Capital Kids: Where to Eat with Children in Washington, D.C.

Traveling with kids is a challenge, especially at mealtimes. Not in D.C., though. Turns out the nation's capital is rich with family-friendly options. Here are 16 of the best.

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With tons of free museums and activities, Washington, D.C., is a great destination for families. Even if you're visiting from far away, you can easily eat like a local and support area food entrepreneurs and restaurateurs within walking distance — or a short cab ride — of nearly every major tourist spot in town.

Photo courtesy of DC Empanadas, Union Market

Near the White House: Old Ebbitt Grill

The macaroni and cheese on the kids menu at historic Old Ebbitt Grill near the White House is topped with baked Goldfish crackers and green peas. Every child is guaranteed to like at least one of the special additions, and gluten-free pasta is also available. For adults, hearty burgers and seafood platters have made Old Ebbitt Grill a popular destination for decades. The sprawling space has plenty of room for strollers, boosters and highchairs, and changing tables, as well as crayons and coloring pages for fidgety diners, are on offer.

Go to: Old Ebbitt Grill

Near the White House: Taylor Gourmet

Grab a Callowhill Hoagie, stuffed with hand-rolled meatballs and layered with provolone and marinara, at the Taylor Gourmet outpost near the White House. Add a side of breaded, oversize mozzarella wedges for a hearty lunch to share that will fuel a day exploring the White House and the nearby Renwick Gallery. Taylor Gourmet, a local chainlet, tests new seasonal menu items at this location and is frequented by owner Casey Patten, who is known to offer fresh cookies to his younger guests.

Go to: Taylor Gourmet

Near Georgetown University: Pinstripes

If you're shopping, walking the historic C&O Canal or visiting the spires at Georgetown University, consider a brunch stop at Pinstripes. The enormous restaurant features several dining rooms, indoor bocce and a bowling alley (thus the clever name). On Sunday nights, kids eat for half price, and during Sunday brunch, they enjoy their own dedicated buffet area, complete with burgers, pizza and a chocolate fountain.

Go to: Pinstripes

Near Dupont Circle: Firefly

If you've headed to Dupont Circle to peep at paintings at the Phillips Collection, browse the National Geographic Museum or explore Embassy Row, head south of the Circle to Firefly in the Hotel Madera. The kids menu features games and grilled chicken bites, as well as a tree in the dining room and a swing on the front porch. For adults, Southern-leaning dishes and great cocktails lure crowds. Another tradition that continues under new head chef Jammir Gray: Every young diner is given a cookie to decorate while they wait for their order, which comes back to them freshly baked at the end of the meal.

Go to: Firefly

Near the National Zoo: Duke's Counter

Pandas, elephants and lions await at the National Zoo, charming visitors of all ages. British-inspired pub Duke's Counter, across the street from the main entrance on Connecticut Avenue, serves curries and cocktails, but also on offer are plenty of kid-friendly plates. Order the Nutella press, a gooey and sweet treat made with bananas, toasted marshmallow and hazelnut spread on multigrain bread. Pull up a booster seat and grab a handful of free animal crackers while you wait.

Go to: Duke's Counter

Near Capitol Hill and Eastern Market: Ted's Bulletin

Ted's Bulletin on Capitol Hill is a great place to start a D.C. day and close to both Eastern Market and the Capitol. Stop in for a Mr. Breakfast with chocolate chip, blueberry or banana pancakes, and let the kids rummage through the toy box, filled with donations from other guests and staff. Housemade "Ted's tarts" toaster pastries — in flavors including salted caramel and blueberry cheesecake — are also good for a breakfast on the run.

Go to: Ted's Bulletin

Near the National Zoo: Lebanese Taverna

Across from the Woodley Park/National Zoo Metro stop is a spacious outpost of local Mediterranean chainlet Lebanese Taverna. Staff at the family-owned and -operated restaurant are trained to engage with families, and the occasional kitchen tour or scoop of ice cream goes a long way to making a meal special, particularly after a long day walking around the city. There are changing tables in both the men's and women's bathrooms, a coloring menu, and an extensive kids menu with lots of vegetarian options as well as chicken shawarma served with rice, celery and carrots.

Go to: Lebanese Taverna

Near the Botanical Garden and Capitol Hill: We, The Pizza

After a visit to the United States Botanic Garden, take a walk up Capitol Hill to We, The Pizza and watch the talented staff toss dough in the window. Kid-friendly Buffalo chicken pie — which is basically covered in chicken nuggets — and homemade sodas are the stars. Short on time? Curbside pickup makes for a quick and easy dinner back at your hotel.

Photo courtesy of Joe Shymanski

Go to: We, The Pizza

Near the American Art Museum, Building Museum: Shouk

The kids don't have to know there's no meat on the menu at Shouk. They won't miss it. The vegan fast-casual joint in Mt. Vernon Triangle is a 10-minute walk from the Building Museum and the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Order a pizza pita with big bursts of tomato, creamy tahina sauce and a sprinkle of fresh basil. Chunky sweet potato fries are an ideal snack.

Go to: Shouk

Near Union Station and the National Postal Museum: Union Market

After exploring Union Station, hop in a cab to visit Union Market, a vibrant local food hall in Northeast D.C. that offers options for everyone in the family. Grab fresh pasta at Cucina Al Volo, classic grilled cheese at woman-owned Righteous Cheese or bagels at Buffalo & Bergen. At DC Empanadas, find flaky hand pies like the Speedy Gonzalez — a creamy trio of queso blanco, asadero and mozzarella — or the Jersey Shore, stuffed with meatballs and marinara.

Go to: Union Market

Near the Newseum: Luke's Lobster

A stroll from the Newseum and National Gallery brings diners to Luke's Lobster in Penn Quarter. Fresh Maine lobster is mixed with Gruyere for a decadent — but still kid-friendly — play on the familiar grilled cheese. Wash it down with a housemade blueberry lemonade or Maine Root soda. Owner and Maine native Luke Holden went to Georgetown University, and his shellfish empire now has outposts across the country.

Go to: Luke's Lobster — Penn Quarter

Near the Portrait Gallery and Shakespeare Theatre: Oyamel Cocina Mexicana

Fancy some fancy fries? Papas al mole at chef José Andrés' Oyamel Cocina Mexicana are crispy french fries topped with mole poblano – a swirl of chiles, almonds and chocolate – and queso fresco. The bright interior gives restless eaters plenty to look at, and adventurous diners will enjoy the novelty of specialty tacos topped with sautéed grasshoppers and shallots. At the end of a long day, many parents are known to down a few salt-air-topped margaritas.

Go to: Oyamel

Near the National Mall: District Taco

Within walking distance of the Smithsonian, District Taco's Metro Center location offers a kids menu with pintsize quesadillas and tacos served with pinto beans and garlic-lime rice. The Virginia-based Yucatan-style Mexican chainlet makes it easy for families, offering coloring pages, highchairs and changing facilities in unisex bathrooms. For a twist on breakfast, get eggs and bacon wrapped in tortillas to go.

Go to: District Taco — Metro Center

Near the National Mall: Mitsitam

If you want to remain on the Mall while exploring the Smithsonian's incomparable museums, stop at Mitsitam Café in the National Museum of the American Indian for colorful, flavorful options without a long walk. The food is inspired by regional Native American tribes, and options are educational and tasty. Wild rice salad — loaded with carrots, cranberries and rice from Minnesota's Red Lake Nation — and fry breads, drizzled in honey or stuffed with cheese, are great for tiny diners. Older kids will enjoy buffalo burgers and special drinks like aqua frescas and Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon.

Go to: Mitsitam Cafe

Near the Verizon Center: Carmine's Italian Restaurant

If you're seeing a show or catching a game at the Verizon Center, Carmine's Italian Restaurant offers one of the largest dining rooms in D.C. and family-style menus. Each order serves six, so order a meaty lasagna and a Titanic (a banana split with five scoops of ice cream, roasted pineapple, strawberries, hazelnuts and enough whipped cream to keep the kids wired all afternoon). Need a doggie bag? There are special refrigerators in the coat-check room designed to hold leftovers until your day is done.

Go to: Carmine's Italian Restaurant

Near the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Thai Basil

If you make the trip out to the big hangars at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia (near Dulles Airport), to see a space shuttle and historic aircrafts, grab some pad thai and herbaceous dumplings at nearby Thai Basil. Chef-Owner Nongkran Daks prepares plenty of fiery fare for older appetites but knows that kids love her chicken sate, crisp egg rolls and banana in a blanket, topped with chocolate sauce or honey. Daks — who bested Chef Bobby Flay in a pad thai throwdown — also welcomes kids over age 11 at her regular in-house cooking classes.

Photo courtesy of Larry Daks

Go to: Thai Basil

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