I wandered across the Mall in DC at lunch today with a friend to have lunch at the restaurant ("the Commons") in the Smithsonian's HQ building ("the Castle"). This establishment was previously limited to certain members of the Smithsonian Associates and the staff of the Smithsonian. It's now open to the public (and was only about half full today). For $15.95 you get a decent hot buffet line (today, salmon, rice, carrots, asparagus, potatoes and a few other things), a cold buffet line (various salads, fruits, cheeses, and the like) and dessert. It's a bit steep for lunch, but if you were making it your main meal of the day, it would be cost effective. (It used to be that you could just get soup and salad for $9.95 or so, but that option has been eliminated.) I suppose I should not have been surprised at how few people were on the Mall or in the building, but I was. Fallout from 9/11 I assume.
PS. They take reservations -- 357-2957.