Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dining At The World's Top Think Tank

In between 100 degree days in Washington, DC, I decided to explore the little-known cafeteria within the Brookings Institution.  After all my years wandering in and out of think tanks, including Brookings, the cafeteria never appeared on my radar-screen.  Usually, I go to an event at Brookings that serves breakfast (bagels and assorted croissants) or lunch (tuna/ham/roast beef sandwiches), but this was my first adventure at the cafeteria of the most famous think tank in the world.

Well, there is nothing to get too excited about.  I'm sure it is a great thing to have if you work at Brookings or nearbye think tanks such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) or the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), but don't come expecting to be wowed.  In fact, the cafeteria, on the first floor of Brookings and open to the public, reminded me of my middle school cafeteria: dark, dingy, cheerless, and uneventful.  In other words, it is almost like any other cafeteria around the world.

There is only a narrow space to stand in line to get food, leaving one feeling a bit claustrophobic.  The pizza and lunch meat sat there looking dry and sad.  The salad bar looked uninspiring.  I opted for the Chinese food, generally a safe (albeit standard) bet at most cafeterias.  I got white rice and fried rice along with an assortment of Kung Pao chicken and some stir fry vegetables.  After paying for the meal (priced by weight; credit cards accepted), I grabbed a seat with a colleague in the back.

There is not much to say about standard cafeteria fare, except for the fact that it wasn't too bad (or too good).  The thing that separates the Brookings cafeteria from most other cafeterias is the foreign policy and political chatter being batted around, including by the flood of interns who flock to DC think tanks in the summer.  Besides that, I have nothing good or bad to report.  I am indifferent.  If you need to grab some food nearbye, Brookings is not bad, but I certainly wouldn't rush out of my way to eat there.

You can read the Think Tank Watch post on best food experience at a think tank here.