Check out these best bets for family-friendly places to eat that your kids will love.
Here’s a guide to some of our favorite family-friendly restaurants, where you’re sure to find a menu that pleases both you and your kids.
Quick family-friendly spots
There is so much to see and do on a visit to Washington, DC, and for that reason, fast food often fits best into your touring schedule. Fortunately, there are many high quality food options near the National Mall.
For some tasty quick bites, try Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Penn Quarter and Chinatown neighborhoods. In addition to having multiple DC locations, the eatery serves sandwiches all day long, and your kids will appreciate the creamy milkshakes. Nearby locations of Le Pain Quotidien serve delicious options for breakfast and lunch. Cava Grill offers a Mediterranean mix customized just for your taste buds. The steps are easy: you begin with a base, throw in a few delicious dips and spreads, stack it with a protein like braised beef or lamb, then top it off with crumbled feta, pita crisps, cucumber salad.
After visiting the National Zoo, stop in Baked by Yael. Kids adore the rainbow of cake pops, delicious cookies and the freshly made bagels. Take a seat in the colorful shop and sample one of their many cake pop flavors at this nut-free and kosher bakery.
Everyone loves a good burger, and the little ones are no exception. Bolt Burgers, located near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, stands out for offering unique features such as artisan cheeses, brioche buns, spice rubs and homemade relishes. Shake Shack has become a national sensation with its perfectly grilled burgers, adorned with soft potato rolls, crisp lettuce, ruby red tomatoes and legendary Shack Sauce. You can order yours at any of its DC locations: Dupont Circle, Union Station, Penn Quarter and Logan Circle, to name a few.
Kid-friendly sit-down restaurants
A favorite of tourists and locals alike is Founding Farmers. The Foggy Bottom restaurant serves up a healthy, seasonal menu inspired by and sourced from family farms in neighboring Maryland and Virginia. While the name conjures signers of the Declaration of Independence, the dishes are all modern comfort food. Make sure to check out Farmers Fishers Bakers in Georgetown, too.
The iconic Old Ebbitt Grill is one of the oldest restaurants in DC. Established in 1856, this DC institution is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with to-go sandwiches, shareable desserts and signature raw bar. Not too far away in Penn Quarter is Carmine’s, an ideal gathering place for families serving heaping plates of pasta and Italian favorites.
Formerly a pharmacy with a soda fountain, Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy is located in a historic building in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood near the George Washington University campus. The restaurant specializes in hearty comfort food, and in good weather, Tonic serves meals on an outdoor patio and garden.
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana is one of local celebrity chef José Andrés' most popular restaurants, located in Penn Quarter. Specializing in fine Mexican cuisine, kids are enchanted by the tableside preparation of guacamole, while parents will relish the margaritas and mojitos. Dining here will elevate your experience with Latin American food.
There’s something reassuring about finding a Hard Rock Cafe in a new town. The menu, filled with American classics, is sure to satisfy a hungry family. The Hard Rock in DC is no exception. Kids will also be dazzled by the fun, star-filled decorations and memorabilia all over the restaurant.
Museum cafes for everyone
For something altogether unique and memorable, have a Mediterranean-inspired lunch or coffee and cake at the Courtyard Cafe at the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum. The breathtaking architecture and expansive open space provides room to explore for the little ones.
Located in the lower level of the National Museum of the American Indian, the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe provides a stellar view and cuisine from different regions of the Americas. Native American chefs showcase distinctive food cultures with seasonally inspired dishes; try the fried bread, chili or buffalo burgers.
The National Museum of American History has a very bright and busy cafeteria called the Stars & Stripes Cafe on the lower level. Open for lunch only, the cafe uses sustainable food products to make their pizza, barbeque and desserts.
During the winter season, the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden offers meals at the lively Pavilion Cafe. Settle in to watch the spinning skaters while you enjoy pizza, pasta, sandwiches and soup. During the summer, the Pavilion has panoramic views of the fountain and gardens, and on Friday evenings, the restaurant is transformed into a Jazz Cafe.
Washington’s historic markets
Love exploring local farmers markets? If you do, plan to visit the famous Eastern Market, a historic community hub located on Capitol Hill. Inside, you will find vendors selling fresh seafood, flowers, produce and meats.
Pick up a spicy empanada, a custom-made deli sandwich or sample local cheeses. Find a table at Market Lunch and order their beloved blueberry pancakes. On weekends, the Flea Market at Eastern Market opens to include more locally sourced products and artisans selling handmade crafts. Kids will love the street performers, too.
And don't forget about Union Market, DC’s hippest feasting ground. This revived mid-century produce- and meat-selling bazaar is home to food stalls and informal restaurants with everything from Asian-inspired tacos and dumplings to made-in-DC sausages and Chesapeake oysters.
Notable hotel restaurants
Several DC hotels have restaurants that cater to families on the go. The Avenue Cafe and Lounge, inside the Holiday Inn Washington DC (near the White House), offers breakfast and dinner buffets, where even the pickiest eaters will find something to love. If you’re a hotel guest, kids eat free.
Article One American Grill in the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill has a sunny five-story atrium and serves a deluxe breakfast buffet. In the evening, the Grill fires up the steaks and fresh seafood, but they also offer vegetarian and “Stay-Fit” healthy options.
A good meal and local brews
The District has many beer-centric pubs where kids feel welcome, and adults get to sample from an impressive selection of local, national and international brews.
City Tap House in Chinatown is known as a gastropub, because the dining room serves top-notch, family friendly fare along with 40 draft beers. If you love Belgian beer, treat yourself to Brasserie Beck. The upscale restaurant carries more than 100 Belgian beers, including Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s own Antigoon brew.