The Dish: fry bread and cup of buffalo chili

The Location: Mitsitam Native Foods Caf� at the National Museum of the American Indian, 4th Street and Independence Avenue SW, (202) 633-1000

The Price: fry bread, $2.75; chili, $4.25

The Skinny: The exhibits may be a little thin at the National Museum of the American Indian, but at least the chili is nice and thick. Though visiting the enormous building’s five small installation spaces will hardly work up an appetite, skip the two gift shops and head straight for the Mitsitam Native Foods Caf�, the true gem of the place. Though the food-court-style setup is a little hokey—stations are broken down by regions such as “Meso America,” “Northwest Coast,” and “Beverages”—the cafe serves up well-executed, indigenously inspired fare that gracefully endures the heat lamps. Buffalo chili and fry bread at the “Great Plains” counter makes for a satisfying lunch. The hearty stew is nicely spiced—though a little mild—and packed with ground buffalo, beans, tomatoes, and peppers. The fry bread is chewy, puffy, and golden and makes a terrific, if greasy, spoon substitute. No worries: Simply rinse your fingers in the outdoor fountain. (Just kidding, Smithsonian!)

—-Anne Marson