Fresh Fine Dining: The Mitsitam Cafe

October 22, 2009

By Jo Cooper

Visiting Washington, DC? The best cafeteria on the Mall, hands down, is the Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Mitsitam means “Let’s eat!” in the Native language of the Delaware and Piscataway peoples. True to its name, the cafe is a celebration of fresh foods, offering an array of traditional and contemporary dishes at serving stations named Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Mesoamerica, and the Great Plains.

The atmosphere is peaceful, providing a respite from museum cruising, with views of waterfalls and seating at private or long wooden communal tables where you can make friends if you are dining alone. There are seasonal fresh soups, and loads of options for vegetarian, omnivore and gluten-free eaters. Lunch isn’t cheap, but the museums are free. And if you like whole foods, you’ll think you’re in heaven.

After eating lunch there on Sunday, my youngest son and I reflected on the fact that he felt “stuffed” (his tray included fry bread) and I felt, having eaten every bite of what you see in the photo …fabulous! Ready for adventures on the Mall. There insued a discussion of how different foods make you feel; how some give you energy, and some seem to take it away.

After lingering to savor the flavors, atmosphere and discussion, we departed for a journey through the solar system— the Voyage exhibit, a one-to-10 billion scale model of the solar system stretching 2,000 feet down the sidewalk between the National Air & Space Museum and the Smithsonian Castle. We made it all the way to Pluto, no sweat.

Click here to read about the museum and cafe, and here to read about the Voyage exhibit.

Do you have a favorite, really awesome, not-to-be-missed fresh food restaurant to recommend?