DC is full of food and things to do, give me some guidance to the good places!
November 9, 2011 8:45 AM   Subscribe

DC filter: I am heading out to a conference next week that will be held in DC and am looking for restaurants to visit and things to do with a toddler while there.

I'm travelling down there with my husband and 2 year old, plus I am pregnant, so drinking, sushi, lunch meats, are right out.

I know there are a ton of restaurants around the area, but remember from the last time I was there that I ended up somewhat overwhelmed by choices. Plus I don't necessarily want to spend a lot for each meal. My hotel is the Holiday Inn Capitol Hill (on C Street SW) and the conference is at the conference center.

Unfortunately the hotel doesn't have breakfast included, so I'd love to have a recommendation for somewhere nearby to get a bunch of muffins to eat in the morning.

Also, we need lunch and dinner recommendations. A couple nice meals would be good, but I don't know that I want to make every meal a production and we are on a somewhat tight budget so hugely expensive things are right out. We are fairly widespread in our eating and are carnivores, though I have the standard pregnancy restrictions, so cold lunch meat sandwiches are right out.

While I will be off science-ing my husband will be entertaining the toddler, he already has plans to hit the museums around, but any other suggestions of things for them to check out would be appreciated! Thanks!
posted by katers890 to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think for a two year old, the Natural History Museum is a good bet. Shiny rocks, dinosaurs, and so on.
posted by empath at 9:03 AM on November 9, 2011

Best answer: And the butterfly pavilion upstairs at the Natural History Museum would be great for the 2-year old as well! Warning to the hubby - all museum food courts are EXPENSIVE for what you get.

Food... Acadiana is across from the Convention Center, so that might be good for a dinner. Somewhat pricey, but not awfully so.

Estadio has mind-blowing tapas, but not cheap and hard to get a seat without reservations.

Ben's Chili Bowl - probably off limits for you but a DC tradition for your husband.

Cuba Libre is also close by the Conv. Center, so could be good for a lunch.

Don't forget... DC has jumped on the food truck bandwagon (ahem...) so there's LOTS of options out there.
posted by matty at 9:12 AM on November 9, 2011

Ditto matty (above). Absolutely do not eat at the museums! Staggeringly expensive, even the McDonalds at the Air & Space Museum. There's one in L'Enfant Plaza that's just as close to your hotel. You're just a short Metro ride away from the National Zoo, and this is a great time of year to visit. The crowds are low and it's free!
posted by Jamesonian at 9:27 AM on November 9, 2011

Zaytina is a fantastic restaurant for an evening (you would have to go early if you have a young child). Shake Shake could work as a lunch option.
posted by superfille at 9:35 AM on November 9, 2011

When you walk out of the hotel and are facing the Department of Education (facing the Mall, basically), walk to the left and into the building at the end of C Street. There is a Cafe de Paris in there where you can get some breakfast stuff. There are also places opposite the Education Department on C Street. Just follow the federal workers! The CVS on that block has a pretty large grocery section, also.
posted by jgirl at 9:37 AM on November 9, 2011

The food at the National Museum of the American Indian is actually pretty good, as is that at the Cascade Cafe at the National Gallery of Art. They are a little expensive, but serve decent food and if you're there anyway it might be worth it. Sounds like you're going to Neuroscience - have fun!
posted by exogenous at 9:47 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The building museum has a great play area for toddlers. It's now $3 for 45 minutes of play, which has to start on the hour (it used to be free, but it's worth it).

We the Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery are both good and in Capital Hill, pizza and burger prices.
posted by akabobo at 10:04 AM on November 9, 2011

Both Acadiana and Zaytina are FAB, but probably not the right setting for a 2-year-old. Those are both rather upscale places where the clients are going to have the expectation of a quiet meal.

Clyde's at Gallery Place (walking distance from Convention Center and directly on a metro line) is loud and bustling and will have some children's menu choices, but is still very good food for the adults. (Not at all like an Applebee's/Chili's.)
posted by mccxxiii at 10:12 AM on November 9, 2011

Response by poster: Great answers so far (and yes, I'm off to SfN, first time with the kiddo in tow), and not trying to threadsit, but mccxiii does make a good point. Toddler is fairly good in restaurants and generally an adventurous eater (no need for children's menus, he actually isn't too keen on many of the things in them), but he is 2, so he can get a bit rambunctious in terms of hitting silverware on plates or occasionally having a tantrum (though those are rare in restaurants). He doesn't run up and down the restaurant or yell lots in restaurants, but fancy places that frown at kids are not a good match. But he can handle fancier than Applebee's/Chili's etc.
posted by katers890 at 10:18 AM on November 9, 2011

If you get a nice day I very strongly second the National Zoo. One word of caution: make sure dad is aware of its sneaky trap, which is that everything is downhill from the main zoo entrance. Easy to get in, sometimes harder to drag a tired toddler out.

All the Smithsonians are great, because they are free!

I would also add to akabobo's recommendation of the building museum that not only does it have the play area (so sad to hear it's no longer free) it generally has a least a couple exhibits geared towards kids, with lots of things to touch and play with. Looks like there's a Lego building exhibit right now. The building itself (the old patent office) is stunning as a side bonus.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:55 AM on November 9, 2011

Secret DC tip for the Zoo get off at the Cleveland park exit then walk south down hill Connecticut St, when you leave go to the Woodly Park/Zoo metro.

Spices is pretty good pan asian around there.
posted by akabobo at 2:05 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're going the the Zoo area you might want to go a few blocks further up and check out the Uptown theatre, too. Huge curved movie screen with a balcony.
posted by empath at 2:20 PM on November 9, 2011

I don't think you've received too many lunch options, so here are several affordable and kid-friendly ones: Not too far away from the convention center is Taylor Gourmet on K street - it's a sandwich shop, but they have the most delicious grilled chicken breast sandwiches ever, so you don't have to worry about lunchmeats. Also Cafe Phillips on 7th in the Blackboard building does not have traditional deli meats, they roast their own turkeys for example - can you eat that (obviously, I've never been pregnant). Also Nando's Peri Peri is a block further south from there. On H street between 7th and 6th is Vapiano, an Italian chain place.
posted by echo0720 at 3:33 PM on November 9, 2011

To add to the lunch options around Convention: I second Taylor Gourment, which also has delicious salads. There's also a Chipotle and a Safeway in the same building (at 5th & K). If you're willing to be around there for dinner, Busboys & Poets is a DC institution (though this isn't the original location) is lovely, social justice-y, and you should be okay with a toddler. Mandu is a sit-down Korean place in the same building with great happy hour and not too fancy. In Chinatown, (H/6th & 7th), there's Chopt, a to-order salad place. None of these are very expensive (I eat there on my non-profit salary), but DC is an expensive city.

The Sculpture Garden by the mall is lovely and has a great fountain if it's nice next week.
posted by quadrilaterals at 5:22 PM on November 9, 2011

Best answer: Definitely do the zoo from either the Harvard St. entrance (four blocks or so downhill from a major bus line) or from the Cleveland Park stop. Cleveland Park itself has several kid-friendly options, including the Uptown, but also there's a good kind of mini-diner/grill Greek place near it. Woodley Park doesn't, really, most of it's quite touristy, but it's a quick Metro trip down into Dupont Circle or back to the Convention Center/Capitol Hill area. The uphill inside the zoo is no joke, though; you may want to gauge your interest in the farm area vs climbing up the hill.

The Building Museum is definitely awesome for kids! There's a Firehook bakery and cafe there as well, which offers your standard coffee and food options for a pretty decent price. I'm a huge fan of Ella's, a pizza place right by the National Portrait/American Art museums (two halves of the same building) which are handily open until 7, for ease of late browsing. They're part of the Smithsonian, so, free! The central courtyard is extremely beautiful, it's enclosed, has lots of room to wander around, and the kid might like the Luce conservation area on the top floor. Or the awesome and amazing Folk Art collection on the lower level! Anyway, Ella's does a great job with kids, and has great specials. Vapiano's is also fine, you go around to different stations and they make your thing and tally it up on a special store credit card thing.

Anyway, enjoy the city! There are huge numbers of threads on Chowhound about kids downtown, often with tourist recs as well, if you're interested in more targeted suggestions.

(Am I allowed to suggest the Navy Museum again? Because you can touch virtually everything, you CAN still climb in the pressure sphere, and see wacky diving gear! Also, loads of buttons, a periscope, etc. It's quite close to Capitol Hill.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:23 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I used to work next to that Holiday Inn. If you can find it, one block south there's a Korean owned convenience store that serves Bibimbop on Thursday's only. It's amazing! And cheap.

It's at 500 E. Street Southwest... Google labels it the 'Global Carryout Shop'.
posted by matty at 8:05 PM on November 9, 2011

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