Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Mitsitam Native Foods Café

Much of the sightseeing and attractions in Washington DC centre around the National Mall area, where the monuments and museums are clustered.  Located on the National Mall between the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the U.S. Capitol Building is the formidable National Museum of the American Indian.  (Fourth Street & Independence Ave., SW).  Click HERE for a map of the area.
Like so many other museums in Washington, entry to the museum is free, and the museum is open from 10AM- 5:30 PM daily.
A Gift from the Government of Canada to the Museum

A sample of some traditional handwoven textiles

While the museum itself merits its own post, this post is specifically about food! 

Inside the museum lies Mitsitam Café.  Whether visiting the museum (which I highly recommend), or just looking for a unique place to eat while in Washington, the Mitsitam Café is not to be missed. 

Food: The menu changes with the seasons, and can be found on the Mitsitam Café website.  The summer menu that we chose from can be found HERE.  The café is set up with different "stations" featuring cuisine from different indigenous traditions of the Americas.  It features Northern Woodlands, Mesoamerica, South America, Northwest Coast, and Great Plains.  It's not everyday that I come across indigenous eateries on my travels, and I also liked that it provided the visitor with another way to experience the cultures on display in the museum.  While some items reflect more traditional recipes, others are more modern takes on traditional recipes using ingredients native to the specific region being represented.

Gluten Free at the Mitsitam Café:   This is one of my favourite things about the restaurant.  Items are labeled, and on each label, gluten free items are indicated with the words "gluten free" in red type.  See the photo below for an example.  This made ordering so simple.  Additionally, a large number of dishes are gluten free, so there is much to choose from.  

Sign in Mitsitam Café, indicating that an item is gluten free  

My brother in law ordered the ceviche, type of fish salad, because he wanted to compare it with the ones he eats at home.  He declared it delicious, and I was pretty impressed with the presentation.  It's a GF option.

Mitsitam Café's Ceviche
My husband and I ordered a simple, familiar dish for our son.  Totopos with Carne, which are a type of tortilla chip covered in marinated meat, with a side dish of cilantro scented rice and a side order of Yucca salsa.  Simple, but delicious.

My husband's Totopos (his had cheese)

My son approved.

Etienne with his Tio Jaime  

Our order at the restaurant 

Other dishes were more complex, such as Coconut and Chili Braised Rabbit, or Grilled Bison Steak.  Definitely not items seen on the menus of every eatery in town.  If I had been ordering just for myself, I would have tried something more adventurous. 

Verdict:  In my opinion, this is a definite hit.  The menu had something on it for every taste, from safe to adventurous.  The food was delicious and there were many gluten free options to choose from.  The café has a wall of windows that let in natural light and provide a bright and cheery atmosphere.  The menu changes with the seasons and features several dishes that would be difficult to find anywhere else. 

The Mitsitam Café also has a cookbook available for purchase at the museum or online through the Smithsonian store

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