Kid-Friendly Restaurants on the Hill: Is the Struggle for Real?

I got to thinkin’ about kid-friendly restaurants on the Hill after reading this DCist article last week, “Parents Say They Struggle to Find Kid-Friendly Bars and Restaurants in DC.” I am wondering, the struggle: Is it real?

I’d love to know what CHK readers have to say. Hey you, passing through! Please comment below on the neighborhood restaurants that you’ve enjoyed with kids. What made it kid-friendly?

I think “kid-friendly” varies quite a bit by age. When AJ was younger and still amenable to his Lillebaby, I carried him everywhere and enjoyed many brunches and happy hours. I’ll admit it: Baby AJ was a regular at a couple Barracks Row establishments. It worked out great until he started swatting the wine glass out of my hands. And it has been completely over since he turned 2.

These days, we still manage to do a restaurant outing here and there, but it’s fewer and farther between. Sometimes it’s just easier not to do that. So, I am not the authority on kid-friendly bars and restaurants. But perhaps, with your help (see comment section below!), we could expand the list below into something useful to our friends and neighbors.

I am thinking about kid-friendly on three levels:

  • Level One: Extremely kid-friendly, in that the venue is providing kid-centric entertainment, as well as drinks/food.
  • Level Two: Very kid-friendly, in that they provide crayons/toys/etc., and they have food typically enjoyed by young children.
  • Level Three: Kid-friendly, in that they have food typically enjoyed by young children and something a little extra, such as a space to run.

OK, so here’s my very incomplete, just-a-beginning of a list …

Level One: Extremely Kid-Friendly

  • Elemeno. It isn’t actually a bar or a restaurant, it’s a kids’ club and family space that has a bar in it. How genius is that? Imagine lounging on a pillow with a glass of wine and a book while your kids enjoy an awesome indoor play space. This is a reality, friends! A very nearby reality. Elemeno is a membership club, and as you’ve now learned, it is worth it. 709 8th St SE.
  • Pie Shop DC. Kids like pie, but I’m talking specifically about the kids’ concerts here. You can get food, beer and watch your kid rock out some Saturday mornings when Pie Shop has kids’ bands booked. Read more about it: Back on the Scene With Kids’ Shows at Pie Shop DC. 1339 H St NE.
  • H Street Country Club. Mini golf, skeeball, basketball and shuffleboard. I cannot personally vouch because I have not been since way before AJ. I just checked their policies page, and the club welcomes families during brunch on Saturday, 11:30-3 p.m., and Sunday-Friday before 7 p.m. At all other times, it’s a bar for adult people. 1335 H St NE.

Level Two: Very Kid-Friendly

  • Matchbox Capitol Hill. Your kid will receive a kids’ menu coloring page, crayons and a ball of pizza dough. The wait staff will be nice to you and your children. Pizza predominates the menu. 521 8th St SE.
  • Mr. Henry’s. Among other kid-friendly options on the menu, they have a mac and cheese that looks exactly like the boxed one we make at home. Which is to say, AJ loves it. You can count on the wait staff at Mr. Henry’s to be friendly to your family. I can’t remember if they do crayons–probably–but I specifically remember our server bringing AJ a little grasshopper table game. 601 Penn Ave SE.

Level Three: Kid-Friendly

  • Little Pearl Cafe. This casual offshoot of Rose’s Luxury and Pineapple and Pearls is located in the carriage house on the grounds of the Hill Center. During the daytime hours, adults can dine al fresco in the sun, while kids play in the green grassy space. The menu includes some items (doughnuts, hot cocoa) that kids typically like. 921 Penn Ave SE.
  • The Market Lunch. Serving delicious diner-style breakfast and lunch every day except Monday inside Eastern Market. On weekends, you can sit at picnic tables in the Eastern Market hall. It’s hard to predict, but some weekend days, the hall is free of vendors, and little kids run and chase each other around the large, empty space.
  • Seventh Hill Eastern Market. Adults and kids love the pizza here. What makes it even more kid-friendly is that they have a daily happy hour, 5-6:30 p.m. that makes it affordable to have a family dinner out. (The happy hour deal is not spelled out on the website, so I can’t specify.) 327 7th St SE.

OK, it’s your turn! Tell me about your favorite kid-friendly places below in the comments.

Update: I received great comments below and a ton more at the Hill East Facebook group. Thank you! I already have lots of ideas about how I’m going to incorporate your feedback into a new standing list with a better rating system. I’m excited to let you know about it when it’s done!

9 thoughts on “Kid-Friendly Restaurants on the Hill: Is the Struggle for Real?

  1. The Pretzel Bakery wins on all levels for being full of families with kid centric food with space to run and minimal wait times. Chiko is very kid friendly in that they have a great kids meal and high chairs and they are so nice to kids even if they are throwing food or yelling and you don’t have to wait long for food. Ted’s Bulletin has a kid’s menu and crayons and high chairs and again kids can be themselves and it’s not frowned upon. I’d rank Seventh Hill higher because it’s always packed with kids so noise and mess aren’t an issue in addition to the killer Happy Hour. Tunnciffs has a kid’s menu. The cafes at both Hill Whole Foods are easy kid options in that everyone in the family can pick what they want to eat.

  2. Le Pain Quotidien. Does not have a kid menu but there is kid friendly food. The staff is nice. Has high chairs and coloring mats with crayons.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Sergio! The photo of the two babies above was actually taken at Le Pain Quotidien! I enjoy the food there.

  3. I have to give props to Taco City. I took my six and eight-year-olds there and we had a great lunch. They enjoyed watching sports on TV and gobbled up queso fundido and quesadillas. The staff were extremely welcoming and accommodating. Definitely not space to run around but if your kids would enjoy watching sports on television while you enjoy a margarita this is a terrific spot.

  4. Just a few to add. My kids are getting older, which means that I don’t see it through younger parent eyes anymore.

    Seconding what Meg said, I’m surprised not to see Ted’s on here. Their restaurants are the kid friendliest, from the treats to the food and the toys to the silent movies they have playing.

    Las Placitas has been our kid-friendly go-to since mine were babies. The portions are generous, so if you want to share with a child, you can, but they also have sides. The staff is incredibly nice and accommodating.

    Chupacabra is also a great option, especially during the months when you can sit outside. The menu is simple and accessible and you can control what goes in the food for picky eaters.

    Tunnicliff’s has a great kids’ menu as well, and the staff is kind and respectful of children. Plenty of high chairs are available, too.

  5. Thanks Maria!! I will incorporate everyone’s comments into a new, complete list – hope to get it done soon. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Las Placitas because they actually like kids. They don’t just tolerate or condescend but consider them part of the family, which they are, of course. Mr. Henry’s used to have movies for tykes. Not sure now that mine are double digits. I don’t even know what a Lillebaby is. Does anyone remember Marty’s on 8th? It really catered to kids towing in their families on weekends before it disappeared. Place either vacant or is now Ambar.

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