By Amy McKeever
July 06, 2015
Credit: Terry Adams

It used to be that the only real food options for tourists visiting the National Mall in Washington, D.C. were hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, and bagels. But this summer, the park’s concession stands have rolled out new expanded menus featuring everything from breakfast sandwiches and roasted hummus to barbecue and fish and chips.

“We’re thrilled to be able to do this,” says Kris Rohr, director of marketing for the company that operates the stands. Rohr admits that the menu offerings up until now were “pretty standard.” That might have worked out fine in earlier years when the Mall was a dead zone for restaurants, but the food truck boom in recent years changed everything. On any given day, you might find a food truck selling dumplings, tacos, falafel, pasta and more on the Mall. "We need to compete with that,” Rohr says. “That's a fact of the market."

But she also explains that the seed for this menu expansion was planted about two years ago with National Park Service director Jon Jarvis’s call for healthier menu options. At the time, that initiative resulted in entree and side dish combos under 600 calories. But there still wasn’t much variety — until now. With the support of the National Park Service, Guest Services, Inc has gone even farther with its menu expansion, rolling out new breakfast, dessert, gluten-free, and vegetarian options at all of its nine kiosks, as well as specialty entrees at the five kiosks with greater cooking and preparatory capacities. After all, as long as they menu was going to expand, Rohr says, "we thought there's no reason it shouldn't be a fabulous alternative, too."

So now, in addition to the core menu that includes bagels with cream cheese and hot dogs — which Rohr says are so popular they’ll never go off menu — each kiosk offers roasted hummus, Kashi and Bear Naked snack bars, gluten-free muffins, hot breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal, fresh fruit, cheesecake, pies, and pudding.

Beyond that, selected concession stands are serving up burgers (Lincoln Memorial), pizza (American History Museum), barbecue pork and chicken (Natural History Museum), chicken wings and chicken sausage (Air & Space Museum), and seafood such as fish or shrimp and chips (Arts & Industry Museum). Each of these five kiosks will offer a monthly rotating special within their particular cuisine, too. So, for example, this month there’s a mushroom swiss burger at the Lincoln Memorial and a Hawaiian pizza option at the American History Museum.

Guest Services, Inc began rolling out these new menu options after Memorial Day, with testing and training complete in time for a Fourth of July announcement. Expect to see a mobile-friendly website in the coming weeks to help the parks’ mostly out-of-town visitors locate each kiosk and its offerings. But in the meantime, travelers can check the Guest Services, Inc website.