Summertime and the living easy….or hard, depending on your tolerance for heat! If you love the fresh outdoors and are looking to soak up the sun while you dine, the DMV has loads of outdoor dining options for your fam. From pizza to pastelitos, below are some of the funnest and yummiest places to dine al fresco.
The Walrus Oyster and Ale House
The next best thing to dining beach side is dining along the promenade of National Harbor. There is a distinct boardwalk like feel at dusk, when the ferris wheel begins to glow. The Walrus Oyster and Ale House’s outdoor patio area has a great view of the Potomac with a casual, “eastern shore” seafood menu. After dinner, catch an outdoor movie on the artificial turf near the beach (movies viewed from May through September).
152 Waterfront St. (Oxon Hill, Md)
Shoe’s Cups & Cork
The “Secret Garden,” tucked behind this Leesburg cafe and coffee house, is the perfect hideaway on a sunny day. There is a turf bocce court in the back, and plenty of board games — like Bananagrams — in the main restaurant to keep everyone entertained (you are welcome to bring them to the back patio to enjoy). The restaurant has weekly events to entertain little ones, like Morning Music and Magic every Monday (from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.).
17 North King St. (Leesburg, Va)
Vola’s Dockside Grill
Located on the Waterfront in Old Town (just steps away from the Torpedo Factory Art Center), Vola’s offers seating next to the marina slips. Little ones will enjoy watching the boats come and go, seeing the airplanes make their decent into Reagan National, and watching the strolling musicians, magicians and other performers who delight locals and tourists alike. The menu features seafood, but you’ll also find simple, kid-friendly fare like chicken and burgers.
101 N Union St. (Alexandria, Va)
You’ll find this cafe nestled beside a reflecting pool in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden. It’s a scenic spot to stop and enjoy a meal while visiting the Smithsonian Museums. During summer months (May through August), the grounds host a free live jazz concert every Friday evening. You do not need to purchase food on premise to enjoy this scenic spot; outside food is welcome.
7th Street and Constitution Ave.
Hen Penny, a quick-service Southern food restaurant , offers outdoor tables facing Reston Town Center’s Pavilion. In addition to some fried-up chicken favorites, this restaurant serves fried Twinkies, too (yum!). It’s a great place to grab a bite during one of the Pavilion’s summer concert shows or a post-show nosh on Mondays, when the town hosts tot-friendly free performances from 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
1820 Discovery St. (Reston, Va)
For the nights that you want a grown up meal, but the sitter is not available, head to Praline, a Bethesda neighborhood favorite. This French eatery’s has a pleasant, second floor patio to enjoy lunch, dinner or a snack. While the restaurant does have a children’s menu, we suggest letting your littles sample the crepes (a crowd favorite).
4611 Sangamore Rd. (Bethesda, Md)
A nearly 30 year old staple in the Cathedral Heights neighborhood, Cactus Cantina is a fun, charming, casual, family-friendly restaurant serving delicious Mexican, Cuban, and Spanish dishes. It’s large (can seat up to 300 guests) and truly looks like an authentic Tex-Mex cantina. Their outdoor patio is the perfect place for your kids to nosh on chips while you sip on a frozen margarita! Before you leave, make a pit stop inside so the kids can check out the tortilla maker.
3300 Wisconsin Ave., NW (Cathedral Heights)
Amalfi Ristorante Italiano
Little foodies can dine in the fresh air on Homemade Tortoni Amalfi (imagine crispy caramel over cold ice cream) after they’ve finished nibbling on White Fontina Cheese Pizza. While outside taking in the fabulous weather, Mom and Dad can pretend they’re lounging next to the Mediterranean as they sip Amalfi’s famous Limoncello Martini, and mangia on Crispy Cannelloni or Soft Shell Crabs. Don’t be surprised when free almond cookies come out at the end of your meal.
12307 Wilkins Ave. (Rockville, Md)
Millie’s Spring Valley
Things have definitely livened up in the Spring Valley/AU Park area of D.C.! Recently opened, Millie’s, is the second of its name; the original is in Nantucket, Mass. Their namesake, “Madaket Millie,” is a Nantucket legend who grew up on the island and volunteered for the Coast Guard. Millie’s is the ideal addition to this family filled neighborhood which also houses the American University Law School across the street. The restaurant pays homage to the stress-free, beachy Nantucket vibe and their menu is fresh California baja-style. There’s plenty of room on the patio and, after dinner, kids will LOVE going to the ice cream window and getting their fave Gifford’s flavor with fun toppings.
4866 Massachusetts Ave., NW (AU)
Pizzeria da Marco
Pizza is the best outdoor summer food! Pizzeria da Marco, in Bethesda, offers true Neapolitan pizza and, at the center of the restaurant, you can find a 4,500-pound hand-crafted brick oven shipped straight from Naples! Bonus for parents of fidgety kids: the super oven cooks pizzas in a minute or less. Pizzeria da Marco’s has a large outdoor patio area and the menu is classic Italian also offering pizza alternatives like various mozzarellas and salads. And, hello, kids get free gelato! Major bonus!
8008 Woodmont Ave. (Bethesda, Md)
They had us at Cuban and Cascades! Walk into Colada Shop’s Sterling location (in the Cascades Overlook development), and your kids will love the colorful Cuba-inspired murals and bright tiles. Cuban pastries, Cuban coffee, sandwiches, and Cuban delicacies like pastelitos, croquetas and tortilla are on the menu here. The patio is large and there’s even a walk-up counter where you can order your meal from the outside. Be forewarned, there are a number of fountains and splash pads the kids will want to jump in so take a change of clothes!
21430 Epicerie Plz. (Sterling, Va)
Mike’s Crab House
Is there anything more summery than crabs by the Bay?! Established in 1958, Mike’s Crab House brings you a family friendly, mouth-watering waterfront dining experience on the banks of the beautiful South River. Getting there by boat? No problem, Mike’s even has free boat dockage. Mike’s is as casual as it gets with paper-covered tables and shakers of Old Bay. Dine outside, and enjoy the mild Maryland summer evenings.
3030 Riva Road (Riva, Md)
Photo: Joe Flood via Flickr
Appease the whole family’s appetite for indie bites at the continuously expanding Union Market, where you can stroll the 100 (and counting) stalls of this hip food-lovers haven. After purchasing your empanadas, gelato, or lox bagel sandwich, dodge the crowds by scooting outdoors with the kids. There are picnic tables scattered outside (and a few cornhole stations!), or you can find a mural wall nearby to lean against while lunching.
1309 5th St., NE. (Union Market)
Los Tios Grill
Del Ray families flock to Los Tios for the scrumptious fajitas, gigantic margaritas, and uber fun atmosphere. In the summer, the patio is filled with little ones chowing down on chips and salsa, imbibing in icy fresh lemonade and high-fiving the owner German. Show up on Friday or Saturday night, and you’ll lose the kids to the Mariachi band, balloon animal lady, or the Latin guitar player. Bright, colorful umbrellas shield little ones from the squelching D.C. sun during the day, while the playground across the street is a great way to burn off some energy after the niños pequeños have scarfed down their delicious Tres Leches dessert.
2615 Mount Vernon Ave. (Alexandria, Va)
For those little darlings who absolutely must get up at the crack of dawn, break out of the “I’m pretending I’m asleep, so you’ll leave me alone” rut, and head over to Open City’s patio (they open at 6 am!) where bright-eyed youngsters can nosh on fluffy French toast or the old staple of cheesy eggs while the sun rises over Woodley Park. If you need to burn off those snore inducing calories then hoof it up Connecticut Avenue to the National Zoo and check out the animals eating their breakfasts.
2331 Calvert St., NW (Woodley Park)
Dancing toddlers will love getting their groove on at Wolf Trap where kid favorites The Fresh Beat Band, Beauty and the Beast (the musical), The Pop Ups and Dane Zane are all slated to rock out this summer. Bring a picnic brunch, lunch, or dinner and make it a true “grown up” experience for your pint-sized music fans. Where else—but D.C.—can a little one dine under the stars, while taking in a performance at America’s National Park for the Performing Arts?
1645 Trap Rd. (Vienna, Va)
Good Stuff Eatery
Burger-loving, milkshake-drinking, hipsters-in-the-making kids will heart Good Stuff Eatery. After loading up on the Prez Obama burger (bacons, onions, cheese, horseradish), Sunny’s Handcut Fries, and a Toasted Marshmallow shake, grab a seat outside and start people watching. The activity on Pennsylvania Avenue will have your future politician practicing her campaign smile, while you contemplate enrolling her in private debate lessons. They have those right?
303 Pennsylvania Ave., SE (Capitol Hill)
Where is your favorite place to nosh with the kiddos outdoors? Tell us in the comments section below.
—Meghan Meyers, Guiomar Ochoa and Hilary Riedemann