Updated on December 28, 2016.
While museums frequently offer eating options, they’re usually limited to fast food or a shrink-wrapped sandwich. Luckily there are foodie-friendly eateries around these major attractions, where you can get anything from a quick bite to a leisurely two-martini lunch.
Garden Café and Espresso & Gelato Bar, National Gallery of Art
Art inspires food at the National Gallery’s tranquil Garden Café, where local chefs may design menus based on special exhibitions. Entrées such as cheese ravioli in basil sauce can be ordered à la carte; there’s also a buffet with fresh breads, cheeses, and hot dishes such as beef braised in red wine. Pop into the Espresso & Gelato Bar in the East Building concourse for a cappuccino and a scoop of housemade gelato; the nearby Cascade Café also offers soups, salads, and sandwiches.
Fourth St. and Constitution Ave., NW; 202-633-1000.
Mitsitam Cafe, National Museum of the American Indian
Inside the Museum of the American Indian, themed stations serve dishes inspired by ingredients and cooking techniques of five Native American groups. The service is cafeteria-style, but the fare—not to mention the selection of beer and wines by the half or full bottle—is far above cafeteria quality; think bison strip loin cooked to your liking and corn tortillas stuffed with mole-braised chicken, as well as kid-friendly chicken tenders. The cafe is open from 11 to 5.
Fourth St. and Independence Ave., SW; 202-633-1000.
The Source by Wolfgang Puck, Newseum
Wolfgang Puck’s glass box of a restaurant at the Newseum still turns out some of the best high-end Asian in the area—the menu has included dishes such as pork-belly dumplings with black vinegar, stir-fried lamb with crisp rice sticks, and a whole sea bass with yuzu-ponzu sauce. Prices in the formal upstairs dining room are sky-high, but you can avoid the sticker shock—and eat very well—by grabbing a banquette in the lounge or taking advantage of terrific deals during weekday happy hour and Saturday brunch.
575 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-637-6100.
Tryst at the Phillips
The longtime Adams Morgan favorite Tryst opened this airy sister cafe inside the Phillips Collection in 2012. The menu is similar, featuring craft coffees and cocktails alongside sweet and savory pastries, made-to-order salads, and sandwiches with curried chicken salad or hummus and cucumber. Piet Mondrian’s “Composition No. III” is recreated on the walls; settle in with a latte and your laptop (there’s free wi-fi), or head out back to the sun-drenched patio with a glass of Prosecco. Both gallery visitors and drop-ins are welcome.
1600 21st St., NW; 202-232-5500.
This article appears in Washingtonian’s Welcome Guide.