Kid-friendly restaurants with outdoor seating in D.C.
April 13, 2022 8:22 PM   Subscribe

Any recommendations on restaurants with outdoor seating in Washington DC? Nothing fancy or expensive since we will be with a loud energetic kid, but we need COVID-safe dining options. Restaurants (or even fast food joints) near a nice park where we can get takeout and have a picnic would also work for us.

All kinds of food are fine, preferably places without hour long waits. We'll be near around all the usual attractions and museums around the mall and the zoo/rock creek park.
posted by to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Duke's Counter is across from the zoo and has outdoor tables, a kids menu, and takeout. If you eat burgers, they do a solid burger. If you can commit to a time they take reservations on Resy and you can specify outdoors. Within a ten minute walk of there in the Woodley Park neighborhood I'd check out Open City or Hot n Juicy Crawfish, and a dim sum place just opened last week that's supposed to be good.

The mall's pretty grim food-wise, but if you're going to eat at a museum, the cafeterias at the American Indian and African American History and Culture Museums have the best reputations and might have carry out. If you can arrange to be on the north side of the mall (American History, National Gallery of Art) when people get hungry, you'll be a slightly shorter walk up into Penn Quarter/Judiciary Square. If you can arrange to get hungry at the Portrait Gallery you'll be in the middle of Chinatown and have many options, though more takeout than outdoor seating. I don't know how up for walking you'll be but all that is within a mile or so.
posted by jameaterblues at 9:31 PM on April 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to the current situation, but In the more recent (but still pre covid era) the food situation on National Mall got a lot better once the food trucks arrived.
posted by oceano at 9:42 PM on April 13, 2022

Lauriol Plaza has a kids menu and pitchers of margaritas.
posted by credulous at 9:57 PM on April 13, 2022

Find a park. Let the child play. Use Uber Eats to order a meal, or order pizza, to be delivered directly to the park. Meet the driver at a sidewalk landmark on the edge of the park, and eat at a picnic table near the playground.

This is one of my family’s guaranteed happy afternoon strategies. Ordering pizza or brunch to a park is a BOSS move! And the child gets to act like a child and run around the entire time, no boring restaurant waiting, so it makes for a very peaceful gathering.

Pro tips: stash a few essentials in your backpack ahead of time: pack of baby wipes for cleaning hands, alcohol of choice, sunscreen in case there’s not much shade where you want to eat, and a dollar store plastic tablecloth or even a clean bedsheet from your hotel, to use as a tablecloth or picnic blanket.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:04 PM on April 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

If a picnic on the mall is OK, there's dozens if not hundreds of food trucks with enough variety to feed a picky kid and also allow parents to have something fairly tasty (for the latter I recommend looking for an Afghan/Pakistani kebab truck).

I don't know how busy it will be when you visit but I walked by the Sculpture Garden Cafe on a Sunday two weeks ago (during peak cherry blossom madness) and they had plenty of outdoor seating. It's nothing amazing but it's convenient to the museums, outdoor sit down seating, and not outrageously priced. The Pavilion Cafe by the NGA is similar.

The National Portrait Gallery is my favorite sleeper museum (though at least as of a few weeks ago the modern art wing was closed for putting on a new display) and has a cafe in an expansive atrium. Again, the food isn't going to blow you away, and it's not outdoors but it is a huge area to the point that I as a fairly Covid risk averse individual would consider eating in it, so it might be worth keeping in your pocket as an option if it's pouring rain.

If you want something nicer that's not too far from the mall (but probably enough to need to take a cab/etc. with a kid), Busboys and Poets is one of the quintessential DC restaurant chains. You will need reservations. (In general, with anything other than a walkup casual place or food truck, assume that you'll need reservations.)

If your kid is down with Chinese, you can get takeout from any number of places in Chinatown and go to the tiny Chinatown or Milain parks or walk a few blocks to the much larger Judiciary Square area parks.

It really comes down to what you want to optimize for. If you want to maximize museum time, you're going to have to accept food that's OK rather than amazing. The places that I know of that are both kid friendly and have outdoor seating are some distance from the mall. There are some decent fast casual places within 3 or 4 blocks of the mall and some outdoor seating but since Covid I'm not aware of which ones are still open, good, and reliable.

Assuming that DC is a trek for you, I'd optimize for experiences with your kid at the cost of eating a slightly overpriced steak and arugula sandwich on a stale croissant and overpriced hotdog for the kid in order to spend more time at the museums. You can always get a nice meal locally but you can't see those world class museums.
posted by Candleman at 10:13 PM on April 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

I was in D.C. a few weekends ago, and ate outdoors at the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden Cafe, on the north side of the mall. The food was fine and not insanely expensive, and it's a nice setting.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:59 PM on April 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

You can pick up some food at Teaism Penn Quarter (the cuisine is mostly bento boxes and noodles), then find a bench at the nearby Navy Memorial.

The Navy Memorial is a big map of the world, and kids can burn a lot of energy "running to Australia" or wherever.
posted by champers at 4:45 AM on April 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

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