Along the museum-flanked National Mall in Washington, D.C., food choices are limited but one of the newer Smithsonian attractions has set out to offer its visitors a unique and healthy dining experience. Inside the National Museum of the American Indian there’s a café where patrons can experience a taste of native indigenous cuisine from the western hemisphere. Mitsitam Café serves up a fusion of traditional, natural ingredients in a new-world style.
Patrons can choose from an extensive food list, including salmon roasted on a cedar plank, snapping turtle soup, tree honey white rice, beef tongue tacos and buffalo chili on fry bread.
Hetzler further points out that the café provides incredibly healthy offerings, with no artificial sweeteners and nutrient-rich ingredients like fresh root vegetables and quinoa, a grain-like crop related to spinach and beets. As an added bonus, the café carries vegetarian and gluten-free dishes.
Upon entering the café, which is situated along the museum’s many curved walls, the diner will find five food stations representing different regions of the Western hemisphere: South America, Meso America, The Great Plains, The North Woodlands and The Northwest Coast. A brief observation of café visitors showed reactions to the menu ranging from mere curiosity to eager anticipation.
The museum’s limestone exterior and tranquil setting lured in Christine Platt, a visitor from South Africa. Speaking to the buildings exterior, Platt says, “It absolutely did set the mood for eating. It’s a case where coming in here, I think, with fairly high expectations of having something that was different, not run of the mill and something that was far more in harmony and in balance with nature and our needs as human beings as opposed to quick fast food, rubbish, junk, whatever we sometimes normally eat.”
Hetzler says he’s always a little nervous when adding new and unfamiliar items to the seasonal menu but so far people have proven to be willing and adventurous eaters. In the Delaware and Piscataway language, Mitsitam means, "lets eat." Since the museum opened in 2004, tourists seem to be doing just that.