A month in Bethesda/DC- need MUSTS for my list
We'll be staying in Bethesda, working in DC for a month. What are places of all price ranges (I would prefer many casual/average places as we can only do a few pricey ones)
What are the MUSTS/not to be missed places? Also, any specialty places (like a bakery), not just meals wanted too. (we have a car) TIA!
I grew up in Bethesda and now live in Arizona, the two places I miss the most:
California Tortilla: I'm in AriFREAKINGzona and can't find a burrito place as good as this, try what sounds good, but that Blacked Chicken Caesar burrito is delish.
Chicken Out: Like Boston Market except really good, mash potatoes are to die for, like Cali Tor it's a walk up, order, and then pick up your food place.
Both of those have many locations, so you can just look the closest ones up online.
For Mexican (even though I'm discovering it's more Tex Mex) I would recommend Rio Grande, I miss their food even with all the local Mexican fare around here.
For Indian Delhi Dhaba is the way to go, there is a better place (Passage to India), but they are much more expensive and have uncomfortable chairs. I was particularly fond of their Shrimp Vindaloo. It's also in a perfect location if you want to catch and Independent movie at Bethesda Row Cinema across the street.
For Thai I would recommend Tara Thai, it has never let me down so far.
I'm sure there are a ton of places in Bethesda I missed, I never went to any of the more expensive places, and I'm not a fan of Italian or French food. Never really ventured in DC for food, too much of a hassle when it takes the same amount of time to go to Rockville, and you can actually find parking.
My only other suggestion is that you try some Ethiopian food in DC if you haven't yet, DC has something like the largest population of Ethiopian folk in the US. The one restaurant I would always frequent would be Dukem, and since an Ethiopian friend would always insist on going there, seems like the place to be.
Oh and I forgot, if you like Chinese head to Full Key out in Wheaton. It's really not too far away from Bethesda, and if you order the Clams in Black Bean Sauce you'll find it very worth the trip.
I just can't stop editing my post, for the quintessential Maryland experience, eat crabs at the Bethesda Crab House. Make sure you make reservation though (which includes how many crabs you want and what size) or you're bound to be shafted. Also make sure you eat outside.
Rio Grande Cafe
4870 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814
7236 Woodmont Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814
Tara Thai Restaurant
4828 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814
Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant
1114 U St NW, Washington, DC 20001
I actually would like more DC recs, as I am more familiar with Bethesda/Rockville (I just don't live there so wanted to make sure there isn't some great place I don't know about)
we eat everything! (but never had Etheopian)
We are willing to travel around to some extent. (Do not need Baltimore or crab recs- family there)
thanks everyone so far- looks great!
In terms of lunch spots I love CF Folks in Dupont Circle. It's only open from 11:30-2pm Monday-Friday but they have some of the best lunch in town, not to mention my favorite crab cake sandwich in the DC area. They have a theme to their specials that changes every day (Italian, Middle Eastern etc.) and you always find their specials listed online at www.cffolksrestaurant.com. They also have great sandwiches.
I also love California Tortilla in Gallery Place/Chinatown and Cleveland Park. I know its a local chain, but its super good for tacos and burittos. Great salads as well.
For good burgers you should check out Five Guys---various locations all over town.
For dinner some of my favorite casual, moderate priced restaurants are:
*Hanks Oyster Bar-Dupont Circle area. Really delicious seafood in a small, New England-feeling fish restaurant. Outdoor dining and an excellent staff.
*Cashion's-Adams Morgan. Ann Cashion is one of my favorite chefs in the area. Her restaurant's menu changes every day and is the perfect neighborhood spot with incredible, well thoughtout food. Outdoor dining as well
*Dino-Cleveland Park. Rustic Italian with an excellent wine list.
*Creme-Wonderful downhome, slightly southern home cooking in U Street. The mushroom appetizer and roasted chicken are the best on the menu. Very friendly staff in a laid back atmosphere.
*Sakana-Really good cheap sushi on P Street in Dupont Circle. Try the Sakana Tempura Roll---you will wake up dreaming about it day after day.
*Mark and Orlandos-P Street in Dupont Circle. This is another really delicious neighborhood spot. They have a more formal downstairs area and a casual upstairs diningroom/bar area. Upstairs you can order off of the downstairs menu as well as the much cheaper (nothing over $12) upstairs menu. Very good food.
*Grill from Impanema-This restaurant doesn't get a lot of attention but I really enjoy it (Plus its where my bf took me on our first date so it holds a special spot in my heart). It's a fun Brazillian restaurant in Adams Morgan. Really good drinks.
*PS7-A super chic restaurant and bar in Gallery Place/Penn Quarter area. They have a very fun menu meant to be shared with the table. They also have an excellent happy hour deal.
Other ideas to check out:
Palena (front of the restuarant is much cheaper and still excellent. Try the famous burger.), Zola, Cafe Atlantico, Butterfield 9, Acadiana, and Hook--these are all moderate to expensive then the others above.
If you can drive don't miss the lebanese butcher or lebanese taverna market in Northern Virginia.
Also there is some great chicken in Nova like Carribean Gill of Route 29 in Arlington.
If you want a good italian sub either the Italian Store in NOVA again off 29 or Litteri's in NE, DC.
On the upper side Komi and Citronelle are kind of the big deals here.
And if you are from the north get some good southern food. And make sure to get some MD crabs and MD crabcakes in MD (worth a drive to b-more for the best crabcakes lots of posts on here about the best crab cakes and places to get crabs).
There is so much more just read on here after restaurant week is over and you will get some great posts or search history for the "best (insert whatever here)."
In Bethesda you should go to Jaleo for some tapas.
For some pretty incredible sichuan and a cool little hole in the wall, head north into Rockville to Joes Noodle House http://www.joesnoodlehouse.com/
Wheaton was mentioned earlier - Ruan Thai is there and was considered one of the 3 best thai places in the area a couple of years ago on this board. El Pulgarcito (if still there) is pretty fantastic Salvadoran fare. And then the Peruvian rotisserie chicken at El Pollo Rico (very much in the news and threads here recently) is a must - don't be afraid if the lines are in the parking lot - it goes pretty fast.
Joe's Noodle House
1488 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852
El Pulgarcito Restaurant
11333 Elkin St, Silver Spring, MD 20902
Ruan Thai Restaurant
11407 Amherst Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20902
El Pollo Rico
2541 Ennalls Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20902
Venture down to Old Town Alexandria, great place to walk around, tons of shops and restaurants to try. Some specialty places that are kind of neat are listed below, and then i also included the link to Overwood, my favorite restaurant in Alexandria as of late...
220 N Lee St, Alexandria, VA 22314
901 Slaters Ln, Alexandria, VA 22314
210 N Lee St, Alexandria, VA 22314
Pops Old Fashion Ice Cream Co
109 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314
I live near Bethesda but rarely eat out there. I don't care for Chicken Out, Delhi Dhaba, or California Tortilla as mentioned by previous posters. If you want rotisserie chicken, the place to go in Bethesda is Chicken on the Run. A few other places in the metro area I like...
Vietnamese: Minh's (Arlington)
Thai: Kanlaya (Chinatown)
Indian: Nirvana (18th & K NW)
Korean: Yechon (Annandale, VA)
Turkish: Kazan (McLean, VA)
Pizza (Neapolitan): Paradiso (Dupont Circle)
Sandwiches: Roy's Place (Gaithersburg)
Pollo a la Brasa: El Pollo Rico (Arlington)
Musts for a month...
Nam Viet (Cleveland Park) - try the Orange beef or the softshell crabs if they have them in.
Dino (Cleveland Park) Awesome wine list. Don't even bother with the official main courses. Go and get a lots of small plates and a pasta... order the lasagnette. Honestly, the single best lasagna I have ever been served in a restaurant ever. (To be fair, I cannot recall ordering lasagna on either of my trips to Italy)
Taberna del Alabardero (downtown) Spanish. Some say this is the best Spanish restaurant in the U.S. It is certainly the best Spanish restaurant I've ever been in and I have spent several weeks in Spain. David Bueno, the somellier, is the nicest somellier I have ever met. Order red meat from the rib of the animal, or, if you don't eat red meat, order shellfish. The fish-fish is their weakest dept. Also, the soups are always amazing. Also, VERY VERY vegetarian-friendly. Even vegan friendly.
The best Chinese in Bethesda is Mei Wah cause sometimes you just gotta have Chinese food. (Caution, I use the term 'Chinese' INCREDIBLY loosely. This is unashamedly American-Chinese food. But it is very good.) Order the shredded beef.
I also love Obelisk (Dupont Circle, modern Northern Italian) and Palena (Cleveland Park New American - Provencal French - Northern Italian mix) Both are expensive ($70ish tasting menu) though Obelisk is casual. Palena is cheaper is you go and sit at the bar area. Obelisk's menu changes nightly. Call ahead if you are a vegetarian, Palena's menu also chaged frequently. Order the seared duck breast at Palena if it is on the menu.
I am blown away by some of these recommendations. We have 300 restaurants in Bethesda and there is no reason at all to frequent the chains. Very good mid-priced choices include:
Vietnamese: Green Papaya
Healthy but gourmet: Rock Creek
French bistro: Brasserie Monte Carlo
Modern American w/ wine pairings: Grapeseed
Thai: Nark Kara
More expensive, but getting raves from those who really know food: Black's Bar and Kitchen. We haven't been since the major re-do, but that is because of issues we've had with the Black's restaurant empire and their attitude towards customers. We admit that the food is great. Had many meals at Addie's, Black's - and only one clunker in the lot.
Continental/modern American: Persimmon (ok, slightly higher than moderate)
We used to love Louisiana Express but it has gone way, way downhill in recent years. Borderline dreadful. Food is greasy yet dried out (cooked to death).
I don't know of a soul who would get crabs at the Bethesda Crab House. Cantler's out near Annapolis, or a number of places in/near Baltimore, or a couple of places in Southern Maryland (e.g., Suicide Bridge). Bethesda Crab House isn't even second rate.
re: Just Visiting
I will second some of the suggestions above, plus add some places not yet mentioned:
Green Papaya (Vietnamese) 4922 Elm St near Arlington Rd, Bethesda. Not dirt-cheap, but not that expensive, either. More upscale than most Vietnamese places, but very good food.
Penang (Malaysian) 4933 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda. Definitely try the Roti Canai as an appetizer. Good and inexpensive noodle dishes.
Costa Del Sol (Salvadoran) 4906 Fairmont Avenue, Bethesda - very good pupusas and other Salvadoran appetizers, and quite cheap. I usually order the Salvadoran items, not the Mexican items. There are lots of good Salvadoran places in the DC area, but this is the only one in Bethesda.
Sweet Basil (Thai), 4910 Fairmont Ave, Bethesda (Used to be excellent. Lately, the entire block has been deserted, and I don't know if the food has gone downhill. I've never had a bad meal there, but haven't eaten there in about 9 months. A modern take on Thai.
If you have transportation, I would highly urge you to try:
Ruan Thai, (Thai) 11407 Amherst Avenue, Wheaton (turn left from University Blvd, shortly after crossing Georgia Ave; about 15 min. from Bethesda) - a superlative Thai restaurant, and very reasonably priced. Search this board for specific menu recommendations there.
Mandalay (Burmese) 930 Bonifant St., Silver Spring, an easy drive (10-15 min) from Bethesda. Another outstanding place with unusual food and reasonable prices.
Etete (Ethiopian) 1942 9th St NW Washington, near U St. Metro (Green & Yellow lines)
The one pricier place in Bethesda that I would highly recommend is Persimmon, 7003 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda
Bethesda has an absurd number of restaurants, but I've found the vast majority OK but not great. Nevertheless, it's quite easy to spend more in DC proper and get worse food. Definitely go into DC for Ethiopian, though.
thanks everyone so far, these have been helpful. keep them coming- however, by MUSTS I'm not really looking for chains like some mentioned, unless there is something truly spectacular:)
also, which is a good place to try Etheopian if I've never had it before? I noticed Dukem & Etete mentioned on these lists. Any others? oh- and what dishes to order would be helpful!
I think Just Visiting was glossing over some good reccomendations when that remark was made. For example, from my initial list, there are two or three Mei Wahs in the DC area -- that doesn't change the fact that I think the best Chinese-like food near Bethesda is at Mei Wah. The owners of Nam Viet used to own another Vietnamese restaurant (I belive in VA) -- doesn't make the restaurant any less good. Others listed Jaleo which is a mini-chain, but still has very good food. And still others listed high-end fast food joints that are, of coure, chains, but you will need to eat lunch while you are in DC.
I'm not endorsing anything I didn't specifically lay out in my initial post. I'm just pointing out that 1) most of the recs you have gotten have NOT been chains and 2) most of the chains have been pointed out with good reason (like where to get an inexpensive lunch)
Bistro du Coin, on Connecticut Ave a few blocks north of Dupont Circle metro. A Brussels style bistro that really looks the part. Best mussels I have had on this side of the Atlantic. Good blanquette de veau, beef Bouginion, etc. Good cheap wine list. A great bargain and lots of fun - open late.
re: Virginia Dutch
If you are looking for realllly good French bistro good at a moderate price Bistro du Coin is ok but Bistro du Oc is even better. It's right near the E Street Cinema as well (theater that shows a lot of independent and art house films) so if you are in the mood for dinner and a movie this is the perfect night out!
Thanks so far- haven't gone yet- so please add more as I'm making a list! I'll be working/staying in PennQuarter/Gallery Place area in DC for a portion, so please let me know what's in walking distance around there too (lunch & dinner)! Any great Pho or sushi places?
You are in a great location for chow, but not necessarily the cheapest chow:
Matchbox (mini burgers very good and pizza isn't bad)
Michel Richard's (Citronelle) Central (mmm so much like lobster burger and kit kat)
TenPenh (spicy calamari salad)
Not too far from Brasserie Beck or Corduroy depending on your exact location.
Oh the list goes on and on I know I forgot many...
These are all a little more high end then some of the other stuff posted, but maybe you could go for lunch? Also I am sure there is sushi and chinese around, but I don't get that normally in that area as I live and work in other areas I normally only go for good chow, so I am sure other hounds can point out some of those...
thanks- nice list. 8th & E NW is the area. I will have a toddler (eats everything) & infant with me, so unfortunately can't do all nice lunches/dinners. Hoping to find some nice casual lunch/dinner spots too.
And I'm looking forward to trying Ethiopian- please help with best place to go as a beginner & what to order!
Matchbox should work for you with the kids (pizza, mini burgers, and great salads).
I don't know a good sushi restaurant in the area of Gallery Place/Chinatown but I'm sure there is something. In all honesty, despite the name, I've been a little disappointed by some of the Chinese food in the area. There was one place I went for a birthday party a few months ago that was really good. Maybe someone can help me out with the name---the have huge tables with lazy susans in the middle, usually a line to get in, upstairs and downstairs dining area. They serve scorpion bowls and at night a lot of birthdays go there for the drinks and pretty cheap eats? I'll try to find out the same.
There is a really good cheap eats noodle shop near by as well.
For a casual lunch I suggest California Tortilla. It's a local chain of delicious burrittos and tacos. Also they make yummy salads. If you like hot sauce this is a fun place because they have a wall of hot sauces. I personally LOVE the blackened chicken cesar salad burritto. Even though its a chain I find the food great quality.
Also for good burgers there is a Five Guys nearby.
Also good for the kids would be Zaytinya and Jaleo (especially for lunch).
For something more adult like I would suggest the brand new wine bar Proof or the chic PS7 or Zola.
Also in the area is a Legal's Seafood (always family friendly and solidly good seafood) and a number of chains near the movie theater which are fairly good to decent. But much more family friendly.
The U St. corridor has some of the best Chowhound finds in the entire area. These are true family run and operated businesses. Read more at the links below.
Pyramids for Moroccan.
Queen Makeda for Ethiopian.
Oohs and Aahs for Soul Food
Oohhs & Aahhs
1005 U St NW, Washington, DC 20001
1917 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
515 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001
Florida Ave NW and 6th NW St, Washington, DC 20001
Don't forget about Busboys and Poets---a very funky, cool restuarant/coffeehouse/bookstore/community event spot. I've seen some kids there in the past. There is interesting art on the wall and a great mix of people. The food is pretty good to with a southern lean. And they have an amazing piece of chocolate layer cake that should make any chocolate-lover happy.
Also in that area I LOVE Creme, which I mentioned above.
What a great opportunity! Here's some ideas (I live in Arlington, so knowledge of Maryland restaurants is spotty).
(1) An Ethiopian restaurant. There's a ton of them in "Little Ethiopia" around 9th & U and all of them are casual and should be kid-friendly. I like Etete a lot (#76 on Washingtonian "Very Best" list and also on the "Cheap Eats" list), but there are lots of fans of Axum, Dukem, Abiti, and Madjet in the same neighborhood. If you happen to be on Columbia Pike in Falls Church, Meaza is very good and very helpful in ordering.
You asked for tips on ordering - really every time I just ask for help from the waiter. It all comes out in piles on a big piece of injera (spongy slightly fermented bread) and you eat with your hands. A couple of warnings, kitfo (spicy beef) can be raw unless you ask for it cooked and the food can be very hot.
(2) A Vietnamese restaurant or maybe even two. This area is very strong in Vietnamese cooking right now. My favorite is Minh's on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, but this is a somewhat elegant (but cheap) restaurant and might not be particularly kid-friendly. Eden Center in Falls Church is a "don't miss" tourist site and restaurant center. It's an all-Vietnamese shopping center with fascinating stores (the bamboo and chandelier shop is particularly interesting) and lots of great, sometimes chaotic, family-friendly restaurants. Huong Que (Four Sisters), Huong Viet, Viet Royale, and Saigon Garden Barbecue are all excellent. Saigon Garden Barbecue is an outdoor place where kids couldn't possibly bother anyone. Minh's, Huong Viet, Huong Que, and Viet Royale are all on both the Washingtonian "Very Best" and "Cheap Eats" list, so you can't beat them for value.
(3) A Korean restaurant in Annandale (Little Seoul). If you've been away for a while, you really should see the changes in Annandale. It's now a predominantly Korean area, with a boatload of fantastic restaurants. My favorite is the Il Mee buffet, but it's hard to go wrong just walking into one that looks interesting. The Washingtonian's recommendation here is Gom Ba Woo, but my Korean students (I teach ESL on the weekend) are all big fans of Il Mee.
(4) One of the newish restaurants in Penn Quarter, the trendiest area in town right now. Jaleo (tapas as good as those I had in Seville), Zaytinya (Mediterranean tapas), Cafe Atlantico (modern Latin), and Oyamel (Mexican fusion) are all excellent, all raved over by food critics -- and very glitzy and kid-unfriendly. These would be nights to find a sitter.
(5) One of the D.C. power steakhouses, if only to see the politicians, lobbyists, and reporters. My favorite of these for people-watching is the Palm downtown (but it's closed until mid-September for remodeling). Even if you don't see anybody famous, the cartoon caricatures on the walls are fun. The food is consistently good too, if obscenely expensive for dinner.
(6) El Pollo Rico. This was one of the first of the Peruvian grilled chicken places and still the best. Cheap, amazingly good, kids everywhere. Original in Arlington, branch in Wheaton. Call first, they've unfortunately been raided by the immigration police recently and might be in danger of closing.
Peruvian food in general is very good right now in this area, due to a large number of Peruvian immigrants. My favorite is La Granja de Oro in Falls Church, but my office manager is married to a Peruvian and their favorite Peruvian restaurant is La Flor de Canela in Gaithersburg. Both are on the Washingtonian Cheap Eats list. El Chalan (downtown) is also good.
(7) A Bolivian restaurant. Northern Virginia has the largest number of Bolivians in the world, outside Bolivia, so there are many excellent Bolivian restaurants. This is hearty food, characterized by amazingly large amounts of meat (vegetarians might weep to see the average meals in Bolivian restaurants). There are lots of good ones. Llajtaymanta in Falls Church is the most authentic seeming (I've seen women wearing those flat bowler hats you see in the tourist photos from Bolivia) and is the Washingtonian's choice, and Cecilia's and El Pike in Arlington and Victor's in Falls Church are all good too. My favorite though is Tutto Bene in Arlington, which is a Bolivian-owned Italian restaurant that serves very good Bolivian food during the day on weekends only. Tom Sietsema of the Post gave it a rave review for both its Bolivian and Italian food a couple of years ago.
(8) A Salvadoran restaurant. This is probably our biggest immigrant group in this area, so there are dozens and dozens of Salvadoran restaurants. I think of this as homey, country cooking, kind of like Mexican food but without the spice. My favorites are Las Delicias and Cuscatleco, both on South Glebe Road in Arlington, but the Washingtonian recommends Samantha's in Silver Spring and Irene's Pupusas III and Sergio's Place in Wheaton if you wanted to stick to Maryland.
(9) Pho 75 - Vietnamese beef soup ("pho," pronounced "fuh") place, simmered for many hours. One of the best deals around and extremely family friendly. Many branches in Maryland and Virginia (the original is on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington). You don't say where you're coming from but if you don't have a ton of great pho places where you live, you really should not miss a bowl of pho while you're in DC.
(10) A nice "foodie" restaurant. The virutes of the various contenders are debated endlessly here on Chowhound, but I think Corduroy (12th & K) is very good and a good buy too.
(11) One of the "Hong Kong" style dim sum palaces. Mark's Duck House in Falls Church is my favorite, but everyone raves about Hollywood East in Wheaton and I'm sure it's good.
(12) Miscellaneous restaurants that don't fit any particular theme, but that I just really like:
Mandalay (Burmese restaurant in Silver Spring)
Montmartre (French bistro on Capitol Hill)
Village Bistro (continental food, Arlington, oddly enough the best fried oysters in town)
Nooshi (pan-Asian downtown)
Malaysia Kopitiam (downtown)
Hong Kong Palace (extremely good , fiery hot Sichuan food in Falls Church, truly exotic -- they have two ox penis dishes on the menu -- but I hesitate to recommend it to someone coming from Maryland because it's very hard to find)
Wasabi (fun sushi place downtown where the food comes by on a round conveyor belt)
Passage to India (Bethesda)
Urban Barbecue (Rockville) and Rocklands BBQ (Glover Park)(DC does have good barbecue, although the barbecue snobs will tell you otherwise)
Akosombo (very authentic, somewhat intimidating, Ghanan restaurant in a roughish neighborhood near the Convention Center - I'd do this one in the daytime).
A few comments on places that others have recommended.
Busboys and Poets is a fascinating people-watching place, very trendy with young "progressive" political activists, but the food is nothing special.
CF Folks is great, but very crowded and would not be a good place to take kids.
Finally, Oohs and Aahs is, to my southern-raised palate, actively bad soul food, despite its popularity here on Chowhound and among food critics.
re: Mississippi Snopes
I disagree about CF Folks..especially if you go on the earlier end or the later end (say 11:45 or 12 on the dot or 1:30-2:30) you'll be fine. There is outdoor seating and you can also do take out. So make your order and take it to a near by park. It's certainly worth a shot since the food is excellent.
It might be really helpful if you tell us more about when these kids are likely to be with you and where you will be during the day. Are you working in DC e.g., going to be in an office in DC during the day, with the kids at home or in day-care? And where in DC - what part of town - will you be working? The recs here have been all over the place. And then home with the kids in the evening? Because....CF Folks is downtown. If your kids are not with you, it doesn't matter if it is a kids place, and you will be going there only for lunch. That being said, I wouldn't take kids there. It is very casual but very tiny and noisy and chaotic. No place for kids to wiggle and squirm, and a bit overwhelming. As for all those great places in Virginia - are you going to want to schlep over to VA in rush hour traffic, which is a good 45 minutes to an hour when there are no accidents, and on a dry road?
For instance, C.F. Folks is open only for lunch and I think it is open only on weekdays. The website <http://cffolksrestaurant.com/index.htm> doesn't say (typical restaurant website!).
I am guessing that if you have to schlep home from the city each day and then pick up your kids, neither you or the kids will want to go more than a few miles/minutes to get dinner. Now on weekends, pretty much anything is do-able.
If you could be more precise about your location/timing/kid schedule, you would get something more than a list of all the good places to eat within 60 or more miles.
re: Just Visiting
ok, here goes....I will be with toddler & infant daily, doing touristy stuff, meeting friends & fam. Hubby will be working around 8th & E NW, where we're staying, when not staying in Bethesda (another story). So, I will potentially be all over with the kids, but could meet him for lunch sometimes- no real daily schedule. Dinner we'll be together. And don't really want to go to VA other than Alexandria, which I am familiar.
well if you're touristing with the kids: on the Mall, eat at the cafeteria at the American Indian Museum and, on the north side near the Natl Archives, at 8th and D there's a branch of Teaism. The National Gallery's espresso/sandwich place is nice, too (both the one between the east and west wings and the one in the sculpture garden). Otherwise, I think others would agree there's not good food on the Mall. China Express at H and 6th has a guy making noodles in the window that the toddler might enjoy -- and the noodles are the thing to order there. I know you've got tons of other suggestions here -- just add these to the mix!
PS: Go to Eastern Market, too!
Teaism Penn Quarter
400 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20004
China Town Express
746 6th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
800 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006
2009 R St NW, Washington, DC 20009
OK, that helps a lot. For instance, he will be quite a hike from C.F. Folks. I heartily second the rec for the cafeteria at the National Museum of the American Indian for you and the kids. Husband will be working in the Penn Quarter area, which has many restaurants. Based on reports here and other food boards, plus the Washington Post reviews and Wednesday chats (but not personal experience) I would say avoid Indebleu and Rosa Mexicana, but try to get to Jaleo (tapas), Cafe Atlantico, and Oyamel.
If your downtown/touristy travels will be done on Metro (strongly recommended) then make sure your toddler isn't wearing crocs. Apparently, they get caught in the Metro escalators, far more so than do other rubber-soled shoes.
Special places - not the highest tier in terms of cuisine or price but still special - that may not be the best places, even for well-behaved kids, would likely include Central, Brasserie Beck, Hook (fresh, sustainably-caught seafood), and (in Silver Spring) Ray's the Classics.
CF Folks is only open for lunch Monday through Friday. Their website lists what the daily specials are and each day there is a different theme. http://www.cffolksrestaurant.com/
I would say its an American restaurant but its really just an eclectic local joint with a witty owner and staff. Each day highlights a different cuisine:
Weds- Italian and Indian
Thursday-American (think fried chicken, meatloaf, chicken potpie etc
)Friday-Middle Eastern (usually on the menu is a delicious chicken with olives)
Most entrees are served with a side of coleslaw, rice, salad etc depending on the dish. Almost alway, regardless of the day, they have their famous crab cake sandwich...which is the best in town in my opinion. There is always 1-2 cup specials and a dessert and ice cream special. Their cobblers are really good.
They also have a regular menu which is offered every day. This is mostly sandwiches and salads. But really good sandwiches which uses real turkey breast, honey baked ham, corned beef etc.
There is counter seating (about 8 seats), and 3-4 small tables inside. Outside, on a covered seating area there are about 6-8 tables. Very casual atmosphere of course. You'll see a cross section of people there from businessmen and women in suits to local construction workers.
I also recommend Proof in DC for excellent wine list/new American food-trendy.
Coco Sala in DC for tapas comfort food and ELABORATE desserts.
And I LOVE Matchbox for mini-burgers.
Bethesda: Organic To Go for a quick salad. Sweet Green (Across the street) is good for salads and tangy-sweet fro-yo, but for salads I think Organic To Go is far better. They also have good pizzas.
Mia's (Bethesda) Gourmet pizzas.
Rice Paddie's Grill (Bethesda) Fast/casual/freshly prepared Vietnamese food.
Raku (Bethesda) Asian fusion.
Burger Joint (BGR) in Bethesda for excellent burgers.
Olazzo (Bethesda) Red sauce Italian.
MobyDick (Bethesda/DC) Fast/casual/freshly prepared Persian food.