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DC Family Friendly - Penn Quarter

Hey there Chowhounders,

I am taking my kids for a last minute trip to DC and need some help with restaurants, especially Sat night which is Valentines Day. We want to be able to eat out at a decent place without all the prefix Valentines hoopla. Any suggestions, we are Staying in Penn Quarter, but will be near Cap Hill in the late afternoon.

I also need some breakfast recs for Penn Quarter. Something healthy and not greasy preferred.

I have a res at Zaytinya for Monday night, but need a place to eat on Sunday night. My kids are great eaters - no kids meals are necessary - but I also don't like paying for $20 an entree for them either.

Any help is appreciated!!

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  1. Family friendly in Penn Quarter try Teaism for breakfast, and Matchbox or Clydes for dinner.

    2 Replies
    1. re: keithdcil

      Nando's Peri Peri is pretty casual and probably would be good for Saturday night. Then take the kids to Tangysweet (frozen yogurt) or Red Velvet Cupcakery for dessert! This is all right on the main strip at Gallery Place (Penn Quarter).

      1. re: keithdcil

        I 2nd these recommendations. There is also a Legal's Seafood in Penn Quarter (if you don't mind chains) and for really low-key, inexpensive food there is a California Tortilla, a local chain with yummy tacos, burrittos etc.( I personally am in love with the blackened chicken ceasar burritto. )

      2. Matchbox and Clydes are both great recommendations. There is also a Matchbox in CH on 8th if you are there for lunch/dinner.
        Teaism is great if you are in Penn Quarter for breakfast and Le Pain Quotidien on Penn Ave. in CH is great for breakfast or lunch.

        1. Zaytinya is owned by the same chain that does Oyamel (mexican tapas) and Jaleo (spanish tapas) all good options in Penn Quarter but trust me you're going to spend upwards of 20 a person on this stuff. Each small dish ranges between 6-10 a piece and you'll want at least 2-3 per person. Zaytinya is a gorgeous space, very trendy.

          If you're a foodie the above options will hit the spot without too much of a hit on your wallet.

          Less glam, but reasonably priced and yummy options below

          Matchbox=brick oven gourmet pizza, salads, amazing sliders. Expect an hour wait whenever you go. It's the best in the city. Albiet maybe not the healthiest.
          Clydes, local chain but nice atmosphere and good american fare. sandwiches, burgers, entrees, salads sightly upscale.
          Lucky Strike= upscale bowling alley with fun american food---mac and cheese balls, chicken tenders 5 ways, burgers and salads. Don't go sat night but early afternoons and Sunday night may be okay.
          District Chop House=casual steakhouse.
          Gordon Biersch=brewpub, national chain but in an old marble bank building

          For Breakfast--Teaism, Brugers bagels

          On the Hill--Belgas for mussels.

          Hope this helps---it's a great 'hoood.

          1. An idea for lunch or dinner in Capitol Hill (just a couple blocks from the Capitol building) is Good Stuff Eatery, which is a new local burger joint run by Spike Mendelson (from Top Chef Chicago). The burgers are very good, fries good, and I've heard the shakes are amazing, though I haven't tried one yet, as until this week it's been too cold for shakes. i was there a couple weeks ago on a Saturday around 5pm, and the place was full of families. I think burgers are around $8, but that could be off.

            I echo the recs for Nando's Peri Peri and Tangysweet. I love Matchbox, basic food done well (and a decent selection of beers on tap), but the wait is usually an hour or so for dinner, and the only place to wait is the bar. If your gonna do Matchbox with kids plan to stop in, put your name in, and come back in an hour. Once you are seated I've always found service to be quick and attentive. For lunch on the weekends, the Indian place next to Peri Peri does a decent buffet. For good Chinese food in a bit of a dive, I highly recommend Chinatown Express at 6th and H, they make their own excellent noodles.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chaussonauxpommes

              I second Matchbox and Teasim. In Penn Quarter, another good rec is Zengo for innovative, trendy Mexican/Asian fusion-lots of small plates.
              Founding Farmers is great for kids and adults-but that is close to Georgetown-
              I certainly think worth a metro ride if you are up for it. It is trendy and good for upscale comfort food. I recommended it recently on this sight to someone traveling with kids and they wrote back to say it was their favorite place in DC that they had tried while here. Central may be another good option, too.

            2. It will be pretty hard to do a walk in to some of these restaurants mentioned on V-Day (and in your price range).

              I would suggest Ella's, Nado's, Teaism, La Tosca one of the number of Chinese places in Chinatown area (use your discretion). You won't want to wait with kids for Matchbox. Too crazy and long (but good).

              4 Replies
              1. re: Jacey

                For some reason, in the many times I have been to Matchbox at prime dinner hours/days, I have never had to wait for more than 15 minutes-maybe I have just been very lucky. It is always crowded, but they seem to move people along quite quickly.

                1. re: Jacey

                  I was also thinking La Tasca - yes it's a chain and not the most stellar or adventurous of tapas, but it's decent and will come under any of Andres' pricepoints, with a varied menu and not too crazy sound level. I have seen families there early (while I was there for just drinks and a nibble with co-workers).

                  Gordon Biersch is just so darn loud - same as their SF location.

                  yes - Teaism for a non-greasy breakfast.

                  Cap Hill Matchbox may have a shorter wait than the Franchise Town operation. also on 8 SE is Cafe 8 for casual Turkish mezze and pide - def. below $20 a head for kids. (4 adults with glass wine each came to about 80+tip)

                  1. re: hill food

                    I really dislike La Tasca. I have found the food totally mediocre on several occasions, and it's basically as expensive as Jaleo which has higher quality. (Although I don't really recommend the Penn Quarter Jaleo.) Other options suggested on this thread would be better IMO.

                    1. re: hamster

                      I agree. I've tried La Tasca a number of times, and it is nothing short of mediocre. There are other good options in the area---I wouldn't waste my money.

                2. Thanks so much everyone for all your amazing suggestions!! I have been downloading menus half the evening and I am starving!! Making a great dining plan!!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MiamiBeachMomma

                    I know it's not exactly healthy, but Five Guys is family friendly.

                  2. Rosa Mexicana - Not the greatest mexican food but family friendly.

                    1. Ella's is very family friendly and welcoming for children.

                      1. chinatown express or eat first for chinese
                        jaleo for tapas
                        dc chophouse for steaks, burgers
                        clydes for higher end "Friday's" like food
                        wok n roll for sushi/chinese

                        1. We are back from trip and I thought I'd report on the restaurants we visited for anyone needing future info.

                          Valentines Evening we ate at Tony Chengs - not the Mongolian Buffet - but upstairs with a regular Chinese menu. We only waited 15 minutes, but it was packed. Kids and hubby loved it - so big hit. We hit TangySweet and Red Velvet for dessert. Cupcakes were yummy - nothing spectacular - but husband was annoyed that each cupcake was 3.25. Tangy Sweet was delicious!! Love the pomegranate flavor.

                          Hit Teaism for breakfast - great concept - but thought it was mediocre. Oatmeal was yummy, homemade granola tasted burnt. Kids enjoyed french toast. Eggs were OK.

                          Also visited Chinatown Express for the Noodles that my kids were dying to check out as they saw the noodle guy in the window and thought it was soo cool. The kids loved the noodles with chicken. Hubby got sweet and sour chicken and didnt eat it. Dumplings were OK. I ordered noodles with veggies - I thought it was sooo oily and icky and couldn't eat it - I went back to TangySweet - more pomegranate yogurt for me!!

                          We also did a lunch at Nandos Peri Peri - kids enjoyed the chicken - hubby thought Pollo Tropical makes a better chicken.

                          Our absolute hands down favorite meal was Founding Farmers. Everything was delicious!! Hubby got chicken and waffles, kids got the sliders with mac & cheese, I got a salad and flat bread. We all enjoyed the cornbread app. I could have eaten there every day. maybe next trip I will!!

                          Never made it to Zaytinya - checked out the amazing space - but it really did not look like a place to take a pair of tired and possibly crabby kids - so we bailed.

                          We had a great trip !!! Its was high paced and lots of fun!!!
                          Thanks to all for suggestions!!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: MiamiBeachMomma

                            Vindication! I think both Chinatown Express and Teaism (for breakfast) are WAY overrated and NOT to be recommended. Sorry you had some misses, but maybe someone else can learn from your experience.

                            1. re: MiamiBeachMomma

                              No one serves better Chicken than Pollo Tropical! I go to Pollo Tropical 3 times a week for dinner. The food is absolutely delicious and in my budget.