One of the most underrated problems we face in Washington, DC is finding places to eat on the National Mall. We’ve all been there. You are ready to explore the monuments and museums but need to fuel up before or after your adventure. Your best bets for great, local munchies can be found in two areas: near the White House and a few blocks north of Constitution Ave in Chinatown. We’d rounded up 10 local spots of various price points to make sure you don’t go hungry while exploring.
This list does not include food options inside the museums. Museums can offer pretty good options but work best if you are already visiting one of them. This list is meant to inspire your dining without limiting your sightseeing plan to a specific museum.
GCDC Grilled Cheese Bar
GCDC offers a grown-up twist on the classic grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. Plus, don’t miss the loaded mac & cheese options! This is obviously a kid-friendly crowd-pleaser but the huge variety and full bar make this is a great option for adults too. Indoor and outdoor seating is available plus to-go options. This makes a great picnic option when you need a break in the grass. Find GCDC right next to the White House.
Old Ebbitt Grill
This historic saloon has been a local hot spot for decades. Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding, and Theodore Roosevelt were frequent visitors and it is still a local favorite for politicians. The Victorian design reflects the styles of the restaurant’s beginnings in 1856. Now owned by Clyde’s, it’s a perfect lunch or dinner option to bring out-of-town family and friends. Find Old Ebbitt Grill next to the White House.
The Hamilton offers a wide menu including seafood, meat, and pasta. It is another great spot full of history to bring out-of-town family and friends. The restaurant also serves as a music venue so look out for upcoming performances as live music returns. It can get busy during peak dinner hours so plan to go for lunch or an early dinner. Find The Hamilton next to The White House near Old Ebbitt Grill.
Fuel up on Mexican food near the White House at MXDC. This spot offers memorable tacos, enchiladas, and ceviche. Looking for drinks? Try one of their margaritas including flavors like mango, habanero, and more priced by the glass or the pitcher.
Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken
Astro Doughnuts has some of the best doughnuts in the city. If you are craving something sweet near the National Mall, this is your stop. If you need something a little more filling, Astro Doughnuts serves up fried chicken pieces or sandwiches on doughnut buns. Stop by for breakfast or lunch as they close in the late afternoon. Find them near the White House, about 2 blocks from Old Ebbitt Grill.
District Taco is a great, quick stop for food any time of day. You can load up tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and nachos with a variety of toppings. They also offer a kid’s menu and breakfast all day. District Taco is a local chain with additional locations in Dupont, Tenleytown, Rosslyn, and more. These tacos also make a great to-go option for a picnic. Find them in Metro Center – about a 10-minute walk from the White House.
&Pizza is an inexpensive, casual option for great pizza. They serve up classics like mushroom pizza, garlic white pizza, and pineapple pizza but you can also build your own. Find &pizza about a 6-minute walk from the Museum of Natural History on the National Mall.
Jaleo by Jose Andres offers Spanish-style tapas for lunch and dinner. This is a more expensive option but can be a great start or ending to sightseeing on the National Mall. Jaleo has additional locations in Bethesda and Crystal City as well as Mexico City and Las Vegas. But the original is right here in DC! Find Jaleo in Penn Quarter – about a 9-minute walk from the National Gallery of Art.
Bring your Mexican food lovers here! Oyamel by Jose Andres offers amazing made-to-order guacamole and margaritas. This tapas-style menu offers both meat and veggie options for all types of diets. Enjoy this spot for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Find Oyamel in Penn Quarter – about a 9-minute walk from the National Gallery of Art.
For a quick bite, head to the Pavillion Cafe in the outdoor Sculpture Garden. This cafe offers drinks, sandwiches, chips, cookies, and ice cream with options for kids. Dine at one of their outdoor tables or in the grass while enjoying the sculptures. The Sculpture Garden also allows outdoor food so you can enjoy any snacks you brought from home too. The cafe is open daily from 11 am to 3:45 pm and is located outside the National Gallery of Art.
Food Trucks on the National Mall
Food trucks usually line up on 14th Street to keep hungry tourists energized during their adventures. You’ll usually find sandwiches, drinks, ice cream, and some more specialty options. Sometimes you’ll find them on other streets that stretch across the mall as far down as the Capitol. The largest variety of food trucks can be found at peak tourist times like weekends, summer, and Cherry Blossom Season.