There's a special place on “City” Zen's menu for the farm. American favorites with a twist, like pan seared ribeye with pickled beef tartare and rosemary roasted Lancaster County rabbit, rule at this Mandarin Oriental restaurant. But whatever you choose is bound to be delicious: the chef, Eric Ziebold, has received top accolades from the revered James Beard Foundation and Food & Wine Magazine. Pastry chef Matthew Petersen voted fan favorite on “Top Chef: Just Desserts.” Just don't leave without trying one or more of the restaurant's 700 wines, served in hand-blown stemware. Leave your sportswear, shorts and denim at home for this one. There are no a la carte menu options, only a four- or six-course prix fixe priced at $90 and $120 respectively. Reservations are required, and CityZen is known for accommodating just about any request for a special occasion.
The sultry, amber-lit ambience of this Southwest restaurant is matched by its interesting, conversation-starting fare like charred octopus with smoked paprika aioli, grape stuffed quail with saffron orzo, and pork belly tacos. Station 4 spoils sweet-toothed diners at brunch. Think Nutella croissants and brioche French toast with fruit, raspberry butter, maple syrup, whipped cream and powdered sugar. For a boost between daytime touring and night outings, take advantage of half-price coffee, cappuccino, lattes and desserts on weekdays from 3-5 p.m. Regular weekday happy hour starts at 4 p.m., which leaves ample time for a prix-fixe dinner and show at nearby Arena Stage.
This museum cafeteria is astonishingly different than most, with several stations centered around a Native American region in the Western Hemisphere. The delectable menus change seasonally but could include buffalo chili tacos or cherry stuffed venison sausage, depending on whether you're in Mesoamerican or Northwestern Plains kind of mood. Be warned: prices are also a tad higher than your average museum cafe. A lunchtime meal easily costs $15 and a four-course tasting menu of small plates runs $55. Mitsitam has a local reputation for being one of the best places to grab a bite on the Mall with lunchtime crowds to match. Mitsitam, which means “Let's Eat” in the native language of Piscataway tribes, won Best Casual Dining in 2012 from the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.
Enjoy a quiet coffee break and cookie in this National Mall hideaway, which from the outside looks like, well, a castle. Inside, find free WiFi. When the weather's nice, catch your breath and plan the rest of your day on a bench in the gardens. When you have worked up an appetite while museum hopping, grab sandwiches, soups, salads, wraps, pastries in this cafeteria.