Come with me on a tour of the World Bank’s cafeteria! If you aren’t familiar with the World Bank, it’s an international institution that loans money to developing countries to assist them with projects to fight poverty, improve health and wealth and stability.
If you mention The World Bank to most people in Washington, it’s likely that they will immediately mention the cafeteria. It’s legendary in D.C. circles. The main problem is that the World Bank, like many major buildings here, has heavy security. Because of this, you have to know someone who can “get you in.” As interns with the United Nations, we occasionally have to attend meetings in the building, so we were granted building passes a few weeks ago, which puts us in a special group of people who can access the fabulous cafeteria. What’s even better, our office is just a short jaunt from the place.
The day after finding that out, I was literally running down H Street towards the World Bank, so excited to see what waited. I had heard rumors of international food, fresh salads and wine. Could it be true?
After going through a screening and getting our photos taken for our security passes, we were finally inside!
I am in love with the typeface the World Bank uses.
The building houses some 6,000 employees at any time, plus those visiting on business…or just for lunch. From the outset it seems like a hospital cafeteria, but a little more futuristic. Also, the guy serving up lobster rolls at the entrance indicates there is something special inside.
You pick up a tray and real cutlery and head in. There are little booths selling all sorts of items, from a meatball bar (only on Fridays) to fresh salads, vegetarian African stews, an Asian noodle bar, a sushi bar, soups, wood fired pizza – and more. A protein grill has fresh cuts of salmon, chicken and steak ready to go when you decide what seasoning you want.
Fresh fruit, cheese and a variety of salads wait. (There was indeed wine at the tills if you wanted something to accompany your cheese platter.)
Another intern and I made a rookie mistake and beelined for the sushi. I mean, I was craving it, but it’s not the most value conscious item there. Especially when you can get a full three item Indian curry plate for $7, or a steaming bowl of pho for $6. But these sushi chefs were Japanese and the rolls were made to order. They also did chirashi bowls, nigiri sushi and sashimi.
This is the Indian bar, with fresh chutneys and naan. In addition to using real plates and cutlery as well as compostable take away containers, I read on another blog that they work their foods into leftovers, so these might have been made from yesterday’s salad bar.
Instead of packets of ketchup, there are dressing and seasoning bars featuring large communal bottles of Sriracha, soy, dressings and more. There are several recycle and compost bins near the tray drop off area. This IS the World Bank after all. Sustainability is one of their deals.
As you order, you will hear people order in other languages all around you – I heard French, Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese while I was there the other day. The servers switch back and forth as need be.
On top of it all, everything is fresh. These aqua frescas are made daily. Fresh grapefruit, orange and pomegranate are in coolers. The freshly squeezed juices go for $1.20-$1.85.
Dessert was varied, and although a little pricey, it was delicious. There’s even a serve-yourself frozen yogurt bar. The desserts and pastries change daily. There are theme days for the cafeteria as a whole – coming up on Halloween is Hawaiian days, and later in November a Mexican fiesta. The lobster rolls I mentioned at the top were just for that week because it’s the season here, apparently.
The dining area is huge – you can eat in the communal hall, near ancient doors from around the world mounted as art, standing at a bar, or on a bridge in the soaring atrium. Or back at your desk – every stand does food to go.
I got the eel roll (for some reason called the Vegas roll) with coconut agua fresca and carrot cake. It was really bang on.
A coworker got the African street food, and apple strudel. It was not as good as the carrot cake.
We took a stroll around after lunch, checking out the world flag wall and other interesting art and displays they have.
Lunching at the World Bank is going to be one of the many things I will miss about D.C. when I leave.