The Secret Dunkin’ Donuts In The Library Of Congress

The Library of Congress (LOC) is the biggest library in the world. According to its website, it houses over 170 million items, and around half of its books and serials aren’t even in English, with some 470 languages represented in its collections. The sprawling complex is full of all kinds of hidden secrets, from Abraham Lincoln’s glasses, pocket knife, and other everyday items to Rosa Parks’ peanut butter pancake recipe. It’s got the world’s smallest children’s book, one of the world’s most impressive collections of musical instruments, and a collection of pornography that would make Hugh Hefner blush.

All that stuff takes up a lot of space, and the library has had to expand quite a bit over its more than two centuries of archiving. As you might guess, the LOC actually did start in the U.S. Capitol, but it had to start branching out rather early in our history. The Thomas Jefferson Building was the first addition, back in 1897. Then more shelves were added with the John Adams Building in 1938.

The last addition to the library (so far) was the James Madison Memorial Building, completed in 1981. This paragon of modern architectural style is admittedly not as pretty as the Jefferson Building, but it’s meant to hold books, not be easy on the eyes. And, maybe as compensation for forcing the library’s employees to work in this stark, oversized concrete box, it has something that none of the other LOC buildings can say they do.

Like the rest of America, the Library of Congress runs on Dunkin'

According to the library’s 2017 annual report, a total of 3,105 people are permanently employed by the Library of Congress. All those people have to eat, and like just about everyone else in the world, most of them need caffeine to function properly. To that end, there’s a secret Dunkin’ Donuts in the James Madison Memorial Building. How did we find out about such a well-hidden gem in the LOC, you ask? Well, like Nic Cage on a mission to uncover the deepest and darkest of America’s secrets in the National Treasure movies, BuzzFeed did some spelunking in the fluorescent halls of the James Madison Building back in 2014 and made it out alive to tell us about it.

Although it may not be as fetching as the other two edifices, BuzzFeed was really too hard on the poor old James Madison Building. It called the building a “soulless government leviathan” decorated with “horrible art.” We actually think the “retro Mad Men furnishings” are pretty cool, but we have to agree that the brightly lit hallways are a bit “soul-crushing.” BuzzFeed continued: “…surely, nothing good can exist this deep into the life-crushing, fluorescent, laminated, echoing belly of bureaucracy…” And then the treasure: the Dunkin’ Donuts, open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. So next time you’re in the neighborhood, make the trek and grab your daily dose of fried dough.

Where else to grab a bite in the Library of Congress

The James Madison Building is the place in the Library of Congress to get your junk food fix. You can stop by the Dunkin’ for a sugar-filled pumpkin spice frappe, and sausage, egg, and cheese croissant (one of several things you actually should never order from Dunkin’ Donuts). Or if you want your sugar in deceptive lunch form, there’s also a Subway in the building. (There’s so much sugar in Subway’s bread that the Irish Supreme Court ruled that the franchise deli’s sandwiches don’t technically contain bread.)

But admit it: You know as well as all of us that Subway smells better than it actually tastes, so don’t fall for its pungent trickery. You’ll find much better options at the Madison Café and Coffee Shop. According to the LOC website, it offers a rotating weekly menu of delectable American classics and international delicacies. The last menu posted was in March 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic brought the library’s functions to a halt. It offered stuff like roasted turkey, smothered pork, fried fish, mac and cheese, green beans, garlic broccoli, and steamed corn. Tacos, coconut curry fish, chicken tikka, and Jamaican style beef patties were just some of the tasty-sounding international options. So, if you ever find yourself in the James Madison Building around lunchtime, choose wisely. (But don’t forget the donuts.)

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