We parents really don’t want to cook, and we really don’t want to go to McDonald’s for Happy Meals again. But the thought of going to a nicer place that serves food that little ones are likely to consume can be scary. One way to make it a little less painful is to choose something yummy and cheap. The D.C. area is full of places with options for all sorts of pint-size palates, and our list contains no kids’ meals costing more than $9 – some options are even free.

Photo: Francisco Becerro via flickr

One-offs

Old Ebbitt Grill
This one is the priciest on the list, but the history of the place earned it a spot here. Established in 1856, this eatery was a fave of presidents Cleveland, Grant, Harding and Theodore Roosevelt. Children’s entrees come with milk, fruit juice or soft drink, plus a choice of fries, tater tots, fruit, salad, organic applesauce or veggies followed by seasonal potato ice cream, sorbet or fruit. Main courses include old standbys like chicken tenders or PB&J, and some choices for more refined palates such as salmon teriyaki and sautéed Maine cod.

Cost: $9
Where: 675 15th St., NW
When: Any time
Online: ebbitt.com

Pinstripes
The kids’ menu is available all the time, with each meal costing $9. But kids eat for half-price on Sundays after 5 p.m. with the purchase of an adult entrée, which run $13 for a salad to $32 for the Filet Mignon Trio. Kids can choose from mini cheeseburgers, buttered noodles, pizza and grilled or crispy chicken tenders along with sides, parmesan bread, dessert and a drink. On Sundays, kids 5 and under can have the brunch buffet for free (it’s $15 for 6- to 12-year-olds), and it features a special just-for-kids table with mac and cheese, fries, and eggs, plus a sweet table with a chocolate fountain. By the way, this place also offers bowling and bocce so burn off some calories with a game. Note: A location is opening in Bethesda on Aug. 5.

Cost: $4.50 – $9
Where: 1064 Wisconsin Ave., NW
When: Any time, but eats eat for half-price on Sundays after 5 p.m.
Online: pinstripes.com

The Chain Gang

Silver Diner
With options such as gluten-free quinoa coconut pancakes, grilled nitrate-free all-beef hot dogs, teriyaki sustainable fresh salmon and sliders made from grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef, turkey or bison, it’s almost hard to believe the menu is from a diner. Until you see the 3-D old-fashioned truck each kid gets and the mini jukeboxes on the tables. And did we mention that every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. is Kids’ Night with entertainers and activities? There’s also the Kids’ Club for kids 12 and younger that comes with perks such as a free kid-size shake with dinner on Kids’ Night and a free meal on your birthday.

Cost: $4.99 – $6.49
Where: 10 area locations
When: Any time
Online: silverdiner.com

Ted’s Bulletin
While grown-ups scarf down comfort food such as grilled cheese with tomato soup and slurp spiked milkshakes, kiddos can enjoy breakfast any time of the day with Mr. Breakfast, a huge pancake with fruit and bacon, or they can balance their own milkshake with Mr. Healthy Habbits: fresh fruit, hummus and carrots. If those don’t do the trick, Ted’s also has kid favorites such as PB&J, grilled cheese and macaroni.

Cost: $5.99
Where: 10 area locations
When: Any time
Online: tedsbulletin.com

Freebies

Brookland Pint
At this craft beer-, sustainability-focused restaurant, kids eat free all day Tuesdays, and entrees are dusually $8. They include hot dogs, cheese quesadillas and barbecue pulled pork sliders, served with a choice of fries, sweet potatoes, fruit, mac and cheese, or veggies.

Where: 716 Monroe Street, NE
When: Tuesdays
Online: brooklandpint.com

Pizzeria Orso
Every Tuesday, children ages 10 and younger get a free item from the kid’s menu for each traditional or house specialty pizza ordered. The pizzas cost $9 for a cheeseless marinara to $16 for the Orso, which has mozzarella, pecorino tuscano, fontina, grana, ricotta, garlic and prosciutto. Children’s dishes usually cost $5 to $9 for things like spaghetti and meatballs, fried mozzarella and pizza (duh).

Where: 400 South Maple Ave., Falls Church City
When: Tuesdays
Online: pizzeriaorso.com

Whitlow’s on Wilson
Part bar, part dance club, part Sunday brunch spot, Whitlow’s offers one child 10 or younger a free meal with the purchase of an adult meal Tuesdays through Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m.

Where: 2854 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
When: Tuesdays
Online: brooklandpint.com

Gusto’s Italian Grill
For every pizza or salad purchase on Mondays, children 12 and under get a free kids’ salad or pizza with apple juice or organic milk. Regular-price salads and pizzas are $8.95 for grown-ups. The idea is farm-to-table freshness with the speed and customization of Chipotle and Cava Grill.

Where: 4733 Elm St., Bethesda, Md; 8512 Fenton St., Silver Spring, Md
When: Mondays
Online: eatgusto.com

Where do you go for kid-friendly, cheap eats? Tell us in the comments in below. 

–Stephanie Kanowitz