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The G-Level cafeteria in the Washington Hospital Center may be the nicest hospital cafeteria in the city. It operates on a station model, which means that instead of waiting in one, long indefinite line, diners can hop from the smoothie bar to the soup and salad bar, and then double back and hit up the “Showtime” kiosk, where they can get made-to-order steak, chicken, and tofu wraps. Oh, and there’s also a grill that serves burgers, a down-home special/pizza kiosk, a Grab ‘n Go station stocked with yogurt and fruit, and a two-tiered section devoted to pie slices and vanilla cakes.

The place is packed. Every table is taken. The massive room is well lit thanks to plenty of windows, and the decor is light pink and beige. You can tell who is a relative, because they have some sort of name tag.

Frederico Henry, 64, is here because his aunt is having surgery. “You can’t get her name,” he says. “She don’t want anybody to know she’s here.” Henry says his aunt is undergoing a cardiac catheterization procedure.

But Henry isn’t worried. His aunt “has good genes [and] everything is going to be fine.”

He does have one concern, though: the price of the food.

Frederico Henry drove in all the way from Bowie, MD, and thinks the hospital’s food is just a little expensive.

“Everybody is hurting, health care is going up, give us a little break on the food,” Henry says.

He points to the bill for his and another family member’s meal. It comes out to $21.37, which includes two pastas, some greens, pork ribs ($5 each), two fountain drinks ($1.69 each), and cake ($2.29 each).

“For most people, there’s no place close to go [for food], they have a captive [audience].”

At that point, another relative shows up. A woman and her young son. Her worry isn’t about the food just yet. She wants to know about the aunt.

“She upstairs? She doing alright?”

Reporting by Jason Cherkis