In our previous installment of "So, where do we eat?", I was able to provide a fairly inclusive look at all the food options on the Mall; the good, the bad, and the ugly. This time around, it's going to be a little different. Capitol Hill, the neighborhood/cult that I belong to, has a variety of dining options and I'm not Zagats. So to bound the problem a bit, I'm shooting to provide a little insight for lunch and light dinner options in the area of the Capitol Building extending down Pennsylvania Ave, SE. Specifically, I'm aiming at the guy who's just finished being probed by the Capitol Police, herded like sheep by some guide who's already given the same talk a half dozen times today, and now has two kids trying to explain that yes, dad, they're really hungry now.
His first step might be the Capitol Visitors Center, and hey, it's not a bad option. The food's fine and the prices, while not great, aren't quite the rip-off of the Smithsonian's. We're talking $7 for a cheeseburger here. So if your feet are killing you and the lines aren't too long, enjoy. Open Monday - Saturday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.
But if he could pull it together, I'd say keep walking. Without even going outside, another option awaits. Find the tunnel to the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, go through it, and continue on to the tunnel to the Madison Building. Or he could just go outside and walk to the modern looking white stone building across Pennsylvania Avenue from the Jefferson Building. Either way, take the elevator to the sixth floor and head to their cafeteria. It's a bit cheaper and the view of DC to the south is spectacular. And you will get a chance to see some real live Librarians in action. On the off chance they engage you in conversation, run with it. You will learn more about 16th Century Japanese woodblock printing (or whatever) than you ever knew existed. It's even more fun than it sounds, trust me. They're open M-F 8:30 - 10:30 am and 12:30 - 3:00 pm.
If a government cafeteria, no matter how scintillating the conversation, isn't your cup of tea, than continue down Pennsylvania Ave. For those of you with your trusty Red Ryder with a compass in the stock, that would be heading southeast. Which your friendly Capitol Police officer will be happy to tell you as he questions you about bringing a BB gun that close to the Capitol. There are several dining establishments in the vicinity. These may not be the best, but they strike my fancy.
First, I would mention Pete's Diner, just down 2nd Street at 212. Great diner with a weird yet pleasing mix of traditional diner food and Asian cuisine. It's good, it's quick, and the seating is so tight you're guaranteed to make a new friend. The staff, even as busy as they are, are unfailingly friendly. Surprisingly for a diner, Pete's has a great selection of vegetarian options; one of the best on the Hill.
A block or so down Penn, you will see line of stylishly dressed Hill staffers lined up outside a place known simply as Good Stuff Eatery. You may also see a guy who hasn't shaved in a couple of days trying to eat a burger, read a newspaper, answer his four year old daughter's question, and drink his beer; all without noticing that he's dripped Old Bay mayonnaise into his one year old's hair as she is strapped to his chest. Feel free to say hi. Good Stuff has excellent burgers, good fries with four different types of mayo to dip them in, and truly inventive shakes. A little hint: don't order all three. I have to limit myself to any two when I'm there. And unlike the Visitor's Center, this $7 dollar burger is worth it. Fans of Top Chef might recognize the owner/chef, but I'm afraid I'm not up on my TV to talk about it too much.
And while there are several other options here, if you're looking to sit down at a place with a little ambiance, I recommend Hawk and Dove. Not so much for the food, which is standard bar fare, but because it's a classic DC institution. It's one of the best place to observe one of Washington's timeless traditions: the Running of the Interns. While interns inhabit the Hill year round, the warmer months will bring them out by the hundreds. While I too will quickly tire of them, especially when they fail to follow the rules, I do enjoy a earnest faced young intern chatting up some friends with a discussion of his "Member". And no, he's not being dirty. Anyway, the place is one of the great dive bars in the city and is a lot of fun.
Feel free to continue your journey down Pennsylvania Ave towards Eastern Market but I shall leave you here. Perhaps another time we can discuss the options around the Market; they warrant their own post. For now, we will leave it at that.
As I said above, this wasn't going to be comprehensive but if you feel there's something worth mentioning here, leave it in the comments or send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org