Boston Hound Seeks suggestions for NW, Central DC
My wife and I and our intrepid (foodwise) 9 year old daughter will be visiting next week and we are looking for dinner suggestions near our hotel (Omni Shoreham) as well as lunch suggestions near the Mall and other tourist attractions. We have very eclectic tastes (New American/french/Italian/Asian/other ethnic) and a moderate budget (entrees up to $20-25 max). Would love to sample Southern or other local specialties. We have a car and the Metro is nearby for something really special, but would like to get a feel for what is closer to where we'll be.
About a mile away from your hotel is Palena right by the Cleveland Park metro. In the main restaurant, its a tasting menu, but they have a cafe with bar menu up front. Everything on the menu is around $10. The fries, roasted chicken, and burger are all great.
I think Palena is a bit more expensive than lindsayblake says, but still in your budget and wonderful. You can take the Circulator bus from Woodley Park to U St -- it's an easy trip -- and then walk to Oohs & Aahs for soul food, or nearer the U St. bus stop is a new place Eatonville, that I haven't been to but I understand is sort of upscale southern, and also along U St. is Ben's Chili Bowl and the best Ethiopian restaurants. And Creme is also along U, also upscale southern with really good desserts. I haven't been to Henry's, also on U, but it's known for sweet potato pie. A couple blocks from your hotel is a Lebanese restaurant called Mama Ayesha's that I think is a nice local place and really convenient for you -- note the new mural of presidents outside, and it's Helen Thomas's favorite restaurant, she is often there (don't know if you care, but fyi).
And -- you'll see this always mentioned in threads about touristing on the Mall, but Saturday breakfast at Market Lunch at Eastern Market, if you can handle the wait, is very special, local, and great and your daughter should love the bluebuck pancakes. Mitsitam, the cafeteria at the Museum of the American Indian is the best food on the Mall itself, and I think an open-minded 9-year old would appreciate it (buffalo burgers, nettle soup....), can get very crowded.
something DC has a lot of is ethiopian restaurants, and you'll see various people that have different favorites. mine is etete, which is right off U st at... 9th? not super close to the omni, but definitely one of the DC area's specialties. fun for kids to eat with their hands. there are also a bunch of ethiopian restaurants in adams morgan, which is walkable from where you are (just over the calvert street bridge), but i'm not as familiar with those, so i'll let someone else speak to which ones are good.
also in adams morgan is churreria madrid, which i quite like. it's a small spanish place that has churros, but also a full menu. i don't recall there being too many straight up spanish places in boston, so that might be a nice change (i'm not counting tapas places like dali). it's definitely in the price range you're looking for, and it's pretty casual.
i'll second the Dino rec. ben's chili bowl is a dc landmark, but i don't know if i'd go there above most of the other places i'm mentioning -- it just depends what you're in the mood for. if you go, the chili half-smoke with everything, split and grilled, is what i recommend you get. :) also an order of fries is huge, so you can definitely split one order.
lunch right on the mall is tough; as mselectra said, the general consensus is that your best bet for right-on-the-mall food is the food court at the national museum of the american indian.
reasonably close to the mall (8th and d) is teaism, which i'm a big fan of. they have a nice downstairs with a koi pond, and their tuna bento box is delicious. teaism.com. the ginger limeade is refreshing, and the salty oat cookies are really good. it's a casual, order at the counter and then sit down place.
if you want to walk a little ways from the mall (one metro stop or so, depending where you are), there are tons of options in the gallery place area, though many of the good ones are at the upper end of your price range. i love the sliders at matchbox (and they're in your price range) right near the gallery place metro exit at 7th and h. it gets pretty busy after 5pm though, so if you're there then, be prepared to wait. matchboxdc.com
also in the gallery place/chinatown area (several blocks from the mall, depending on which part of the mall you're at like i said) is this great little dive chinese restaurant called chinatown express. they make noodles/dumplings in the window, so that's cool to watch even if you don't eat there, especially for kids. the pork and leek dumplings, and the wonton noodle soups are soooo good. it's super cheap. honestly, not super clean, but really tasty if you're in the mood for chinese.
i hope you have a great time in dc, and hope you get to eat some awesome food! :)