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Mitsitam Native Foods Café Beats Out Other D.C. Eateries for 'Casual Restaurant of the Year' Award

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Mitsitam Native Foods Café, the Native-focused eatery at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, was honored by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington with a Rammy Award on June 24, reported the Associated Press.

The restaurant out-shined its casual dining competitors: Bar Pilar, C.F. Folks, Hank's Oyster Bar and Room 11. Mitsitam is the first museum restaurant to receive a Rammy nomination.

Located on the National Mall in Washington D.C., the Zagat-rated restaurant showcases a refined, seasonal menu of foods that have been grown, raised and harvested in North and South America for thousands of years, from Peruvian ceviche to pork tacos. Mitsitam means “let’s eat” in the Piscataway and Delaware languages, and the café stays true to its Native focus, drawing on tribal culinary traditions.

The restaurant also tries to support Native communities and businesses. For instance, Executive Chef Richard Hetzler orders its bison through the InterTribal Bison Cooperative, where “buffalo are raised on Native lands by Native Americans,” he said in a Smithsonian video discussion with museum director Kevin Gover (Pawnee).

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He sources its salmon from the Quinault Indian Nation in Taholah, Washington. “…[W]e actually have it flown in. So for us, it’s more difficult because of the regions of the food, but I think in general, it’s the way people should live,” Hetzler said in the Smithsonian Magazine’s blog.

Last week, Mitsitam debuted its summer menu featuring crispy rabbit, grilled sweet corn, purple potato soup, and more.

Beyond a savory experience, the regionally inspired menu aims to cultivate a deeper understanding of American Indian history, culture and values. “These are foods that became as fundamental to indigenous cultures as song, dance, story, art and ceremony,” said Gover in a news release.

“Native food reconnects us to the land,” Hetzler said in a Smithsonian news release. “Simple, abundant and—most of all—flavorful, it is life-giving and a way of life.”