Every time Rachael Ray used to say “Ask the locals” in her grating voice on “$40 a Day,” it sounded like nails on a chalkboard. Corny line, clunky delivery. But let’s give Rachael her props. She’s right — if you want to know where to eat in a new city, you do have to ask the people who live there.
Take the U.S. Department of Labor… Would I have known about the dedicated pho station in the cafeteria, had two of my new colleagues not taken me there? Not a chance. But indeed it’s true, they do have pho, and it’s pretty darn good.
(No photo unfortunately. I believe it’s forbidden to photograph within a government building, so I didn’t take any chances. No point in being accused of espionage my first two weeks in D.C. for trying to snap a picture of noodle soup.)
Options include the choice of chicken, shrimp, or roast beef, rice noodles or whole wheat, the usual toppings of cilantro, bean sprouts, sliced jalapenos, etc., and condiments of fish sauce, hoisin and sriracha. The soft noodles are packed down tightly in a big bowl. A solid meal, for $5.99.
I would recommend choosing chicken or shrimp. The roast beef was tough in places and a little gristly. But the beef broth had a nice, rich, star anise-y flavor — better than a few I’ve had in restaurants.
So if you work in the area and are hankering for an inexpensive bowl of pho, you could do far worse than the Department of Labor caf. Would never have guessed that in a million years, but now I know.
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave. NW