You’ve driven by it a million times and thought, what is that place? Why are there so many cars parked there? I wonder if the food’s good? It’s a familiar drill, the place that looks like a dive but really has the kind of cuisine that makes your taste buds soar. You say you’ll check it out sometime, but you never do because what if the food’s not good or it’s not fit for families? Well, we’ve done the work for you and found some of the best kid-friendly dives in town. Here are five dining spots that might not look like much, but the kitchen holds a world of flavor, and they love it when you bring your kids!

Photo: Donburi

Donburi
Good things come in small packages and if you blink you might miss this teeny tiny Japanese gem with just 14 stools around an open kitchen. But you don’t want to miss it, especially if your kids have jumped aboard the Japanese-lovin’ food train. The menu features a handful of delicious donburi rice bowls with savory toppings that are big enough for two, seriously cheap, and terrifically tasty. Think ramen noodles, but way more fresh and flavorful.

2438 18th St. NW
202-629-1047
Online: facebook.com/pg/donburidc

Duke’s Counter
It might be small and look like a pub, but Duke’s menu is big on flavor and fond of kids. Conveniently located directly across the street from the National Zoo, you can combine pandas and pancakes to make it a one big happy day. This sister restaurant to Duke’s Grocery in Dupont has the unique feel of a classic greasy spoon, mixed with a sleek, avant-garde café. The menu, which changes daily, is just as unique with everything from simple burgers and BLTs to the fancier marinated pork loin, avocado toast and quinoa salad. There’s also a daily kid-friendly menu, with choices such as mac and cheese, fish and chips, grilled cheese, burgers, and our favorite: the Nutella Press, which features bananas, toasted marshmallows and Nutella on a multigrain bun. Yum! And if you need to sip a chardonnay or chianti after trekking through the zoo all day, there’s plenty of that too.

3000 Connecticut Ave., NW Suite J (Woodley Park)
202-733-4808
Online: dukescounter.com

Shouk
You might be inclined to dismiss this place as kid-unfriendly because it’s strictly vegan, but trust us, you won’t long for the meat or the dairy. This fast-casual joint located in Mt. Vernon Triangle is a quick walk from kid favorites like the Building Museum and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Choose from delicious pitas such as black beans with sweet potato, red pepper, tomato, arugula and spicy harissa; or fennel with potato, red pepper and pistachio pesto. There’s even a breakfast pita stuffed with a veggie omelet, chopped salad and crushed avocado. There’s also plenty of fancy salads to choose from, such as the Shouk salad with roasted veggies, pistachios and tahini vinaigrette, or you can keep things simple with the Shouk burger or a pizza pita. Whatever you choose, it’s all 100% plant-based and whatever-your-diet-is friendly.

655 K St., NW
202-652-1464
Online: https://shouk.com/

Bub and Pops
An appearance on the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives should clue you in that Bub and Pops is DC’s best-loved dive eatery where celebrity chef Jon Taub and his sidekick Arlene Wagner turn delicious food into fun dining with a comforting, no-nonsense style. The daily menu features soups, salads, and mouthwatering sandwiches, such as slow braised beef brisket with gouda and veal jus, or a 4-cheese hoagie with aged provolone, gouda, Bulgarian feta, and pecorino romano. The beef or chicken cheese steaks are guaranteed kid-pleasers. Don’t forget to order some of the house-made pickles.

1815 M St., NW
202-457-1111
Online: bubandpops.com

Sloppy Mama’s Barbeque
Many barbeque hounds say you simply can’t find good barbeque in D.C., but Sloppy Mama’s, the newest stall to join D.C’s Union Market, might prove them wrong. Born from a popular local food truck, and the secret behind the barbeque at Solly’s Pub on U Street, Sloppy Mama’s at Union Market keeps it simple with sandwiches and platters of mouthwatering brisket, pulled pork, or ribs, and an array of savory sides – baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad and pickles. You’re in luck if you prefer barbeque sauce with a kick, but kids want something tangy and sweet, because there are four house-made sauces to choose from, including a spicy cherry cola sauce called Cherry Bomb. A perfect choice for the kids is the grilled pimento cheese sandwich with added pork or brisket.

1309 5th St. NE
Phone: 703-581-8177
Online: sloppymamas.com

Do you know of any other great dive restaurants that kids love? Dish in the comments below. 

-Jamy Bond