Dear PoP – Kid Friendly Dining?

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“Dear PoP,

I’m in a pinch!

I am a childless 14th & U Street resident and have family coming to visit next week with their 5 year old son. I’m usually an ace at picking restaurants in the city to take out-of-town guests to, but I find myself stumped as to a place for dinner that has great food for the adults in my party but would also have some kid-friendly options like chicken fingers, mac n’ cheese, grilled cheese, pizza and such for the little guy (who is GREAT at restaurants and loves eating out, especially if one of those essentials is available).

I’m afraid that the dinner menus at most of the restaurants in the area that we love aren’t really all that kid friendly.

Can anyone recommend a good restaurant that fits the bill?”

I know on H St, NE the Argonaut is a favorite of some of my friends who have kids. I also think the Diner in Adams Morgan would also be a very safe pick but that obviously wouldn’t be considered great food. This question is really a much more difficult one – who has great food that would also have options for children? Palena

But seriously for those who’ve been in this situation or for those with kids – where’s the best restaurant you’ve eaten at that also options for kids?

78 Comment

  • It probably doesn’t qualify as “great food,” but I always think Matchbox is a good option that will satisfy both kids and adults.

    I also have family with kids visiting in a few weeks, so I am curious to see what other people say. I have a few casual meals planned (DC-3, Good Stuff), but I am hoping to get a few more sit-down suggestions.

  • Ted’s Bulletin has a kids menu and is pretty kid friendly. Make a reservation, it’s packed all weekend.

  • I can’t claim to have kids, but Eatonville could be a good choice. They have mac n’cheese and good adult food as well.

  • I try not to let me kids get used to the usual “kiddie food” options, so I’m not an expert on places with kid food. We do love taking our kids to Petes up at Columbia Heights, the food is good, the beer is good and kids love pizza. The Antipasti platter has excellent grown-up foods (that my kids also like).

    I think if you go early Meridian Pint is pretty kid friendly.

    Had lunch as Tosca in Gallery place the other day. Tapas there are OK — not great. But the place was also full of kids and I think I saw kids getting pizza, hamburgers, chicken fingers etc. Not sure how is works for dinner.

    Rice on 14th Street is kid friendly — no kid options, but if you go early, the are very friendly to kids.

    I think The Heights is kid friendly also. Personally I hate the Heights, but I know lots of folks think it is good.

    Red Rocks?

    • I second many of these options. Pete’s is my son’s favorite place to go and the staff encourages him to do his “happy gelato dance”. Meridian Pint is fantastic with kids, as is Red Rocks (though Red Rocks can get cramped during later hours).

  • Meridian Pint is very kid friendly if you dine in the earlier hour like 6-7pm in my opinion. I saw a baby there once in a high chair throwing raw vegetables all over the place. It was like a firework display. When the party was finished the staff simply swept everything up. Boom. Family had a good time and baby had a good time. Plus there are several things on the menu that are child friendly.

    • I agree. They also have space to park a stroller near the seating. Also, IHOP may not be very unique, but it fits the bill.

  • “I am a childless 14th & U Street resident and have family coming to visit next week”
    I read that a couple of times before I realized you said “childless” and not “homeless.” Makes much more sense now.

  • Two Amy’s or Paradiso might work.

  • My niece and nephew are young too and this has been a topic of conversation in our house as well. I think even more important than restaurant choice is just going at the right time of the evening. Timing is everything with small kids (5-6pm is probably best). Having said that, the Heights early in the evening or Red Rocks or even busboys might work (pizza is always a hit). All these restaurants are fairly loud and if you can sit outside the kid might have more chance to people watch, pet dogs etc which is good entertainment.

  • Open City in Woodley Park is pretty tasty and kid friendly. Unfortunately, I think you’ll have to venture from 14th and U to find a kid friendly joint.

    Maybe Pizzeria Paradiso on P St too. Everyone likes pizza.

  • near 14th and u?
    i’d try:

    el paradiso

  • Please don’t leave the kids tied up outside the restaurant for 30 minutes. Kids get separation anxiety and it’s extremely stressful for them. Also, what if one of them attacks a passerby?

  • We take our kids to Meridian Pint on a fairly regular basis. They have a number of things kids like to eat and the staff is very patient and accommodating. My 4-year-old’s favorite restaurant is Pete’s Apizza. He also loved Commonwealth, but that’s not much use now.

    If you’re up for adventure, I have taken the kids to Ray’s East River a couple of times with good results. Food is great but the environment is super laid-back. I also like to take out of town guests there, to show them another side of the city.

    And, though the ambiance may not be what you’re looking for, Ben’s Chili Bowl is good enough for the President of the United States and is a kid’s dream menu.

  • Cactus Cantina is really popular with families. The kids love watching them make the tortillas

  • I think the New York Times *just* did a story on DC-area restaurants that are good for kids (but not just all about chicken fingers and mac and cheese).

  • In that area (14th/U)

    Ulah is not the greatest food, but it’s not bad, and it’s actually a pretty good spot for kids – lots of stuff for kids and adults. Try to get them to seat you upstairs, though, so they can be more distracted by the televisions, and there’s more space.

    Etete always has a fair number of kids, and Ethiopian couldn’t be more kid-friendly since you eat with your hands.

    I concur with Busboys and Poets.

    If you’re willing to head up and want good pizza that is kid-friendly, go to Comet Pizza (ping pong in the back for restless children) or Two Amy’s.

    Saint-Ex is good also if you get there early and sit outside; don’t know about inside….

    • me

      Ethiopian = kid-friendly??

      I don’t know of a 5-year-old that would willingly eat spicy stuff like that.

      • I keep hearing this too and it surprises me. Most adults don’t like Ethiopian– what makes people think a kid will go for it?

        • most adults i know like it.

        • For one, Ethiopians have children who eat Ethiopian food.

          My kids class went to an Ethiopian restaurant for a trip, and now she loves it. Try the yellow lentils.

          • hahahahahaha.
            its like some people think kids should only eat “american food”. whatever that is.

        • It’s not all spicy. My 1.5 y.o. digs it. Last time we were at Dukem, a number of tables had kids. It was super crowded, but the staff is always great and they are very accomodating of high chairs. And the food comes fast, which is important.

      • My kids ate if from the time they were very young. Focus on the vegetables and lentils.

      • I liked Ethiopian food as a kid. I thought it was fun to eat because I could use my hands.

      • Ethiopian has been my kid’s favorite since she was about 18 months. She is almost four now, and I can still get her to do just about anything if I offer her Ethiopian. Just tell him to stay away from anything red if he doesn’t like spicy.

  • By the way, what’s the over/under for this thread hitting 100 comments by 2pm? How about how long it takes to dissolve into an “I hate kids”/”I hate people who hate kids” thread?

  • Check the New York Times. The Frugal Traveler just did an article about kid-friendly ethnic options in DC.

  • I went with some friends (with their kid) recently to H Street Country Club. We went early, like we might have gotten there at 5:00. The upstairs was completely empty, the kid got a quesadilla and veggies, we had good food and we had the mini-golf and skeeball to ourselves. By the time we were done, the place was filling up and we were out of there!

  • Lebanese Taverna in Woodley Park is very kid friendly. They have a good kids’ menu (that includes stuff like falafel and schwarma in addition to the usual suspects), and the staff has been very nice when we have gone.

  • kiki

    Ella’s is good and believe it or not, Chef Geoff’s is kid friendly too.

  • Sushi is great for kids – California roll and miso soup with extra rice for the timid ones – though I know several toddlers that love ikura. Sakana at 21st & P is kid friendly.

  • The Islander and Dukem are both great with/for kids. No Mac and cheese, but you can eat with your hands.

    • Ugghh. The Islander is soooooooo gross. How that place stays in business (apart from likely kickbacks from friends in city council) is beyond me. Gross gross gross and expensive: a sure-fire combo for sucking.

      Dukem is also too greasy – Etete is 10x better.

  • We brought our family with niece and newphew to El Pariaso on 14th, near T a few years back. The owner came over and gave them quarters to get something out of the gumball machine and were great all around. I recall going for lunch though… another option.

  • What about Posto? They don’t have a kids menu, but they have pizza and the food and wine menu are great.

    Rosa Mexicana has a kids menu with chicken fingers, quesadillas, and tacos.

  • clydes (kids menu, loud enough that a kid isn’t a distraction, crayons)
    cactus cantina (kids menu, crayons and tortilla making demos)
    2 Amys (kid friendly, but very loud)
    Chef Geoffs (downtown has less choices that the other one)
    Mei Wah

    And I’ve heard that firefly has a cool cookie decorating project for kids.

    Also not kid oriented, but our 5 yr old loves zaytinya b/c she can taste a lot of different things.

  • Stop feeding the kids junk like “chicken fingers, mac n’ cheese, grilled cheese, pizza and such.” I’m sure most restaurants have tasty options (maybe some apps?) that kids will enjoy…and might not contribute to America’s obesity problem.

    • Mind your own business.

    • Eating out is not the time when you want to force a kid to try something new. You do that, and chances are he’s going to have a fit and be one of those horribly-behaved children the PoP commentariat believes are everywhere. Let the kid have some chicken fingers so everyone can enjoy their meal out. Other restaurant patrons included.

      • Or, if nothing else, you’ll have wasted money on food the kid refuses to eat.

      • B.S. “Kids menus” were just becoming popular when I was a child, and I rarely ate from them yet went to restaurants with my parents all the time (and behaved). If your child will behave only when he gets to eat “chicken fingers, mac n’ cheese, grilled cheese, pizza and such,” it’s only because that’s what you’ve been letting him eat.

        • and don’t tie your dog up!

        • Simply not true. You shouldn’t pass judgment when you have exactly zero idea what you’re talking about. My son grew up eating all manner of spicy food because, once upon a time, he was small enough that he just ate whatever we ate, and what we eat is spicy. About the time he turned two, he suddenly couldn’t handle even a hint of spice anymore, or any strong flavors at all, putting an end to the kimchee he nearly subsisted on since his first teeth came in. Now, when we go out, he insists on mac’n’cheese and hot dogs. We give him options, we take him to a wide variety of restaurants, and we continue to eat the foods that we like to eat. But for the last two years he has refused to take any part in it. So, in the interest of family harmony, we let him eat what he wants when we go out and try to insist that he eats well at home. And contrary to your assertions, this has not made him obese.

          But hope springs eternal. Today, when we were sitting in the park, him eating a turkey sandwich and me eating take out from Thai Tannic, he asked for a bite and claimed to like it. Maybe he’s finally coming around…

          • I’m the most open-minded eater ever, but I still preferred the chicken finger and grilled cheese diet as a kid. It warms my heart to see kids enjoying grown-up foods, but I know that even the best parents usually can’t get their kids to do that.

        • +1

          If they are little or you don’t think they’ll eat a whole entree, get them an appetizer or sides.

    • +1000 Why ruin a kids tastebuds with a diet of beige food.

    • haha! Good one! I mean, because if they’re at home, they won’t be out, bothering you. Right? Right?? I mean, because you are so awesome and important, and not an intolerable douchebag.

  • Agree with the recommendations for Pete’s, Busboys & Poets, Logan Tavern/The Heights (not my favorite by any means, but they do have a decent kid’s menu), Red Rocks, and Meridian Pint.

    Since my sister had kids, we have almost always gone to La Tasca whenever they visit. They have pizza on the kid’s menu, plus a few other things that are kid-friendly like meatballs, the food comes FAST, and it’s incredibly loud so any kid noise blends right in. If the kid in question is slightly more adventurous, Jaleo might be worth a shot. Or Oyamel – who doesn’t like tacos?!

    A few more casual spots, like for lunch: Nando’s Peri Peri and Taqueria Distrito Federal. My kid loves their guacamole.

  • Palena Cafe

    • Keep in mind that they do not like kids. They don’t have high chairs and seemed put out by the fact that I had my very well behaved kid there on a Monday night. I was shocked given the very kid-friendly neighborhood.

  • Hanks is a good option, plus they give you goldfish crackers 🙂

  • Radius in Mount Pleasant

  • Teach your snobby ass kid to eat something besides chicken fingers and grilled cheese. problem solved.

  • McDonalds on 14th & U I personally don’t go there because there are so many rude assholes but the kids will love it.

  • too bad that cereal place closed. if my kid was what he ate, he would be a cheerio.

  • Our daughter (age 2) loves to eat at Ping Pong Dim Sum in Chinatown and is a great place for out-of-town guests. Also anywhere owned by Chef Geoff– especially Lia’s. Clydes, The Reef, and Tonic all have weekend happy hours for kids and kid-friendly menus. You can also do a search on Open Table for more kid-friendly options.

  • Eatonville is a good bet, we like Nam Viet in Cleveland Park, the kids have been slurping down noodles there since they could eat solids. I’d recommend the Saigon Noodle soup (but get pho or vermicelli noodles not the egg or clear ones) and the #31. Stick to the soups and grilled entrees, and of course the crispy spring rolls, sauted Vietnamese can be a little bland.

  • Love Cafe at 15th & U. Walking distance from OP’s place. Tasty sandwiches, soups and quesadillas made to order. Cupcakes and desert if you like. Without the fuss of table service.

  • Dino in Cleveland Park has a very cheap kid’s menu with a slightly broader selection than the standard:

    The restaurant is also laid out in a way so that a rowdy kid wouldn’t necessarily bother other diners.

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