Should you eat in the Congressional dining room? The Washington Post investigates

Illustration for article titled Should you eat in the Congressional dining room? The Washington Post investigates
Photo: Albert Paran (iStock)

Joyous news, my fellow Americans! The House Members Dining Room in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., which has served politicians since 1858, is now open to the public! Now you can eat the same lunch as your elected Congressional representative—but only when Congress is in recess. (So there goes your opportunity to pick up some useful scuttlebutt.)


This is maybe the most important food opening of the year, so naturally the Washington Post had to send its longtime restaurant critic Tom Sietsema to review it. (Sietsema is having quite a month: last week, a photo in one of his reviews alerted a reader that her husband was cheating on her.) Aside from a bowl of bean soup, a dining room classic that was “the taste equivalent of a call from home,” Sietsema was unimpressed by both the food and the service. The food, it turns out, is produced by a contractor called Sodexo and doesn’t taste very good: “Sad beef. Sad, tepid and underseasoned spinach. Okay squash puree. (But I ordered the entree for the meat!)” The servers are unimpressed with their august surroundings. On the bright side—maybe?—there are security guards outside, so you can feel safe?

Sietsema focuses exclusively on the dining experience and doesn’t speculate about politics, but I wonder if the lousy food is one of the reasons everyone in Washington is so cranky. I mean, there are plenty of other reasons for strife, but that can’t be helping.

Associate editor of The Takeout. Chicagoan. Owned by dog.



Trivia: Bean soup has been a daily menu item in the congressional commissary since a Michigan congressman complained about the commissary not having a Michigan product on the menu (from Fishbait: The Memoirs of a Congressional Doorkeeper). Michigan was at the time the largest producer of navy pea beans in the country (explains the gas...) and Wikipedia lists the recipe using two pounds of Michigan navy pea beans.