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National Geographic Employee Cafeteria, Open To The Public at 16th and M Street Downtown


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I won't back down from the statement that Ollie's fries are good food and their burgers are better than most similarly thin and pressed fast food burgers (I'm looking directly at Five Guys and even the fabled In n' Out Burger here).

Give me the names some places in a 5 block radius that are as authentic, fast and cheap as Ollie's and I'll go there in a heartbeat.

(Seriously. I'm hungry and need to head out for lunch).

I guess this will verge into off topic, but Nat Geo cafeteria is at present unguarded, cheap, and sometimes delicious.

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I guess this will verge into off topic, but Nat Geo cafeteria is at present unguarded, cheap, and sometimes delicious.

After working downtown for a long time, I was surprised I had never heard of this hidden gem. It is open to the public - entrance on M St between 16th and 17th street.  My buddy turned me on to it and we ate lunch there today.  I believe it is run by Sodexho but I think the assessment of "sometimes delicious" and cheap is definitely true.  My middle eastern-style chicken (i forget the name) was a steam tray but it was moist and flavorful with a slightly sweet sauce, the sauteed kale was good, and my roasted eggplant with a drizzle of yogurt, pomegranate sauce, and fresh mint leaves was excellent.  The chickpea pilaf was only so so (cooked fine but bland) and the pre-grilled piece of thick pita was good too.  All of that at 44 cents a ounce was a steal for a full plate at under $7 (after tax). They also have a pretty good selection between premade stuff, sandwiches made to order and "gourment" premade, soups, a nice salad bar, and a changing menu of international foods.  Definitely worth checking out as a cheap option if you are nearby.

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It is open to the public - entrance on M St between 16th and 17th street.  

I used to eat there 5 or so years ago, but I had to sign up for a membership to enter the cafeteria.  Glad to hear that's no longer the case.  It has some gorgeous outdoor seating too, perfect for spring.

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I used to eat there 5 or so years ago, but I had to sign up for a membership to enter the cafeteria.  Glad to hear that's no longer the case.  It has some gorgeous outdoor seating too, perfect for spring.

I've heard nothing (other than my own titlle <_<) that says the National Geographic Cafeteria is open to the public per se, but there are two old articles which may well still be current:

"Sneak into the National Geographic Cafe: Everyone's Doing it, so You Should Too" by Malaka Gharib on wonkette.com

"National Geographic - Shh Don't Tell" on elenaeatsarounddc.wordpress.com

So my impression, from these ancient articles, and a couple quick Google searches, is three things:

1) Wait at the door for someone to open it, and just walk in.

2) Subscribe to National Geo (it really is a wonderful magazine, albeit not what it used to be).

3) Nobody really cares; if they did, there would be some enforcement.

I suspect this is a for-profit cafeteria, so they're making money off of you when you go. And by all means, throw a couple bucks into the museum donation box when you leave - they deserve it.

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The above pieces are all old news, as are the article and blog piece.  I'd add my support, but it too is old news.  For many years I had a Natl Geo subscription, and for many years, while similarly working nearby I didn't.  Regardless I got into the Natl Geo cafeteria a lot, often with or without membership over the years.  Food was better and less expensive than similar nearby places.   PLUS...as long as you are there, at least go to the Natl Geo lobby to see the photos.   Wonderful, wonderful photos.

Natl Geo museum was and is one of my favorite places in DC.  Fantastic exhibits, profoundly interesting topics, and photos that were or are among the best in the world every year.  A tremendous resource.

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This is way off topic to the cafeteria, but is the Parrot still in the museum?  There was a real live parrot, that talked.  I remember walking through there watching it eat bananas, peanuts, etc.  It is probably on a tropical island in the sky now (I am talking probably 30 years ago at this point).

My dad used to have an office in the neighborhood, and that is a great memory from childhood--going to the museum and seeing the parrot.

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This is way off topic to the cafeteria, but is the Parrot still in the museum?  There was a real live parrot, that talked.  I remember walking through there watching it eat bananas, peanuts, etc.  It is probably on a tropical island in the sky now (I am talking probably 30 years ago at this point).

My dad used to have an office in the neighborhood, and that is a great memory from childhood--going to the museum and seeing the parrot.

Been twice in the past year. No parrot. I do work nearby. Maybe I will sneak in for a taste test soon. Fwiw, there is a farm stand outside the cafe on Tuesdays until October. It's not that great but something.

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