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Coming to D.C. in April...We know nothing!! Need some good recs.

We are coming in from Massachusetts with our daughters (4 and 6) for 3 nights in April. We are staying downtown/Chinatown and would love some ideas for good lunches and dinners anywhere nearby. We plan to hit the zoo, the Botanical Garden and a few of the Smithsonian museums, so anything within a 15 minute walk or a quick trip on the Metro would be great. We love almost anything and the girls are very adventurous eaters. Mexican, Indian, Southern, Chinese would be our first choices.
I would appreciate any help!!! Thanks so much.

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  1. Chinatown/Penns Quarter/Verizon Center is the epicenter of one of the great restaurant areas of dc. There are hundreds of great restaurants within a 5 block radius
    chinese: my 2 favs on H street between 6 an 7th is Eat First and on 6th at H is Chinatown Express
    indian: Rasika
    Tapas: Jaleo
    Meeze/greek/middle eastern small plates: Zaytaynia
    Mexican: Rosa Mexicano
    Latin : Cafe Atlantico
    25 course tasting meal: Minibar at Cafe Atlantico: only 2 seatiings on 2 nights a week for 6 people. a chemistry class in tasting and cooking. toughest reservation in town
    Sunday Brunch: Latin Dim Sum at Cafe Atlantico
    Cuban: Cuba Libre
    Southern: nearby by cab are Vidalia and Georgia Browns
    Cajun: Acadiana
    Bar Food high end/ wood burning stove pizza: Matchbox
    There are a number of great high end restaurants nearby including Proof, Poste, Zola's, Corduroy,Wolfgang Pucks The Source
    The washingtonian magazine most recent addition included the top 100 restaurants and would be a good guide for you. Eat well and stay thirsty my friend
    There are numerous more restaurants in the Penns Qtr, chinatown area that I am sure I am leaving out

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    Cafe Atlantico
    405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

    Rasika Restaurant
    633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

    Eat First Restaurant
    609 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

    Vidalia
    1990 M Street, Washington, DC 20036

    Chinatown Express
    126 Carroll Island Rd, Baltimore, MD 21220

    Acadiana
    901 New York Ave NW Ste 200A, Washington, DC 20001

    Georgia Brown's
    950 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

    9 Replies
    1. re: dining with doc

      wow. thank you so much. i will write these down and hopefully we'll get to try a few.
      please keep 'em coming!!

      1. re: saintp

        Those are all (at least the ones I've been to) great recs, but I don't know that I would bring kids your daughters' ages, no matter how well-behaved they are, to Rasika, Minibar, or Vidalia.

        1. re: marcj

          I agree it's a little silly to put minibar on the list, but you might be able to do Rasika for lunch.

          For something more casual, I like Teaism, behind the Navy Memorial (it has a small koi pond on the lower level and the salty oat cookies are a pretty good dessert option).

          In addition to the other suggestions you've gotten, in Cleveland Park (near the zoo) I'd recommend Dino's, if you are open to Italian food.

          -----
          Rasika Restaurant
          633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

          Teaism
          2009 R St NW, Washington, DC 20009

          1. re: marcj

            i agree. i checked out some of the websites and a few were pretty pricey. we really appreciate a good "cheap eat" or a classic dive, which i should have noted earlier. i love researching good food options, though, and you guys are going to keep me busy!

            1. re: saintp

              Oyamel is small plates mexican and one each would satisfy the little ones with 2 - 3 being good for the adults. They have a lovely brunch on weekends too.

        2. re: dining with doc

          Chinatown Express is great for noodle soups and dumplings -- at $5 each. If you like coffee, don't miss Chinatown Coffee Co. at 475 H St. NW. Matchbox is great for kids -- their pizza and sliders are very popular -- be forewarned, the place gets loud! I love TangySweet tart frozen yogurt on 7th St. -- I think green tea is their best flavor.

          1. re: woodleyparkhound

            A 45 minute wait is pretty common at Matchbox, so you may want to take that into consideration. No reservations.

            1. re: Steve

              They do take reservations - or at least they did as of a few months ago, when I went for dinner.

              1. re: kathleen440

                From the Matchbox Chinatown website:

                We are currently accepting a limited number of reservations for parties of 6 to 12 guests from Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, seating is on a first come, first serve bases (please, no exceptions). Please phone 202.289.4441 to determine availability.

        3. You have lots of good recs above. Near the zoo Lebanese Taverna is good and has very accessible Lebanese food for all, I think I would have been able to find something there I liked as a little girl. Ardeo and Bardeo is up there, a little nicer, but still probably accessible, in Cleaveland Park there is also Nam Viet for Vietnamese. If you want good Indian up that way Indique is up that way.

          I took my two nieces to Nando's Peri Peri in Chinatown for lunch and they liked that. I think Jaleo is another good suggestion, or Oyamel. I really dislike Rosa Mexicana, I would do Oyamel or Cafe Atlantico instead.

          Mitsam at the Native American Museum is good for a cafeteria. Also if you wanted to head past the Capitol to Capitol Hill you could check out Spike Mendelson's Good Stuff Eatery or We the Pizza. Or Cava for very accessible Greek. I would think Zengo might be a fun place for adventurous kids too.

          I am not crazy about most of the Southern places in DC.

          -----
          Cafe Atlantico
          405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

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

          Good Stuff Eatery
          303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC

          Indique
          3512 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008

          Zengo Restaurant
          781 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

          10 Replies
          1. re: ktmoomau

            I agree with these Cleveland Park (zoo) recs, and would add Vace for one of the best pizzas in the city served by the slice or whole pie -- the bad news is that it's to go only. But if you want to grab a quick and cheap bite before hitting the zoo, it's perfect. Also, to go to the zoo, take the Metro to Cleveland Park, not Woodley Park, so you can walk DOWNhill to the zoo!

            I second the recs for Nando's, Jaleo, and Good Stuff (very good burgers and the best shakes in town).

            1. re: woodleyparkhound

              I was going to say the same thing about Metro to Cleveland Park. I usually look like a crazy woman on the Metro because when I see an exhausted looking family with a stroller riding north on the Red Line, I usually tell them to get off at Cleveland Park instead of Woodley in order to have a shorter walk, and one that is downhill. Darn Metro with it's silly labels.

              1. re: katecm

                Although mixed reviews on here, I recommend Founding Farmers.

                And I strongly second Matchbox. If you go for an early dinner or lunch then you will eliminate a long wait, I think.

                -----
                Founding Farmers
                1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006

            2. re: ktmoomau

              i have a question. on another thread, many people recommended Etete, an ethiopian place on 9th at U. What do you think? I haven't had ethiopian since we moved out of chicago about 10 years ago and would love to have some....also think the girls would love it. is Etete kid-friendly?

              -----
              Etete
              1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

              1. re: saintp

                Etete is a wonderful place - highly recommended. I think it's kid-friendly, but being childless, I'm not the best judge of that.

                -----
                Etete
                1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                1. re: saintp

                  With kids your age, I think I'd go to Queen Makeda instead, which is across the street from Etete -- at least, I've often seen families there with very young children. But I think you'd be fine at Etete, too.

                  Near the zoo, you probably will also want to know about Open City, which is in Woodley Park and very kid friendly. They also have good coffee, you can get a beer, etc. But if it's a weekend, the wait for brunch can be really long.

                  -----
                  Etete
                  1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                  Queen Makeda
                  1917 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                  1. re: mselectra

                    Very recent reports on another foodie site say that the Ethiopian chefs have not been around for a few weeks, and Queen Makeda has turned into a nightclub-and-wings place. I'm not in that area so can't say firsthand if this is correct or not.

                    -----
                    Queen Makeda
                    1917 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                    1. re: weezycom

                      oh thanks for correcting me! I haven't been over there in a while either and have been wanting to, will look for the other report you mention. There are plenty of places to eat in that area anyway, if first choice doesn't work out.

                    2. re: mselectra

                      We had lunch twice at Etete a few months ago and I wouldn't hesitate to take children. And LOVED the food. Attractive place also.

                      -----
                      Etete
                      1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                    3. re: saintp

                      Yes, I agree with the other posters, Etete is great. It's my favorite ethiopian in DC. I would say that it's kid-friendly too. The atmosphere is a little on the quiet side, but not so much so that you wouldn't be okay with kids.

                      -----
                      Etete
                      1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                  2. There are tons of lovely places for a couple to dine, but I'll focus on the kid-friendly places in the area.

                    I second (or third, fourth, whatever) Chinatown Express -- they have a guy making noodles and dumplings in the window which is fun for kids to watch, and the steamed pork and leek dumplings and roast pork wonton soup are deeelicious.

                    Also agree with Teaism, tuna bento box, chai, chocolate salty oat cookie.

                    Also Vace, the pizza.... mmm. I think they have a daily special there too? It was taped up on the register last time I was there, but I forget what it was.

                    I do love the sliders at matchbox, but Steve's caution about the wait time at dinner is well-earned.

                    I hear that Pho DC opened up on H St in Chinatown, but it has mixed reviews, and seems a little pricey for a bowl of pho ($12 as opposed to the more normal $7ish in the suburbs), but I guess that's what happens when you are paying Chinatown rent. Nonetheless, might be fun. Not sure how kid-friendly it is, though.

                    Happy eating!

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: kallisti

                      thank you for the kid-friendly ideas. chinatown express definitely sounds like a good stop for us and matchbox sounds great too. maybe we could do an early dinner and then continue on for some more sightseeing.
                      thanks chowhound....this makes trip-planning so much fun!!

                      1. re: saintp

                        when I posted originally I failed to notice the age of your girls. There are a lot of innexpensive appropriate places near chinatown including Chop't (salads and wraps), Five-Guys (burgers), There is a BBQ place a few stores down from Matchbox, Fuddruckers (burgers), Taylor Gourmet (great philly style subs), The Green Turtle (sportsbar with bar food). In addition there is a small chinese bakery next to chinatown express that has interesting meat as well as dessert chinese buns. There is a new Vietnamese Pho restaurant on H street in chinatown and Wok and Roll is pretty good for sushi and has $1 pieces of sushi during happy hour.

                        -----
                        Taylor Gourmet
                        1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                        The Green Turtle
                        601 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004

                        1. re: saintp

                          Althought the Chinatownn Express noodles may be fun to watch being made, there is nothing special about them and if ordered in a stir-fry, will be soaked in oil. They have some nice steamed dumplings, ok roast meats, but expect the rest of your food to be low grade.

                          1. re: Steve

                            Agreed that stir-fried they are terrible, but I really like them in soup -- and I love the steamed dumplings!

                            1. re: Steve

                              I'm going to be a little harsher than Steve. My experience at Chinatown Express was abysmal. In between all the oil in the entrees, the mediocre dumplings and rank bbq meats, I've had better at Chinese buffets in strip malls.

                              -----
                              Chinatown Express
                              126 Carroll Island Rd, Baltimore, MD 21220

                              1. re: bigmackdaddy

                                Me too. Absolutely wretched the one time I tried it, years ago. Too disgusted to try again.

                                1. re: hamster

                                  Wow, I've never had a bad experience there (though I admit it isn't the cleanest place), and I've been there a bunch. And as I mentioned, I think the steamed pork and leek dumplings are deeelicious :)

                                  Too bad it wasn't as good for you guys!

                                  1. re: kallisti

                                    I never veer from noodle soups or dumplings at Chinatown Express with the condiments provided on each table; those are all I recommend. I also appreciate the prices they charge for them ($5 each).

                                    1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                      Yeah, the one thing I had was fried noodles with beef. Sketchy beef. I think I should go back and try the dumplings.

                                      1. re: hamster

                                        I made the mistake of getting the fried noodles -- once. It was revoltingly oily. Yuck.

                                        1. re: hamster

                                          The dumplings are ok, but add the condiments at the table and you have a very good meal for $5 or so.

                                          Sitr fry there is lousy.

                                  2. re: bigmackdaddy

                                    Since the reports on Chinatown Express are mixed, does anyone know of another good Chinese option in the area? When we eat Chinese we tend to get seafood/noodle dishes. Or if there's not an obvious Chinese choice, what about Thai?

                                    -----
                                    Chinatown Express
                                    126 Carroll Island Rd, Baltimore, MD 21220

                                    1. re: saintp

                                      Hop in a cab or Metro to Shaw and go to Thai X-ing. If you're feeling adventurous, order the chef's choice menu: http://www.thaix-ing.com/

                                      1. re: saintp

                                        Full Kee for Cantonese food. Get the oyster and ginger casserole, soft shell crabs, and the duck stuffed with shrimp paste. Excellent. Also good are sauteed chive flowers, clams in black bean sauce.

                                        -----
                                        Full Kee Restaurant
                                        509 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                        1. re: Steve

                                          Ditto on Full Kee for Cantonese--the best!
                                          Also, Ben's Chili Bowl is a DC must. And if your Pho selection is meager in NYC, go to Pho 75 on Wilson Blvd. in Arlington--cheap and the best!
                                          Buon Apetito!

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

                                          Full Kee Restaurant
                                          509 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                        2. re: saintp

                                          We have been going to Eat First on H street in chinatown for years and the food is good. Some of my favs there are the whole fish dishes, the honk kong noodle soup with shrimp dumplings, the roasted duck and bbq pork, clams in black bean sauce, chicken with ginger and mushrooms in clay pot, Aberdeen Shrimp (with heads on), great lo mein. Make sure you look at the specials on flourescent paper on the walls as well as the authentic chinese on the lucite stand on your table. not the greatest atmosphere but the food is always good.

                                          -----
                                          Eat First Restaurant
                                          609 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                          1. re: saintp

                                            I'm a big fan of Royal Thai in Chinatown, around the corner from Chinatown Express. I've taken a number of people there and everyone has been very happy with it.

                                    2. re: kallisti

                                      We had a late lunch at Pho DC today, and while pricey, it was very good. My son liked his brisket pho, which I would order next time, rather than the beef. It was far more tender.

                                    3. A couple spots we enjoyed on a recent trip to DC with two 10 yr old boys in tow..

                                      Pizzeria Paradiso in DuPont Circle. Killer thin crust and a great beer selection.
                                      Lost Dog Cafe out in Arlington... good pizza and again, a great beer selection.
                                      Ben's Chili Bowl... a great mix of people. It's crazy busy, but a great experience. We lunched near a group of 12 guys from the Dept. of Defense. Can only imagine the decisions made in that place over the years.
                                      And if you're out in Arlington, try Boccato Gelato on Wilson. Yum!!

                                      As for fine dining... I only know the accounts with which we do business, several listed above. With two 10 year old boys, one adventurous (my son) and the other, a junk food junkie (a nephew), it was tough to find something to appeal to all. I will recommend hitting up the International Square Food Court to satisfy all tastes. While one half of us had Five Guys, I settled for Indian, and my son had his favorite... sushi!

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

                                      Lost Dog Cafe
                                      Arlington , VA, Arlington, VA

                                      Pizzeria Paradiso
                                      3282 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: VeggieHead

                                        That reminds me-- there's now a Pitango gelato on 7th St between D and E that's very good.

                                        1. re: VeggieHead

                                          Yes, definitely try Boccato on Wilson... try everything that looks good and don't forget to get a cup of their loose leaf tea.

                                        2. I just had one more thought. I'm sure people will call me crazy for this one, but in Cleveland Park, by the zoo, there is a Cereal Bowl restaurant. I haven't been, but it might be a fun treat for the girls. They can mix and match cereals and crazy toppings: http://www.thecerealbowl.com/

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: katecm

                                            The Cereal Bowl is now closed, I believe.

                                            1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                              Ha ha, seriously? That was fast! Guess there are fewer stoners in Cleveland Park than the company expected.