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1st time visitor.....need critique of list please!

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We are a family with 4 young boys (ages 8, 7, 4 and 2) heading to DC for the first time. I am beyond excited as I am 41 years old and this will be my first trip to our Nation’s Capitol. We will be staying in Old Town at the Embassy Suites. While I am quite an adventurous eater, my husband and boys are less so! Example….based on all the reading and reviewing of posts on CH, I would love to try Etete but one look at the menu and I think it will just not fly with my guys. In any event, I have done my best to compile a list based on all the posts I have read which will please all of our palates. Breakfast is included with our lodging so we are in need of lunch and dinner options. We are arriving early Friday evening. We have a White House tour scheduled for Saturday at 12:30pm. Over the weekend, our plans are to visit the Smithsonian museums and zoo, perhaps the Spy museum and at the very least, the World War II and Korean War Memorials as both our fathers are veterans. We have a Capitol tour scheduled for Monday at 8:20am and then my hope is to observe some oral arguments at the SJC as they are in session. If I have kept your attention thus far, here is a list I have compiled. I would love your thoughts, opinions or suggestions. Thanks! Oh, and two quick notes. We will be getting around via Metro. Also, I think I have pretty much kept dinner choices to the Old Town area but I am not opposed to suggestions outside of that arena.

Open City Grill
Ella’s Pizza
Taylor Gourmet
Spy City Café
Mitsitam Native Foods Café
BGR or Good Stuff Eatery
La Plaza
Eastern Market

Columbia Firehouse
A La Lucia
King Street Blues
Red Rocks Pizza

Dolcezza Gelato

1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

220 N Lee St, Alexandria, VA 22314

Open City
2331 Calvert St NW, Washington, DC 20008

Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe
Independence Avenue Southwest Washington DC, Independence Avenue Southwest Washington, DC

King Street Blues
112 N Saint Asaph St, Alexandria, VA 22314

A La Lucia
315 Madison St, Alexandria, VA 22314

Taylor Gourmet
1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

Good Stuff Eatery
303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC

Spy City Cafe
800 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004

Red Rock Cafe
385 Muddy Branch Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878

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  1. You have a good list there I would leave off Taylor Gourmet - I think its overhyped for what you get for the price.

    I am not really fan of eating out in Old Alexandria you are mainly paying for the view.
    below are links mentioned previously concerning Alexandria

    I would try Southside 815 its not going to break the bank and the food is quality. I also like the Flying Fish Restaurant - both are close to Old Town


    Southside 815
    815 S Washington St, Alexandria, VA 22314

    Flying Fish
    815 King St Ste A, Alexandria, VA 22314

    3 Replies
    1. re: agarnett100

      It's a good list. I would not expect your group to walk to Old Town. It could be a hike with small kids. Also on that list would be Overwood. However, with Overwood, you could take the old town trolley down King Street. It is free! you will need to walk to king street from the embassy suites, just around the corner from the main entrance. Majestic is great but I have never seen any children there. If you have Red Rocks on your list, you may also want to consider Pizzeria Paradiso. just a few doors down from Red Rocks

      220 N Lee St, Alexandria, VA 22314

      1. re: daves_32

        The hotel has a free shuttle that goes into Old Town so we would not have to walk. The Majestic does have a children's menu so I am assuming it is kid-friendly but I could be wrong about that :o)

        My boys are extremely well-behaved. (don't all parents think this!?) But seriously, we do take them out to eat often to "grown-up" restaurants and they do great. Off to google Paradiso!

        1. re: hto44

          Congratulations on your list. It really is well researched and your specific questions help drive the recommendations.
          One other bakery/sweets addition to your list:
          The Dairy Godmother. you could take the metro from King Street to Braddock Road and it is a short walk. Or you could take a cab ride for the few miles down into Del Ray. President Obama has treated his girls there a few times.

    2. I love Taylor Gourmet, but I don't where one is that will be near you. Same with BGR. Also not a fan of the Spy City Cafe (for what's it worth, I'd skip the spy museum itself also - if you want to go to one of the private museums, I like the Newseum better, but there's really no need to go to either.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Raids

        Thanks! I read some iffy reviews on the Spy museum so we very well may cross it off the list.

        1. re: hto44

          The Spy Museum is a hit with kids - but older kids. It's really aimed at tweens and teens. I'd scratch that off the list.

          1. re: DanielK

            Three words: anal cavity knife. That was my take-away.

        2. re: Raids

          Isn't that a BGR right near the intersection of Washington and King? I haven't been, so can't chime in on food, but thought I'd chime in on location.

        3. You've done a lot of homework for this trip, which I'm sure is going to pay off! Sounds like a great family vacation!

          Lunch options

          Taylor Gourmet, Eastern Market and Good Stuff are my favorites from your list.

          At Taylor, don't miss the roast pork / broccoli rabe. One full sized sub feeds two adults.

          At Eastern Market, get the best half smokes in town from Canali meat market (inside the market). I like the hot half smoke in natural casing for a whopping $2.50 - you have to eat standing up though, or find a seat somewhere outdoors. As you walk there from the Eastern Market station, you'll pass Peregrine Espresso, the best coffee shop in town, if you are a coffee drinker.

          At Good Stuff, do NOT miss the shakes - they are the best in town! I prefer the black and white, but the toasted marshmallow is a favorite of many on this board. Also, I like to ask them to leave off the sauce when they make your burger and replace it with one of their homemade mayos, near the drinks. I like the sriracha mayo the best.

          Open City is good if it's a beautiful weekday and you want to sit outside and don't care about the food quality. If you are going to the zoo, take the metro to Cleveland Park and walk DOWN hill to the zoo. You'll be walking uphill if you get off at Woodley Park. If you get off at Cleveland Park and want a snack, Vace Italian store sells slices (take away only) - this is one of the best pizzas in town.

          Dinner options

          I've been to the Majestic only once, for Nana's Sunday Supper. I was really disappointed in it, but lots of people have raved about their regular menu.

          I haven't been to the Alexandria Red Rocks, but I love the Columbia Heights one. If they are the same quality, I think this is a great idea.

          I don't know the other places you mentioned.

          For dinners consider restaurants in Penn Quarter. (For example, Jaleo for Spanish tapas, or Zaytinia for Mediterranean food. - both are Jose Andres restaurants.) There are scads of choices there, and you can pop directly onto the yellow line to get to King St. from there.

          I LOVE Dolcezza Gelato - don't miss it!

          Have a great trip!

          1. If you want great Ethiopian food, then go to Eyo in Falls Church, VA. Half the menu is Italian (Mussolini invaded Ethiopia). The vegetarian platter is excellent and you can add the derek tibs or the awaze (if you like spicy). Too much food for one person, but maybe the others will break down their defenses. The Italian choices are safe.

            As far as your list goes, I am not enamored of many of your lunch choices.

            For lunch, I would go out of my way for the Pattyson Ave. sandwich (roast pork, broccoli rabe, sharp provolone) at Taylor Gourmet, but not the other sandwiches. Also the mini-burgers at Matchbox are very good. If you go to Good Stuff Eatery, do not miss the toasted marshmallow milkshake. Next door, We the Pizza has some great homemade sodas, specifically the vietnamese coffee and the sour cherry.

            Eastern Market is closed on Mondays.

            Red Rocks pizza is very good.

            I would actively avoid Ella's (much better pizza elsewhere). La Plaza (ditto for Salvadoran), and Chadwicks. If Indigo is Indigo Landing, it is out of your way and more expensive than good. Don't expect anything special about King Street Blues.

            3 Replies
              1. re: Steve

                Chadwicks isn't anything special, but it is significantly better and cheaper than Indigo Landing.

              2. I think your list is great, especially the dinners with kids. However, be realistic. You are going to be tired after all that running around. I see the tourists on the metro, fatigued beyond belief by mid-afternooon. My guess is that room service is going to be your best option on at least one night. So be sure your dinner options include a couple of places very close to your hotel. As others have pointed out, dining in Old Town is not necessarily going to get you good food (except for a few very high-priced places that aren't on your list). So I would not eat out for the sake of eating out. If you are really tired, go for room service, take-out (especially places that deliver). There is even a Whole Foods Market not too far from your hotel.

                Whole Foods Market
                1700 Duke St, Alexandria, VA

                3 Replies
                1. re: Just Visiting

                  Thank you! Love WF's. Your post is timely because I was thinking we might want to order in or grab take-out especially the first night. We have a long commute from Boston as we are heading down on Amtrak. Anyone know if they are any good take-out places within walking distance of the hotel?

                  1. re: Just Visiting

                    This is an excellent suggestion. Whole Foods is just a couple of blocks away. If you want to grab sandwiches, you could also go to The Butcher Block. It is a gourmet market but they also have some good sandwiches

                  2. Do your kids like fish by any chance? There is the most delicious fish and chips in Old Town at Eammon's - very casual place. And they sell fried candy bars as well!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: hamster

                      Oh.....fish and chips on Friday sound perfect especially during Lent! Thanks!

                    2. I think you have a good list, I would keep all these suggestions and see what works for your location and time.

                      If the Eastern Market itself is busy next door to it is the Tortilla Coast which only has one table, but it is often open. Also down the street is Cava which is Greek, but pretty accessible.

                      I work in Old Town and I really like Majestic, Overwood, Red Rocks. I like the food at Columbia House a lot, sometimes the service is a little slow, but overall it is pretty solid. We have work meetings at Chadwicks, which is ok, but not anything special, just fyi. But it is easy and quick. Eammons is a lot of fun too. Communal tables, big portions.

                      Also I don't know if the shuttle runs to the Del Ray section of Alexandria, but that area has a lot of great stuff and is very, very family friendly.

                      Have a nice trip.

                      For your first night there is also a Potbelly near your hotel too. But I really like Whole Foods for home away from home food.

                      220 N Lee St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                      Tortilla Coast
                      400 1st St SE, Washington, DC 20003

                      Red Rock Cafe
                      385 Muddy Branch Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ktmoomau

                        I am pretty sure ktmoomau meant to recommend Tortilla Cafe, not Tortilla Coast. (I'm not sure why there are two restaurants with such similar names, but Tortilla Cafe is much better!)

                        Tortilla Coast
                        400 1st St SE, Washington, DC 20003

                        1. re: lilkimbo

                          You are right, I don't even remember typing in coast, as I don't really like it at all, but love tortilla cafe.

                          1. re: ktmoomau

                            Just took a look at their website and all I can is YUM! Thanks for the suggestion!

                      2. It sounds like you have a great list! The only places I'd add as options are Ted's Bulletin (diner food) near Eastern Market and the Tune Inn ( near Good Stuff, etc., featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives; it's certainly more of a bar and not for kids at night, but I've often seen kids in there during the day.) Neither is a can't miss, but I figure it's always good to have back-up places in case your original plans fall through!

                        Tune Inn
                        331 Penn SE, Washington, DC

                        Ted's Bulletin
                        505 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

                        1. Columbia Firehouse is a great choice for dinner with kids. We took 5&6 year-old boys there last year and both the adults and the kids loved their meals. The food at Majestic is very good too, but I think that Columbia Firehouse has a more kid-friendly atmosphere.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: profjmm

                            And since you have this shuttle I should mention that Columbia Firehouse has really good cocktails now too, thanks to their new director of cocktails. I am sure Majestic probably does too because of its restaurant group.

                          2. My kids (6 and 8) LOVED the Spy Museum, fyi. We could have stayed all day and did stay for about 5 hours!

                            1. I have decided that I would like us to eat at least one breakfast outside of the hotel while on the this trip. On Monday, we have an 8:20am tour at the US Capitol. I thought we could grab a quick bite at the hotel before we head out to the tour and then eat something more substantial after the tour. I am an absolute corned beef hash addict so if there are any breakfast places nearby that are known for their hash, I would love to know about them! Or just some generally good breakfast places that may be in and around the area. I think the plan is to stay in the general vicinity and visit the Botanic Gardens and the American Indian Museum. We have a flight back to Boston at 3:45pm. Thanks again!

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: hto44

                                I remember reading a recommendation for the Dupont Circle Hotel for good corned beef hash for breakfast. I haven't been.

                                The Tabard Inn often comes up on this board in the context of breakfast/brunch recommendations. I will be having brunch for the first time there in May.

                                Sorry I can't personally vouch for any breakfast places in DC. I never eat breakfast out during the work week!

                                Tabard Inn
                                1739 N St NW, Washington, DC 20036

                                1. re: hto44

                                  Maybe Ted's Bulletin? I haven't been there though.

                                  Also, I was really geeked out for the American Indian Museum because I studied a lot of Native American history in college, but the museum kind of took the "this is not a history museum; native culture is alive and well" critique and ran with it.

                                  Which is great, but if I go to an American history museum, I want to see American history, e.g. first settlers, civil war, civil rights movement, etc., not a bunch of posters showing the traditions and beliefs of various cultures in the United States today.

                                  The areas outside showing the various climate/landscapes in the U.S. was sort of neat though, as is the architecture of the building itself, and, apparently, the cafe - maybe just eat there?

                                  1. re: Raids

                                    Yes, the Native American museum is really an art museum, not a history museum. There are only a few small parts of the museum that are geared to kids.

                                    1. re: DanielK

                                      Would that be the display of all guns used by Native Americans, including an AK-47? ;-)

                                      1. re: DanielK

                                        We are definitely planning on visiting the Natural History and Air and Space Museums. Any other kid-worthy museums? I also want to go to the American Art Museum.

                                        1. re: hto44

                                          Was actually at the National Museum of American History (not Natural History) and there seemed to be a good amount of kid oriented stuff there, especially on the bottom floor.

                                          1. re: ktmoomau

                                            http://www.si.edu/Visit/Kids lists all of the kid-friendly exhibits at the various museums, and I think they even categorize by different age groups.

                                            The zoo is pretty nice, and if the weather is nice, there are two outdoor sculpture gardens on the Mall, which provide both art for the adults and something a little more accessible for kids than white walls and paintings.

                                    2. re: hto44

                                      Hank's Oyster Bar has great hash, but I am not sure what their brunch hours are.

                                      Hank's Oyster Bar
                                      1026 King St Ste 1, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                    3. Hello everyone,

                                      I want to thank everyone for their wonderful insights and recommendations. We are most likely putting our trip on hold. We found out two nights ago that our beloved dog of 13 years has an inoperable mass on her liver. She was bleeding internally and they believe the source is the tumor. They were able to stabilize her and the bleeding stopped so we were able to take her home. She is alert, happy and eating well. We have been instructed on what to look out for and we were told that she would let us know when it is time. So long as she is not in pain, we will just enjoy the time we have with her. She is lying beside me as I type this. There is no way I would ever be comfortable leaving her. If anything happened while we were gone, I would never forgive myself. With the government shutdown looming, maybe it is not such a bad thing that we need to postpone. I am going to print out the your responses and save them for when I rebook. In fact, we are going to try and coordinate the new trip with an Orioles/Red Sox game.

                                      Thought I'd share a photo of my sweet girl.

                                      Thanks again!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: hto44

                                        Well at least you won't have to contend with a potential govt shutdown. Best wishes for your lovely dog. Revive the thread closer to the ETA so we can update you with anything.

                                        1. re: hto44

                                          I'm so sorry to hear about your beloved pet. I didn't reach that post until after reading all the great tips that came in from your original post, which I am so grateful you wrote. We leave next week for a week in D.C., daughter (8), son (11) and husband with a very similar agenda to yours. We will be at the JW Marriott on the Mall and don't know anything about where anything is, but all these suggestions are terrific. I am planning also to ask for any chowhound thoughts on a good, but not too stuffy or expensive place for Easter brunch or dinner as we will be arriving the day before. And what a great idea to coordinate with a baseball game!
                                          Best wishes!