The White House Mess is a small dining facility run by the U.S. Navy and is located in the basement of the West Wing next door to the Situation
The Mess seats about 50 people at a dozen tables adorned with elegant table linens, fresh flowers, and official White House china. It is decorated with wood paneling, nautical trim, and ship paintings.
Table reservations are available to senior White House officials including commissioned officers, Cabinet secretaries, and their guests. There is a nearby take-out window open to all White House staff members for carryout service.
White House Mess take-out window
For breakfast, the White House Mess offers a variety of fresh fruits, cereals, a selection of pastries, and grilled-to-order breakfast items. Beverages include coffee, tea, milk, and juice.
Guests of the White House Mess are invited to bring their menus home with them as a souvenir along with a box of presidential M&Ms.
Click on the photogallery below to view a complete lunch menu.
If you want to know what it's like to eat at the White House Mess, you can read some first-hand experiences here:
The White House Mess is not open to the public, but plenty of people receive invitations to dine there. If you are one of the lucky ones,
head to the southwest gate of the White House complex and present the guard with your ID and state your business. Provided you are on the
appointment list, an escort will be called. Walk up West Executive Avenue and turn right into the
West Basement entrance. Another guard will check your credentials for access to the White House. Take the first right and go down a few stairs. The White House Mess will be on your left.
Be sure to admire the detailed model of the USS Constitution and look for the 1790 mess gong from the ship hanging on the wall above the wood podium with the gold presidential seal. The maitre 'd will be there to escort you to your assigned table.
The interesting history of the White House Mess is printed on the back of every menu.
"It has been recorded as far back as 1880 aboard the Presidential Yacht Despatch, while President Rutherford B. Hayes was in office, that Navy Stewards were first utilized to provide food service to the Commander in Chief. Since that time, the Navy has assigned their best Culinary Specialists to the Presidential Food Service to prepare the finest foods and provide outstanding service for the President throughout the world.
In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Presidential Retreat tucked away in the Catoctin Mountains and named it "Shangri-La" (Renamed Camp David by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 in honor of his grandson David). President Roosevelt directed the Navy to provide messing services at "Shangri-La" and that Navy Stewards from his yacht USS Potomac operate the facility. This established the precedent for Navy Personnel to serve the President and his staff ashore.
In 1951 while President Harry S. Truman was in Office, Rear Admiral Robert L. Dennison, Naval Aide to the President, recommended a Commissioned Officers Mess be established at the White House. On June 11, 1951 the Presidential Food Service was established under the guidance of Lieutenant Commander Leo W. Roberts, SC, USN; Presidential Mess Officer aboard USS Williamsburg. Following several decades of naval tradition and pride in direct support to our nations's President, the Presidential Food Service functions much the same way it did in its earlier years.
During its prestigious history, the Presidential Food Service has received seven Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, the Navy Unit Commendation and the Meritorious Unit Commendation for continuous outstanding performance in direct support to the President of the United States."
White House Mess in 1961 (JFK Library)