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Family places to eat in DC


Next Friday I'll be in DC for 24 hours or so (3pm friday to 3pm saturday). Any recommendations on decent (non-chain preferably) family places to eat? I will have my wife and 3 kids (2 year old and twins that are 6 years old) with me. All of us are adventurous/non-picky eaters/foodies....never been to DC before....most of our activcities will be based around the smithsonian/zoo etc....typical touristy activities and hopefully not typical touristy food selection (good non-tex-mex mexican and chinatown style asian food are usually our preferences...)

Thanks in advance,

Mark Adamowicz
Sutton, MA

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  1. If you plan on walking around Georgetown there is a great Vietnamese restaurant called Miss Saigon right on M St. and you definitely would feel comfortable with children there.

    1. Near the zoo is Lebanese Taberna for meze/Lebanese food. Spices, in Cleveland Park (a short walk from the zoo) is a good, family-friendly Asian restaurant with sushi and other tasty entrees. Good drinks for the adults.

      I would highly recommend checking out the cafeteria at the American Indian Museum. It's not your typical museum cafeteria food. It spans the various regions of the US and highlights traditional foods of that area. They have buffalo burgers, delicious salmon from the Pacific Northwest, turkey and cranberries from New England, tamales, and fry bread, to name a few items I've tried before. It's a lot of fun and if the kids can try all sorts of different items and learn a bit of culinery history at the same time.

      Other kid friendly spots to check out near where you will be are Open City, L'Enfant, Ella's Wood Fired Pizza, Old Siam (thai in Eastern Market, not too far off the Capitol), and Matchbox.

      1. You should check out the Mitsitam Café at the Museum of the American Indian. Native American fare, far and away the best museum food you'll find in DC. with enough variety that even the nonadventurous will be satisfied. Make sure to get some of the frybread. Other good choices would be in the Chinatown area. Matchbox, 713 H St., has great pizza, mini hamburgers, and good salads. It can be crowded, but I'd think that with kids that age, you would probably be eating fairly early.

        1. Agree with Mitsitam (in american indian museum) and Matchbox (near am.art/portrait gallery)above . Also, The spy cafe in the Spy Museum is better than average cafeteria food.

          1. Tony Chengs mongolian barbque is decent and very family friendly, but also touristy. Washingtonians head to the MD or VA suburbs for good chinese.

            1. If you want to venture a bit further north from the zoo up Connecticut, Comet Ping-Pong might be fun for the kids. It's not adventurous food, but it's excellent pizza and, well, the kids can play ping-pong!

              Also, if you're planning to Metro to the zoo, use the Cleveland Park exit, not the Woodley Park/Zoo exit. The one marked for the zoo requires a good eight-block walk up a steep hill to the zoo. Walk South from Cleveland Park and it'll be about five blocks - and flat. If you do that, stop at Spices, which will be between the zoo and the Metro. It has a good variety of Asian food, with some great sushi.

              1. Thanks for the feedback. The American Indian Museum looks like a good bet, some other recommended it as well. A few more questions...

                1. I saw a posting on street carts, in general, are they everywhere and are they good?
                2. Anyone have any Chinatown dim sum recommendations, may be a good Sunday-befofe-the-drive-home opportunity
                3. Anything local I should try/eat in DC before I leave?



                4 Replies
                1. re: markadamowicz

                  the carts near the Smithsonians (esp. the South side of the Mall) SUCK! use plenty of mustard.

                  the new and decent ones are generally only out weekdays.

                  1. re: markadamowicz

                    If you want a hot dog, skip the carts and get ye to Ben's Chili Bowl. If you can't make it that far, and stick with a cart, then try a half-smoke, which you can only find in DC.

                    I don't know of any Chinatown dim sum, as most are out in the 'burbs, but Cafe Atlantico has a Latin dim sum-style brunch that is supposed to be excellent, and Jose Andres, the chef who owns it and a few other Chinatown-area restaurants, has really become a huge part of DC's food scene.


                    1. re: markadamowicz

                      There are a few places in Chinatown that offer dim sum. They are by no means dim sum destination spots (there aren't any in DC) but you are where you are and they do serve a purpose, especially if its to keep three kids happy without breaking the bank. Tony Cheng's in Chinatown serves passable dim sum upstairs on Sunday from carts. There may even be some very good items among them. There are some decent offerings and it will keep the kids amused. There are probably other places and they'll have signs in the window.

                      1. re: markadamowicz

                        I think your children might enjoy Ethiopian--my kids like eating with their hands with the injera. I like Etete. The kebab type entrees are good as is the Doro Wat (though I've said here before it only comes with one drum stick and one hard boiled egg so you might want more than one order). The vegetarian platter is a deal--a lot of different types of dishes for about $14. The other consistently recommended Ethiopian is Dukem but I haven't been.

                        If you're willing to drive, A&J's in Annandale, VA has northern style "tapas" type food. There are a few reviews here that talk about good and bad dishes--what they do well is excellent but there are definitely ones you don't want. The noodles are made in house and among my favorites. They have breakfast, too, hot or cold soy milk, cruellers, scallion pancakes, etc. I like going about 11-12 so I can't get both menus. In Rockville, I like Bob's Noodle House. They have the best oyster pancakes I've ever had (including my mom's).

                      2. if you haven't had Ethiopian before, you should definitely give it a try here. Most of these places are clustered around U Street (Ben's Chili Bowl is near there too).

                        1. I heartily second the recommendation of Ella's Pizza. It's downtown so you won't have to bag out of the museums early to get there. The pizza is really good (try the meatball ... trust me) and the adults will appreciate the fine bar and beer choices. The atmosphere is trendy enough that it feels special, but at the time you're going, you
                          will not be in anyone's way with kids. (They are always super nice to me and my noisy little pizza-loving toddler, so they have a special place in my heart.)

                          Mexican is a tough break in D.C. I have yet to find a place that is worth going even 5 blocks out of your way for.

                          1. Thank you for all the options. Lots of great info. We'll be there for 2 dinners and 3 lunches...anyone ever been to Zengo? Looks interesting for dinner one night. We're staying at the Crowne Plaza Hamilton at 14th and K...I assume the metro will be in our future since our car will be at the hotel....

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: markadamowicz

                              Zengo has its critics, but I have had some excellent meals there. If the pork arepas are still on the menu, definitely get them, and start with a cucumber mojito, one of the best versions I've ever had.

                              It's loud in there, but you won't have to worry about the kids making noise.

                            2. Hi,

                              Just wanted to do a quick follow up to last weekend's DC trip with my family...

                              7 hours to get there...after checking into the hotel, hopped on the metro and then proceeded directly on foor to the American Indian Museum. While the musuem is a glorified gift shop with very few exhibits, it is clear, the Cafe is what people go for...wow. I had calamari cerviche with squid ink, my wife had short ribs wrapped in bana leave and the kids had fry bread and homemade tamales with some native american grain and plantains (not feied for once!). We drank prickly pear juice. Thanks for this tip about going here

                              Our hotel was near chinatown, so we walked around for a but and settled on Chinatwon Express. Terrible mall-food-court-name but the guy in the windown making fresh noodles by hand and fresh dumplings sold us. Had noodles with vegetables and bbq por, steamed pork buns and potstickers with pork and leek...got out there for $20 with tip for a family of 5. Fast, fresh and great at the end of a long long day.

                              Our hotel was in the financial district (Crowne Plaza Hamilton - my granparents honeymooned there in 1942), so weekend breakfats options were zero. At in the hotel buffet with some college friends that live in the area. $82. They picked up the tab. Yahoo. Biscuits and gravy were a nice surprise...

                              We went to the Zoo on sunday (thanks for the Cleavlan Park metro tip) but were running late around lunch, so just grabbed some stuff at the food market near the metro and ate in the metro stop waiting for the train (a wrap, some yogurt, etc..) Spice was closed for lunch...

                              For dinner we headed back down to Chinatown area...Matchbox was 1 hour wait and Zengo looked a bit fancy for the kids at that time of the night. My wife and I were longing for a beer. Although the menu looked like typcial pub food (a term I hate unless I am in London), DA's R.F.D. won us over with 50 beers on tap and a 5 page beer menu. We had fish and chips and a surpisingly light and fresh tasting crab cake sandwich. A pint of Yuengling (which is impossible to find in Massachusetts and my first taste) and a Dogfish Apricot Ale on tap and the beer made up for the unadventurous food.

                              Sunday morning we grabbed some quick things at Starbucks in the hotel and then before we left made it to Matchbox. The chicken pesto pizza was fantastic and we had some mini burgers that were decent. The pint of Grapefruit Ale from PA was surprising as well.

                              Rolled out at 2:40pm and rolled in the driveway at 12:20am. 3 hours of extra traffic....had a chili cheese dog at a rest stop on the way home (worst ever) since the traffic screwed my plans to make a stop at Frank Pepe's in New Haven...

                              Thanks for all of the help....definitely made it a better trip...


                              ps - if you want to put a face to a name, I was randomly interview at a rest stop in NJ about gas prices...follow link below and click 'broadband'....


                              5 Replies
                              1. re: markadamowicz

                                Hi Everyone,

                                heading back to DC next week for 3 days, what's new/interesting out there for a family of 5 with 3 very adventurous kids.....?

                                You can see where I went last time in my last post a few years ago.

                                Mark Adamowicz
                                Sutton, MA

                                1. re: markadamowicz

                                  My normal recs for people w/ children are Ethiopian, like Etete, Ben's Chili Bowl, and Oohs and Ahhs. My kids love Ethiopian and that's a special treat for them. Ben's Chili Bowl is fun, a lot of pictures of the history, famous people who've visited. Oohs and Ahh's is southern food (the authenticity has been debated here) but you can't beat the meatloaf, and the sides. Skip the fried chicken, though. It's a hole in the wall place which I think adds to it.

                                  Another thing to check out is the food truck scene. It's changed a lot since you've last been here.


                                  1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                  Ben's Chili Bowl
                                  1213 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                  1. re: markadamowicz

                                    Will you be staying near Chinatown again? There are a bunch of good options in/around that area. Teaism (on 8th between D and E) has good food and drinks in a casual atmosphere that's great for kids (and they have alcohol too :) Hill Country Barbecue on 7th St. is a spin-off of the NY location that is supposed to have very authentic Texas BBQ--haven't been myself and it's gotten some mixed reviews so far, but it looks like a fun atmosphere. Across from Hill Country on 7th there's a new Indian place called Merzi (styles itself as Indian Chipotle) that would be good for a quick bite, and Pitango (also on 7th) has truly excellent espresso and gelato. For a nicer meal you might want to consider Zaytinya (Greek) or Jaleo (Spanish tapas), although if you go for dinner you should go early to beat the crowds. For sandwiches to go and/or the makings for a fantastic picnic, hit Cowgirl Creamery on F St. between 9th and 10th--it's an awesome cheese shop. Finally, if you are in the mood for a burger and a milkshake, we love taking our toddler to Good Stuff Eatery on the Hill. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though, there are tons of great places out there. If you know you will be in specific neighborhoods post again and you will get more specific suggestions.

                                    2009 R St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                    701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                    Good Stuff Eatery
                                    303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC

                                    415 7th St NW, Washington, DC, DC 20004

                                    1. re: elissah

                                      Thank you for all the replies. We will arrive Wednesday around lunch and will be staying at the Liaison the first night (415 NJ Ave) and the next 2 nights with family outside washington and driving in.

                                      So, we will basically be out and about mainly around the mall area and probbaly the zoo are one of the days.

                                      So, basically, my trip will be 4 lunches and 2 dinners I would guess. I missed Ben's Chili Bowl last time, this time is a must.

                                      Good Stuff Eatery and teaism look pretty good.

                                      Thanks again for past and future advice. One more day before we leave.

                                      Mark Adamowicz

                                      Ben's Chili Bowl
                                      1213 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                      Good Stuff Eatery
                                      303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC

                                      1. re: markadamowicz

                                        Well let's see. If you are up around the Zoo, you could get Vietnamese at Nam Viet. I have never been to that location, but I like their Arlington location. I believe it is open for lunch. I also love the Italian fare at Dino (don't think they are open for lunch though) and they are very family accommodating. Lebanese Taverna might not be a bad option either, although again I haven't been to that location.

                                        Over on the hill Cava Mezze has good greek tapas. Monmartre has French fare, there is a Matchbox there too. For something different up in Chinatown you could try Jaleo or Oyamel. I also love Nando's Peri Peri for a quick lunch without a lot of the wait and lines of other places. There is also a place called Merzi and Hill Country BBQ neither of which I have tried yet.

                                        I would skip Ben's, it's ok for the history, but the food is better after you have been drinking IMHO. But if you want to go perhaps make it a quick snack of half smoke not a destination meal.

                                        Nam Viet Restaurant
                                        3419 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., washington, dc, DC 20008

                                        415 7th St NW, Washington, DC, DC 20004