Overview of our visit to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., plus a recipe for Rice with Butter and Soy Sauce (バーター醤油ご飯) inspired by the nearby Bantam King at the end of the post.
National Building Museum
The National Building Museum is located in Washington, D.C. on 401 F Street NW (accessibility entrances at G Street and 4th Street). It is open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day from 10-5 on Monday-Saturday and 11-5 on Sundays (the Building Zone closes at 4 pm).
We parked in a nearby parking garage in Chinatown, but the museum is close to the Judiciary Square and Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro Stations.
One of the most notable parts of the museum is the gorgeous interior of the Great Hall with its 75-foot tall Corinthian columns. It is housed in the former Pension Bureau building, originally constructed between 1882 and 1887.
The building was in danger of being demolished before becoming listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. In 1985, the museum moved in after a careful restoration with its inaugural exhibit, Anatomy of a Bridge: Seven Steps in Constructing the Brooklyn Bridge. It was officially named the National Building Museum in 1997.
Functions and special events occur often so be sure to check the calendar before planning your trip. During our latest visit, the floor in the Great Hall was closed off in preparation for an event that night.
Throughout the year, you will find Discover Engineering Family Days, Yoga in the Great Hall, Film Programs, Flying in the Great Hall, Teen Workshops, Story Times, Family Afternoons, and more.
Play Work Build
We spent the most time in Play Work Build. Located on the second floor, this is definitely the busiest area of the museum- particularly in the mornings. This exhibit features the connections between toys and the work of building professionals through play.
There is a large floor in the middle of the room filled with large blue foam blocks along with tables set up for more intricate work with smaller foam pieces and other favorite building materials.
I have really enjoyed looking back at photos from our first visit (in 2016) and seeing how much the kids have grown in such a short time.
Making Room: Housing for a Changing America is a temporary exhibit running until September 16th, 2018. Evan was especially fascinated by The Open House- a 1,000 square foot home designed to meet the unique needs of a variety of households with moveable walls and counters, multifunctional furniture, and a kitchen with technology to incorporate as much as possible in a limited space.
He was also able to work as the developer himself, using blocks to create homes and layouts for different housing needs.
A few of the exhibits do not allow photography (signs are posted on the door), but we also enjoyed Around the World in 80 Paper Models (closed on April 1, 2018, but check out the page for models to make your own paper National Building Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Suspension Bridge) and House & Home.
Entry to the Building Zone (now closed) is meant for children between 2-6.
We arrived on a Saturday morning and got a time slot for two hours later. They was actually perfect for us since it gave us plenty of time to see the rest of the museum first and finish the day here. We did notice after walking by the admissions booth an hour later that the remaining time slots for the day were full, so arriving early is best- particularly on weekends and busy days (last entry for the day is currently 3:15 pm).
The kids had a blast during the 45 minute session. Evan mostly stuck to building while Claire particularly enjoyed the playhouse. There is also an area for reading, a sensory board, dollhouse, construction tools, a magnetic board to form tracks, and more.
Overall, we had a wonderful experience here. The play areas are especially perfect for toddlers and younger elementary-aged children. Evan is fascinated by architecture and was equally as interested in the main exhibits this visit.
The museum does have a Firehook Café on the first floor, but we went to Bantam King on our latest visit. Bantam King is located directly across the street on the corner of G St NW and 5th St SW.
It was the perfect stop for the kids with fun decor and the waiter even brought out extra bowls to for easy sharing of our ramen. Evan and Claire split a Miso Ramen and a very delicious side of Rice with with Roasted Chicken Drippings, Butter, Scallions, and Soy Sauce. Chad enjoyed a Fried Chicken Plate while I had the Shoyu Chintan Ramen.
The chicken-based ramen with Paitan stock comes with shredded chicken, mizuna greens, scallion, corn, naruto, chili threads, and nori. You can also order a variety of other toppings for extra such as butter, kaedama, nitamago, a spice bomb, onsen egg, menma, or even a whole roasted chicken quarter.
Looking for more things to do in Washington DC?
- Homemade Spinach Fettuccine and United States National Arboretum, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Union Market
- Çılbır (Turkish Poached Eggs with Yogurt) and Washington, D.C.
- Dinosaur Bento and Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Rice with Butter and Soy Sauce (バーター醤油ご飯)
To pair with this post, I made a childhood favorite- Rice with Butter and Soy Sauce (バーター醤油ご飯). To be honest, I had completely forgotten that I used to enjoy rice this way until I had the side of Rice with with Roasted Chicken Drippings, Butter, Scallions, and Soy Sauce at Bantam King.
This isn’t so much a recipe as just an easy way to dress up plain rice. Top freshly steamed rice with a pat or two of butter and a sprinkling of soy sauce. The combination, with a pinch of chives or scallions for color, is quite comforting. The flavors also pair well with corn and potatoes. To take it up a notch, follow Bantam King’s style and drizzle some roasted chicken drippings over the top.
According to Norio, this way of preparing rice comes from Hokkaido, where much of the butter is produced. I usually top 1 cup of cooked rice with about 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. Adjust the amounts higher or lower as desired, but a 3:1 ratio of butter to soy sauce seems to work well. I topped the rice with a few thinly sliced chives from the garden, but it would also be delicious paired with seasoned nori (味付け海苔).
This is best with fresh, hot rice to help melt the butter almost immediately. I now occasionally enjoy leftover, reheated rice this way as the butter and soy sauce help to soften the older, more dry rice.
Rice with Butter and Soy Sauce (バーター醤油ご飯) Recipe
Adapted from Norio on Food and Wine
Rice with Butter and Soy Sauce (バーター醤油ご飯)
- 1 cup freshly steamed Japanese short grain rice
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon thinly sliced chives or seasoned nori (optional)
- Place the rice in a serving bowl and make a hole in the center.
- Add the butter and allow to melt. Drizzle the soy sauce over the top and stir with the rice to combine.
- Top with chives if desired. Serve immediately.