Visiting Washington, D.C with the kids doesn’t mean you have to stick with chain restaurants or fast food. We discovered three dining options that appeal to adult taste buds while keeping their younger guests in mind.
Family Dining in D.C. The Helix Lounge
Located in midtown, The Helix hotel offers a fun, funky place to stay in Washington, D.C. and the bunk bed rooms make it perfect for families. Whether you’re staying at the Helix or at one of the surrounding hotels, the Helix Lounge during happy hour is a great spot to catch an early dinner with the kids. The couch seating and coloured lighting offers a hipper feel for a family dinner and the kids will love the Wii console set-up. Happy hour means the adults can enjoy a cocktail or beer at a special price or you can partake in a glass wine offered in the lobby. The cocktails are nice but I think the whole family would agree that the best feature of The Helix Lounge happy hour is their half price burgers, served with fries or onion rings. We were pleasantly surprised at the size of these and they were so tasty. If we were staying longer I would have enjoyed a happy hour burger at The Helix Lounge again. Looking for something sweet? You have to try the Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting from The Helix Lounge. Heavenly. Family Dining in D.C. The Firefly
Located near Dupont Circle and within walking distance from The Helix hotel where we were staying, we discovered The Firefly. The restaurant is busy and a little noisy but that’s perfect when dining out with kids. The small restaurant shares a dining and bar space with large firefly tree in the middle. The kids loved the large tree with lights and lanterns that greeted us in the center of the room. I would recommend making reservations to ensure you get a table and avoid waiting with hungry, fidgeting kids. We were seated at a great round table perfect for our family of five, but there was also a wall of tables that could have been pulled together to serve large families.
When you’re dining with kids in a restaurant, colouring books and crayons seem to be a mainstay offering from the staff. The Firefly approaches distracting the kids a little differently. When we arrived and placed our appetizer order, our server presented each of our three kids with a cookie decorating kit, consisting of a large unbaked cookie man and little cups full of sprinkles and chocolate chips. My kids were engaged with this decorating task almost until our starters arrived. Even my oldest daughter, who is past the colouring book stage, loved this idea. The cookies were baked while we ate our dinner and they were returned after dinner for the kids’ dessert. When it comes to their food and cocktails, I love Firefly’s philosophy of using local ingredients. A Kid-friendly staple of macaroni and cheese is made with real cheese and served along with a fresh salad and baby shrimp. This was one of the best kids meals I’ve seen in awhile and my youngest daughter agreed. If you like cheese, you have to try the Artisinal American Cheese platter. Served with a selection of 4 different American cheeses, along with bread and jam, my husband and oldest daughter ordered enjoyed this platter. There’s even a handy map so you can learn more about the different cheeses on the plate. What a great way to expose yourself and your kids to more than cheddar. My favourite starter at the Firefly has to be the Devils on Horseback, dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon. I could have eaten all three but I shared, reluctantly.
The Firefly offers a nice drink list for adults, including non-alcoholic cocktails too. Our server recommended the Tranquilo (herradura reposado, muddled mint, fresh squeezed grapfruti juice, lime and cointreau) and it was fabulous. I’m not a big cocktail drinker usually but this didn’t have any overpowering alchol taste. Perfect.For dinner my husband enjoyed the FireFly’s 1/2 lb Beef Burger and who could blame him when it came with VT cheddar, apple wood bacon, caramelized onions. Let’s not forget the beer battered pickle on top. That could only be topped with the restaurant’s classic Mini Pot Roast my daughter ordered.
Great service and atmosphere can go a long way in making your dining experience superb and The Firefly offers both. When we dine out, we love to encourage our kids to speak-up for themselves by asking questions and ordering their own food. Our serve, Adna, was great, talking to the kids directly and explaining their options. He was friendly, courteous, but more importantly, attentive. The restaurant was busy when we arrived and just got busier as the evening progressed but we were always made us feel as though we were his only table. Dining in D.C. The Founding Farmers
Another great family-friendly restaurant that takes food seriously is the Founding Farmers. Owned by a collective of American family farmers, Founding Farmers believes in supporting local farmers by sourcing all their items from them and making everything from scratch, including condiments and sauces. Located three blocks from the White House, the restaurant was a longer walk from our hotel, but the larger buildings throughout D.C. made it an interesting walk for the kids. This two-story restaurant seems to be popular so I would make reservations to ensure you get a table when you want one, important when dining with kids. We lucked out and were seated in a circular booth over looking the second floor. Our server, Heather, said it was the best seat in the restaurant and I would have to agree with her. We were sitting up with the clouds with a view of the city streets outside. The restaurant is rather noisy, which makes it perfect for family dining. My kids are usually well behaved when we dine out but the atmosphere within Founding Farmers lent itself beautifully to kids who might be a little noisy. Founding Farmers prides itself on using local ingredients, as well as making their own sauces and condiments. With my oldest daughter’s popcorn obsession, we had to try the restaurants popcorn of the day, a garlic butter concoction. The restaurant has a great list of cocktails as well as an extensive draft list – the only way to enjoy a beer, in my opinion. When feeling a little overwhelmed with the extensive list of cocktails, my server suggested the Organic Cucumber Delight made with organic vodka, cucumbers, and cantaloupe. It was perfect and right to my liking. My husband was in love with the variety of local microbrew beers offered. Founding Farmers does offer a selection of items for kids but our server said the kitchen was more than willing to make alterations based on our youngest child’s needs. This is a nice change from the commonly quoted ‘no substitutions’ often heard by parents trying to satisfy a picky eater. We were able to order a simple butter pasta for my daughter and she was thrilled. Our server knew the menu well and was able to answer any questions and offer suggestions based on our tastes. My oldest daughter was excited to see chicken and waffles on the menu and Founding Farmers didn’t disappoint.
My son ordered the trio of dogs, trying the Tomato Chow Chow (his new favourite), Balsamic Onion Bacon Dog, and a Shrimp roll. I loved they way his meal was presented, on a breadboard with his handmade chips served in a paper bag. My son loved sampling each dog and I loved sneaking his chips. When we eat out, my husband and I have our preferences for food; my husband is a burger guy and I love local seafood. Founding Farmers delivered both. The food was great, with something on the menu to please everyone in our family. I must admit, with the extensive menu offering I was pleasantly surprised at how good everything tasted.
Washington, D.C. has so much to offer families looking at a quick weekend getaway. A meal at the Helix Lounge, The Firefly or The Founding Farmers (or all three of them which is what we did) means you can also look forward to a great meal too.