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Three Fun Family Dinners in DC

We're coming to DC next week and I am looking for three great family dinners. The kids are 12, 10, and 7. Upscale is not a problem but they are not particularly adventurous eaters -- they don't need a kids menu but they do need some good basic options like a burger or steak, caesar salad, pasta, or something fried ;-). I'm thinking that our best bets would be American, Italian, seafood, and maybe bistro. In doing my research, the following sounded good: Central, Matchbox, Ella's, Hank's Oyster Bar, Westend Bistro, Clyde's, Old Ebbitt's Grill, Paolo's, Pizzeria Paradiso. I think Jaleo seems fun but I don't know if it's too adventurous for the kids. I'd like experiences that feel very DC, either because of the ambience or because it's one of the city's best and/or most popular.

Here's the itinerary, location-wise:

First night should be near the hotel, since we'll probably be tired. We're at the Embassy Suites Downtown, on 22nd. I have Firefly booked right now but am open to suggestion.

Night 2 we were thinking of eating in and exploring Georgetown.

On night 3, two of our group are going to a concert at the Verizon Center, while the other three may try to catch a movie. We need something convenient for both, either near the concert venue (or a convenient Metro stop) and close to a nearby cineplex.


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  1. My children are very close in age to yours and my recommendations for Georgetown would be Pizzeria Paradiso or Clydes. I would not recommend Paolo's. For dessert, a real treat would be a visit to Kafe Leopold.

    1. On Night 3, I'd recommend Jaleo for tapas...I know you said they were not adverturous eaters, but mine aren't either and they love this place. Most other kids I know really like it too.

      3 Replies
      1. re: marleymom

        What sorts of things will they eat there? What kind of wait can we expect around 6 pm on a Saturday?

        1. re: jaschultze

          you can check out the menu at Jaleo.com. There are a lot of choices to chose from and some are exotic and others very rustic spanish style cooking.
          they do not accept reservations but the place is large and seats a lot of people.
          the biggest problem on Saturday night will be that the Caps play the Rangers tonite with gametime at 7:05PM so all restaurants in the Chinatown/Verizon Center/Penns Quarter area are going to be busy and how long of a wait is going to be a roll of the dice.

          1. re: dining with doc

            Close to Georgetown is a new restaurant called Founding Farmers that is environmentally friendly and serves local food. i went last weekend, and I really enjoyed it. It would be perfect for kids. I started w/ the bacon "lollipops", had grilled cheese w/ tomato soup for my main, and chocolate pudding for dessert- all excellent. They have an extensive menu including short ribs, salads, gourmet flatbreads, even deviled eggs and kettle korn!

      2. Central and Matchbox are definitely great choices.

        For pizza though, I would go to Two Amy's instead of Ella's or Pizzeria Paradiso - IMO Two Amy's has the best pizza in d.c. and also delicious appetizers.

        While Clyde's and Old Ebbitt are basic American and will definitely have items for your children to enjoy, if you are looking for great food you will be disappointed. Every time I've been to either the food just doesn't taste fresh...

        Some other places you might want to look into would be Brassiere Beck, Creme Cafe, and Marvin.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dcfoodie13

          I second Creme (be sure to get the mushroom appetizer and warm coconut cake for dessert), Matchbox (be sure to get the amazing mini-burgers w/ crispy onions) and
          Central and 2 Amy's!

        2. I showed my husband dozens of menus online and with his input we've more or less settled on the following choices: for lunch, Matchbox, Central, and the cafe at the Indian Museum; for dinner, Firefly, Hank's Oyster Bar, and Founding Farmers.

          Now we need one final meal, during the day on Sunday. We don't have any plans yet for touring, so we can go to any neighborhood as long as there's something else touristy to do around there. We will have already hit all the main sights, so I'm thinking it will be the zoo, Mt. Vernon, Old Town Alexandria, a museum we didn't see, or something like that. We love a good Southern breakfast but are open to any suggestions.

          6 Replies
          1. re: jaschultze

            If you go to the zoo, you're a short cab trip to 2Amy's, which my kids love. It's in neighborhood, out of the tourist area. Or if you want Middle Eastern food, there's Lebanese Taverna right across the street from the Woodley Park metro stop. That's the metro stop you'd take to the zoo. My kids enjoy the pizza from the mezze menu.

            1. re: Martha

              Or, near the zoo in Cleveland Park is also Palena -- upscale for you and with a famous burger and roast chicken for the kids. Lots of other restaurants in Cleveland Park, too. {And if you're interested in another movie, it's pretty fun to go to the Uptown, with its HUGE screen, also in that neighborhood.} Oh wait sorry, it's not open during the day, I don't think, never mind....

              Open City in Woodley Park is nice and has decent breakfast and lunch, near Woodley Park metro, but very long wait for weekend brunch.

              {I would recommend getting off at the Cleveland Park metro stop for the zoo, so it's a downhill walk to the zoo, rather than Woodley Park, but it's six of one.}

              Southern breakfast: Georgia Brown's Sunday brunch? Creme on U St (a fun neighborhood) or Cashion's (not precisely southern, but somewhat convenient to the zoo and a wonderful restaurant) OR Florida Ave Grill for old-fashioned greasy-in-a-good-way very classic DC place -- and Ben's Chili Bowl also does breakfast.

              1. re: mselectra

                I am kind of liking the idea of going to the Uptown, especially if I am reading it correctly and they are having matinee showings of the new James Bond movie next weekend. Are all the zoo recs applicable if we going to the Uptown, too?

                Two more questions: What is there to do around Creme if we go there? And can I get one more recommendation if we go back and do some Mall museum touring?

                1. re: jaschultze

                  Zoo recs apply to the Uptown, but it's a bit of an uphill walk from Woodley Park to Cleveland Park, where the Uptown is (the zoo is halfway between these two neighborhoods). {There can be very long lines at the Uptown, especially if a popular movie is opening.} There are more (and better) restaurants in CP.

                  Creme is on U Street, which is a fun and I guess hip neighborhood (I sometimes say it's sort of like the Lower East Side of DC, where Cleveland Park is the Upper West Side -- but DC is really not NYC). Nice local stores, lots of restaurants, cafes, bars, a historic walking tour you could follow, if that's something your family enjoys. Mainly if it's a nice day, it's fun to walk around, and a break from the Mall.

                  If you go back towards the Mall... Other than what you've already mentioned, I'd just make sure you know about Teaism at 8th and D NW (near the Nat'l Archives/Nat'l Gallery and Portrait Gallery/Spy Museum) for breakfast or an afternoon tea and scone (or lunch), and, on the southeastern side of the Capital, Eastern Market, where on Sunday there's a fun big flea market as well as farmer's market and the Market itself is really worth a trip and has a lunch counter open on Sundays, that does have southern type food (great crab cakes).

                  Hope that's helpful -- and that you have good weather.

                  1. re: mselectra

                    U St. is a gentrified ghetto, just like the lower east side. It might be interesting for adults but I doubt kids are gonna enjoy checking out fast food joints, liquor stores and bums. There are some good restaurants but with all that DC has to offer, I wouldn't bother going to U St.

            2. re: jaschultze

              I would not bring kids to Hank's. It's a very small restaurant in a young area, and there aren't too many options on the menu for "basic" foods. Their menu online is incorrect.

            3. Where did you end up going? I'm just curious if the recs were helpful?

              3 Replies
                1. re: mselectra

                  Sorry, I haven't been on Chowhound for a while. We went to the following: Matchbox, Firefly, Bistro d'Oc, Founding Farmers, and we ended up at the Old Ebbitt Grill on Sunday since we found ourselves by the White House. Unfortunately, the kids ended up not being troupers on our Georgetown night so we just ate at our hotel, which a surprisingly fine dinner at Nicola's inside the Embassy Suites.

                  I think our favorite was Founding Farmers. The food was great and the atmosphere was lively. I think the only gripe I had was that now that I know they are hoping to franchise it I can see that it had more of a "corporate" hand behind it -- I thought it would be a more intimate place. But the staff was beyond nice and everyone liked their food. Firefly was also very accommodating. They accepted our last-minute request to delay our reservation for an hour, and then when they couldn't seat us right away at the new time, they gave us an order of the truffle fries while we waited. I also had scallops that were among the freshest tasting I've ever had.

                  Another nice surprise was Bistro d'Oc, which we ended up going to instead of Central for lunch because the sticker shock/upscale-ness of Central was too much for my husband. I really enjoyed Bistro d'Oc , although I wish I'd ordered the homemade sausage and lentil special I saw everyone eating around me but the mussels were good, too.

                  Old Ebbitt Grill was just ok, which I was expecting, but I have to confess the worst to you all -- after all that researching I did, a terrible rainstorm forced us to eat at ESPN Zone for lunch on Saturday! It's ok -- I know we'll be back and I'll get another chance at some of the others. ;-)

                  1. re: jaschultze

                    I am so glad you found your way to Bistro D'Oc - I have lived in DC for ten years and it is one of my favorites. Next time try the Hanger Steak and frites - best in town (sorry Les Halles!)