all-natural hot dogs, Dippin’ Dots Ice Cream); Panda Overlook Cafe (paninis, made-to-order salads, all-natural hot dogs, funnel cakes, espresso drinks); Panda Grill (pizza, po’ boy sandwiches and all-natural chicken tenders); and Hot Dog Diner (all-natural beef hot dogs with assorted gourmet toppings). The Zoo only serves Bird Friendly Coffee—the only 100% organic and shade-grown coffee certification available.

Natural History Museum

10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW

Closed: A temporary cafeteria featuring sandwiches, salads, hot and cold drinks, and desserts on its second floor (the museum’s cafeteria is currently under renovation);and a courtyard cafe.

Smithsonian Institution Gallery (The Castle)

1000 Jefferson Drive SW

Closed: The Castle Café specializes in sandwiches, soups, pastries, organic salads, antipasti, Peet’s coffee, ice cream, espresso/cappuccino bar, teas, bottled beverages, beer, and wine.

Dolcezza at the Hirshhorn

7th Street SW & Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC, 20597