Family-friendly Restaurants in D.C.

Updated on March 20, 2013
C.L. asks from Saint Paul, MN
9 answers

We are taking our 13-year-old son to Washington D.C. next week for spring break. He is a very picky eater. We have only two nights when we don't already have dinner plans so I don't need a lot of suggestions, but does anyone have any recommendations for restaurants? We are staying near DuPont Circle, plan to spend a lot of time at the Smithsonian museums and will probably visit the National Zoo also. He likes BBQ type places, pizza and can usually find something to eat at Asian restaurants. He does not eat traditional kid favorites like peanut butter, mac and cheese, burgers and hot dogs, although he loves chicken nuggets/tenders. Thai and Chinese are my husband's favorites. Thanks!

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So What Happened?

This is not a post about his picky eating. That is another (long) story and involves sensory issues, an unusually strong gag reflex and even a year of feeding therapy. I'm also not going to solve the eating issues while on vacation. I'm looking for casual, good restaurants where we can all have a positive dining experience. I thought there also might be some fun, family places that we wouldn't necessarily find on our own. Thanks again!

The Old Post Office, Asian Spice, the pizza place, Ebbit's Grill (spelling?) and Ketchup, etc. all sound like our kind of places. I have always gotten good travel advice on this site. I like information from people who live there or have been there. The Ketchup recommendation is kind of funny because from our trip to Charleston a couple of years ago our son has a t-shirt that reads, "I put ketchup on my ketchup." That shirt has gotten more looks and comments than any other t-shirts my kids have worn.

I just checked out the Ketchup website. My son would eat the chicken tenders, but I think he would LOVE their t-shirts, "In Ketchup we Trust" with an American flag. LOL.

My son was already excited about the Spy Museum just generally and because there is currently a James Bond exhibit on display, but now I see on thewebsite that they've added an Argo exhibit. He's going to be very excited. He watched Argo recently while home sick from school and loved it.

We have returned from our trip and had fun. Unfortunately, I walked or drove by many of these suggested restaurants, but we didn't get a chance to try them. We were pretty worn out every evening from a lot of walking during the day. We did meet a friend of mine for a very nice dinner at a Thai restaurant in Chinatown. I think it was Royal Thai and I would recommend it. We didn't get out to that Harbor area because we didn't have a car, but we did go on to the Ketchup website and order a t-shirt, which my son is excited about.

The Old Post Office food court was a great suggestion and we ate lunch there twice. We avoided all of the expensive (and crowded) museum restaurants. We also took the elevator up the tower for the great view of the city, played a little in the arcade and bought some touristy souvenirs. The food court will be changing and/or gone soon though. Rumor has it Donald Trump has purchased or leased part of the building, is putting in a luxury hotel and will be eliminating or revamping the food court.

If anyone is looking for something unique and different to do in DC our son really enjoyed both the International Spy Museum and the Newseum. My husband and I loved the Newseum too. Our son even made a friend from IL at the Spy Museum and they exchanged cell phone numbers and have been texting back and forth ever since.

Thanks all! Sorry we didn't get to try all of the suggestions, but it was good information.

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answers from New York on

At 13 I would think you would take him anywhere. There is always something he could find on a menu. Thought you were talking about a 3 year old. The more you expose him to different foods, the better off you will all be. I had a picky eater and he always managed to find something to eat wherever we went.

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answers from Washington DC on

ETA: Mom2KCK is RIGHT!! The National Harbor is AWESOME!! It's on the Maryland side and has a place called "KETCHUP" - great restaurant!!

Do NOT eat at the museums!! The prices are jacked up!!

I don't make it into DC as much as I should. Here are some restaurants around Du Pont Circle. Keep in mind DuPont is VERY expensive.

I hope you purchase Metro passes before you get here. Metro travel is the best way to get around DC.

If you have a rental car - you can venture out in NOVA (Northern Virginia) and we have some GREAT BBQ well as some GREAT Chinese and Thai. I know there is a GREAT Chinese restaurant on 17th - i'll get it from my girlfriend who works in DC...

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answers from Washington DC on

We like to go to Old Ebbit's Grill in DC for a treat. I probably spelled it wrong, but you can google it. They have some of everything. It's historic too. It's near the museums also, I think. At least it is right around the corner from the Holocost Museum.

Head to National Harbor just outside of DC for some GREAT restaurants. They have everything there, our favorite is Cadillac Ranch.

Have a great trip - DC is a GREAT area...I love living so close!

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answers from Los Angeles on

When I travel to someplace I haven't been to I always go to Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives website to find restaurants. I've never had a bad meal. They also are noted by their offerings so you can find real good BBQ restaurants.

Good luck to you and yours.

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answers from Washington DC on

Hey Cindy,
My husband and I just had a date night in DC a few weeks ago at a place called Asian Spice (in Penn Quarter area). Staff is spectacular and great variety too. We sat next to a family that had small kids there and they were eating up the entree's they ordered....the oldest was maybe 8 or 9 so I would think your son would find something. They have some traditional dishes and some more eccentric as well. Great atmosphere! Maybe 2 doors down is a brick oven pizza place (name escapes me!) but I hear it is FABULOUS but reservations are a must! We didn't know where to go when we were planning our trip so we went to and looked around there. You can even narrow it down to Dupont Circle restaurants too. All the best and enjoy your trip.

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answers from Washington DC on

Don't eat in the museums. Way expensive.

Take a walk to the Old Post Office. There's a food court in there with just about any kind of food you want. I love the samoas from the Indian place.

There's also places like PotBelly for soup and sandwiches, the usual fast food joint, and if you want to dress up and do a really fancy (and a bit $$) dinner, you could go to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

If you like seafood, try the buffet at Philip's Seafood.

If you like Thai, consider taking the Red Line out to Bethesda for Tara Thai or come to Wheaton for Nava Thai. There is also a good Thai place in downtown Silver Spring as well as a fun place called Eggspectations. There might be other places closer to DC, but I don't usually eat dinner in the city.

P.S. My stepson has a high gag reflex, too, and as an adult we discovered it might be fixable with minor surgery, which he hasn't gotten yet. But I understand the limited menu thing.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Houstons is an upscale chain that has great food - I believe there is one in Georgetown. Old Ebbit Grill is great - and has such history - a bit fancy though.

Off topic - make sure you check out the Spy Museum when you're there - I think a 13 YO would love it!! Also - they have a smaller family theater over at the Kennedy Center that runs great deals on tickets - check it out. We were there for Thanksgiving and had a great time. DO NOT eat in the caf up stairs though - $$$$$ and not worth it :)

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answers from Washington DC on

Old Glory in Georgetown is a great BBQ restaurant ....

Georgetown is only a mile and a half walk from the DuPont Circle metro.

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