reston and d.c.
my conference switched from d.c. to reston secondary to recent events. I will also be coming with 3 kids under seven as a result. any restaurants worth going to with kids in the reston area or when we go into d.c. sat. for a kennedy center tour? they are exceptionally well behaved. also, any sights they may enjoy more- vernon hills, etc.?
Avoid the restaurants near the Kennedy Center. Yech! Best choice among them is probably the Texan-style Jeffrey's in the Watergate Hotel. If you want to stay in the general vicinity, you are MUCH better off at Marcel's or Kinkead's on Pennsylvania Avenue, or Equinox near the White House. They aren't cheap but they are among the best in the city, and not too stuffy for well-behaved kids. The food may be lost on them, depending on their tastes.
Otherwise, if you have time, go to Jaleo or Cafe Atlantico on 7th and 8th Streets respectively. Jaleo is bustling and known for its excellent and diverse tapas menu. It fills up on a Saturday, so if you are trying to make a show it probably isn't a good call. If you can go after the show, that'll work. Cafe Atlantico is great and it takes reservations. A little more casual, but great food and a nice scene is Johnny's Half Shell on Dupont Circle. Wonderful earthy variations on regional seafood dishes. Go early to avoid the crowds and you'll be able to make your show on time.
I avoid the burb's like the plague. Out that way toward's Tysons Corner, you typically only find trite chain restaurants. There's a Morton's in Reston if you are into good steaks. There's also a place (it's a chain--sigh) called Big Bowl in Reston that has gotten high praise, and might be just the thing for mixing tasty eats and kids. The dining critic here has spoken very highly of it. It's Asian-fusion food.
And there are a couple good places in Vienna, Va (names escape me at the moment), which is near Reston. Just opened in Vienna is the Colvin Run Tavern, which is run by master chef Bob Kinkead. Haven't heard the reports yet, but it may be worth a stop if you're out there.
I second the mention of Big Bowl. We've eaten there a couple of times. It's busy and noisy but the pseudo-Asian food is tasty and the portions are generous.
Another chain joint in Reston that is great for families is Champps Americana (apparently this is their only location within at least 100 miles; I think they are out of New Jersey) that has a huge menu, gigantic TV screens that show mostly sporting events, and MASSIVE portions of generally good food.
Also in Reston is Fortune, a big Chinese restaurant with very good dim sum that is always packed with kids.
Then there is the very classy St. Basil, which serves really good grilled stuff, salads, etc. It's the kind of place that people are very surprised to find exists out in the wilds of Reston.
If you're in Reston you'll also be very close to Herndon, which is packed with interesting NON-CHAIN eateries, including a very good Afghan joint called Bamyan, a Peruvian chicken place called Pollos Inka, a popular sushi joint called Yoko that is very welcoming to kids, a cross-cultural spot called Euro Bistro that offers Austrian dishes and all kinds of other stuff, etc.
You shouldn't go hungry!
JrinDC's post is very accurate. In addition to Big Bowl (Lettuce Entertain You owned) across the street you will find Rio Grande which is owned by Uncle Julio's out of Dallas. In Dallas this is considered one of the best Tex Mex just as it is here. With kids this would be my first choice with Big Bowl second. Everything else at Reston Town Center (which I live one mile from) is secondary considering you have children with you. But you should try one of these two.
even without your guidance, I was able to ferret out rio grande on our first night and we had a wonderful meal. I didn't care for their salsa so much but the chicken fajita I had was the tastiest ever and the margaritas were awesome after a day of travelling with kids which required a mad dash from o'hare to midway after a screw up in our reservations. thanks for the leads. our best dinner was at bamyan's which my wife and I will not soon forget- esp. the specialty that night, a tuna dish with a delicious yogurt sauce. we ate there the night before we dropped bombs on their homeland ironically enough.