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Snapper escovitch from Sweet Home Cafe inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Bill Addison/Eater

Where to Find Museum Food That Doesn’t Suck

Picturesque venues and places that pay respects to different cultures

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Snapper escovitch from Sweet Home Cafe inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture
| Photo by Bill Addison/Eater

A day spent playing tourist in D.C. can work up quite an appetite. But before you grab a hot dog from a street vendor for lunch, consider a museum cafe inside one of the city’s plentiful (and often free) institutions.

Many museums in the District have gone beyond grab-and-go sandwiches with full-fledged restaurants boasting award-winning chefs. Here are nine venues where the food stands on its own.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

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4155 Linnean Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 686-5807
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This opulent estate of cereal heir Marjorie Merriweather Post allows guests to feast their eyes on a mansion full of Russian art. The rest of the feasting is done on a menu fit for a 20th century millionaire. The Merriweather Cafe menu features borscht,, an apricot chicken salad sandwich, gnocchi, and a smoked salmon tartine. There are also seasonal desserts, and an afternoon tea runs on Sundays for $32 per person.

2. The Phillips Collection

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1600 21st St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 387-2151
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Adam’s Morgan staple Tryst has a location inside the Phillips that features espresso drinks, beer, wine, and cocktails. It also serves pastries, gourmet salads, sandwiches, and snacks. Members of the museum get 10 percent off.

3. The Source by Wolfgang Puck

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575 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20565
(202) 637-6100
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Chef Wolfgang Puck’s first venture in the District is on the ground floor of the Newseum, which will close at the end of 2019 as part of a sale to make way for the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The Source has three levels: a bar and lounge serving a Japanese izakaya menu, an upstairs restaurant serving modern Asian dishes, and a private room. For a more laid-back cafe experience, the Newseum has a self-serve buffet station executed by Wolfgang Puck Catering in the main concourse.

4. National Gallery of Art

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Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20565
(202) 737-4215
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The National Gallery of Art’s Pavilion Cafe is a smart choice for brunch with a view. Go for mimosas, Belgian waffles, and quiche. Indoor and outdoor seating comes with panoramic views of the sculpture garden. Other options in the facility include three more cafes as well as an espresso and gelato bar. And don’t miss the Garden Café’s new Italian menu inspired by the museum’s Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice exhibit, complete with regional cheeses, radicchio salads, grilled octopus and polenta, and tiramisu.

5. National Museum of African American History and Culture

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1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20560
(844) 750-3012
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Sweet Home Cafe represents a range of African-American regional cuisines: the Agricultural South, the Creole Coast, the Northern States, and the Western Range. Dishes like andouille & crawfish gumbo and slow cooked collards, cornbread sticks and potlikker are deeply rooted in parts of American culture. The James Beard Foundation named chef Jerome Grant a semifinalist for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic this year.

Snapper escovitch
Bill Addison/Eater

6. National Museum of the American Indian

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Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-1000
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Adapted from the foods eaten by American Indian tribes, the menu at the Mitsitam Cafe is thoughtful and diverse. From Pueblo pozole to Skuna Bay salmon in a sweet onion sauce, each dish on the menu pays homage indigenous cuisines.

7. Hirshhorn Museum

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Independence Ave SW &, 7th St SW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-1000
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Dolcezza Coffee and Gelato, a local D.C. staple, has a shop in the lobby of the the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The cafe on the main floor serves seasonal gelato (made daily), coffee, and espresso drinks to go with gourmet pastries. Plus, Hirshhorn members get 10 percent off.

Tierney Plumb/Eater DC

8. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 488-0400
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Known as one of the most comprehensive Holocaust museums in the world, this venue honors Jewish cuisine by selling knishes, matzo ball soup, and a variety of hot and cold salads at its museum cafe. There is also Kosher food that is prepared off site under rabbinical supervision.

9. Museum of the Bible

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400 4th St SW
Washington, DC 20024
(866) 430-6682
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Manna, the quick-service restaurant from Equinox chef-owner Todd Gray, draws on the complexity of the modern Mediterranean cuisine to showcase ancient foods. Sweet peas, fire roasted eggplant and kobocha squash can all be found on the menu, in addition to house made hummus, soups, burgers, and desserts.

Herb-speckled lamb meatballs at Manna
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

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1. Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

4155 Linnean Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

This opulent estate of cereal heir Marjorie Merriweather Post allows guests to feast their eyes on a mansion full of Russian art. The rest of the feasting is done on a menu fit for a 20th century millionaire. The Merriweather Cafe menu features borscht,, an apricot chicken salad sandwich, gnocchi, and a smoked salmon tartine. There are also seasonal desserts, and an afternoon tea runs on Sundays for $32 per person.

4155 Linnean Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008

2. The Phillips Collection

1600 21st St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Adam’s Morgan staple Tryst has a location inside the Phillips that features espresso drinks, beer, wine, and cocktails. It also serves pastries, gourmet salads, sandwiches, and snacks. Members of the museum get 10 percent off.

1600 21st St NW
Washington, DC 20009

3. The Source by Wolfgang Puck

575 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565

Chef Wolfgang Puck’s first venture in the District is on the ground floor of the Newseum, which will close at the end of 2019 as part of a sale to make way for the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The Source has three levels: a bar and lounge serving a Japanese izakaya menu, an upstairs restaurant serving modern Asian dishes, and a private room. For a more laid-back cafe experience, the Newseum has a self-serve buffet station executed by Wolfgang Puck Catering in the main concourse.

575 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20565

4. National Gallery of Art

Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565

The National Gallery of Art’s Pavilion Cafe is a smart choice for brunch with a view. Go for mimosas, Belgian waffles, and quiche. Indoor and outdoor seating comes with panoramic views of the sculpture garden. Other options in the facility include three more cafes as well as an espresso and gelato bar. And don’t miss the Garden Café’s new Italian menu inspired by the museum’s Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice exhibit, complete with regional cheeses, radicchio salads, grilled octopus and polenta, and tiramisu.

Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20565

5. National Museum of African American History and Culture

1400 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560
Snapper escovitch
Bill Addison/Eater

Sweet Home Cafe represents a range of African-American regional cuisines: the Agricultural South, the Creole Coast, the Northern States, and the Western Range. Dishes like andouille & crawfish gumbo and slow cooked collards, cornbread sticks and potlikker are deeply rooted in parts of American culture. The James Beard Foundation named chef Jerome Grant a semifinalist for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic this year.

1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20560

6. National Museum of the American Indian

Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560

Adapted from the foods eaten by American Indian tribes, the menu at the Mitsitam Cafe is thoughtful and diverse. From Pueblo pozole to Skuna Bay salmon in a sweet onion sauce, each dish on the menu pays homage indigenous cuisines.

Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20560

7. Hirshhorn Museum

Independence Ave SW &, 7th St SW, Washington, DC 20560
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC

Dolcezza Coffee and Gelato, a local D.C. staple, has a shop in the lobby of the the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The cafe on the main floor serves seasonal gelato (made daily), coffee, and espresso drinks to go with gourmet pastries. Plus, Hirshhorn members get 10 percent off.

Independence Ave SW &, 7th St SW
Washington, DC 20560

8. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024

Known as one of the most comprehensive Holocaust museums in the world, this venue honors Jewish cuisine by selling knishes, matzo ball soup, and a variety of hot and cold salads at its museum cafe. There is also Kosher food that is prepared off site under rabbinical supervision.

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW
Washington, DC 20024

9. Museum of the Bible

400 4th St SW, Washington, DC 20024
Herb-speckled lamb meatballs at Manna
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Manna, the quick-service restaurant from Equinox chef-owner Todd Gray, draws on the complexity of the modern Mediterranean cuisine to showcase ancient foods. Sweet peas, fire roasted eggplant and kobocha squash can all be found on the menu, in addition to house made hummus, soups, burgers, and desserts.

400 4th St SW
Washington, DC 20024

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