Washington D.C. has some of the best bites the world over and whether you’re looking for a quick spot to take a break after wandering the halls of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery for a while, an energy boost on your way into the museum, or a place to catch up and debrief with your group after a team building adventure, these are some of the best spots to grab some grub.
The time we’ve spent in and around the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery has helped us discover some of the hidden haunts and dining highlights in the area. Keep scrolling for all the info necessary to eat like a local. You’ll find plenty of options within our nation’s capital, and we’ve categorized our list into groups like budget-friendly options, quick bites, coffee and brunch, and even vegan-friendly spots.
Where to Eat Near the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery
Here is the shortlist of our current favorites around the museum:
Le Pain Quotidien – This simple, rustic chain has plenty of light and healthy options available.
Shake Shack – Need we say more?
Yafa Grille – This Mediterranean grill could just as easily fit in the “Easy on the Wallet” category below. Though it’s a bit more of a walk (15 minutes) from the museum, for a good, quick, cheap meal, Yafa Grille can’t be beat.
Easy on the Wallet
Bozzelli’s – Bozzelli’s Italian Deli offers a great value on sub sandwiches and pizza, they even have great vegan options. Walking to here from the National Portrait Gallery is not advised however – we’d suggest driving, or hopping on the Red Line.
District Taco – Local counter-serve Mexican chain with a small menu, including all-day breakfast!
BIBIBOP Asian Grill – Asian Fusion Cuisine served like Chipotle. With plenty of healthy options, BIBIBOP is almost as easy on the waistline as it is on the wallet.
Coffee and Brunch
Courtyard Café – Located in the museum and equipped with free WiFi available, this space is great to get a little work done, catch a rest, or meet a colleague.
Compass Coffee – dedicated to simplicity and crafted right here in DC, Compass is a great spot to grab a cup of joe.
Chinatown Coffee Co. – A seven minute walk from the museum, Chinatown Coffee Co. is a great place to stop in for a quick break on your way elsewhere in the city. Bonus: they have absinthe on the menu!
La Colombe Coffee – if you’d like to sit and stay for a minute, we’d recommend the location on 6th St, because the one on 7th is located inside another store. However, either store serves great house-roasted espresso!
Vegan and Juices
HipCityVeg – Only a 2-minute walk from the SAAM and National Portrait Gallery, this is most certainly the closest vegan option, but it’s darn good too. The menu includes takes on burgers, wraps, and even shakes.
Protein Bar & Kitchen – Upscale fast food for the health conscious, this establishment has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.
Fruitive – Juices, smoothies, and acai bowls, oh my!
Un Je Ne Sais Quoi – Only 3 stops away off the Red Line’s Dupont Circle stop – this dessert shop is a must-see. Our recommendation? The “cloud-like” meringue.
Captain Cookie & The Milkman – Want to walk off your dessert calories before you eat them? This is your spot! Located a little more than a mile from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and NPG, you’ll find plenty of treats to quell that sweet tooth.
The Capital Grille – A more recognizable name among fine dining establishments, The Capital Grille is a great spot for groups (or smaller parties too). We’d recommend making a reservation at either lunch or dinner times. Hot tip: most Museum Hack tours last for 2 hours, and we’d recommend allotting at least a half hour after your tour wraps up to get over to the restaurant.
Cedar Restaurant – This hidden gem is open for lunch, brunch, and dinner. Cedar features a rotating menu made from fresh, seasonal ingredients.
The Oceanaire Seafood Room – Plenty of options for large or small groups, the Oceanaire Seafood Room has a high profile selection of steaks, seafood, and wines.
NoPa Kitchen+Bar – This award-winning American Brasserie has a strong farm-to-table focus with plenty of exclusive, private rooms with space for groups from 12 to 40.