Everyone loves those five words, “Let’s go out to eat!” It means no dishes to wash and everyone gets to pick exactly what they want to eat. What if you’re tired of the same old standbys, though? These themed restaurants take dining out to the next level to make meal time memorable.

photo: American Girl Washington DC via Yelp

American Girl Bistro

If your mini-me loves her mini-me (aka Truly Me), they’ll love the American Girl Bistro. Located on the second level of the American Girl store, the bistro offers a food selection that includes gluten-free options and should please even picky eaters. If your doll-lover doesn’t own an American Girl doll or forgot it at home, they’ll even give you a loaner doll to sit with you while you dine. Themed details are everywhere, including doll holders in all the restrooms (both men’s and women’s)! You can really knock your kiddo’s socks off by making a day of this one. Shop for a doll, have lunch in the bistro, then hit up the doll salon for some more fun. Planning to make a reservation? Triple-check it before you make it, as they don’t offer refunds.

8090 Tysons Corner Center
McLean, VA
Online: www.americangirl.com

photo: Medieval Times via Yelp

Medieval Times Baltimore Castle

Lords and Ladies, you don’t need a formal invitation to enjoy a royal dinner with the Queen. Simply buy your tickets to the Medieval Times Baltimore Castle and enjoy dinner and a show! Dinner is only one part of the magic here. Kids will love that they can set aside table manners for the night as they dig into this hands-only menu. If your littles are known for being raucous and loud at mealtime, Medieval Times is the place to be. They’ll be encouraged to cheer loudly and often for their knight, and everyone else will be just as noisy as they are! As you feast, you’ll watch knights battle both on horseback and on foot. They all want to be the Queen’s champion, but who will win? Though the battles are lively, they aren’t scary, making this venue suitable for even the littlest of royal guests.  Considering the front-row VIP experience? If you or your kids are sensitive to sights or smells, keep in mind the horses are living animals and are not potty-trained.

7000 Arundel Mills Cir.
Hanover, MD
Online: www.medievaltimes.com

photo: Sandra W. via Yelp

The Conche

This worth-the-drive restaurant made our list for one very good reason: chocolate! The Conche, named for the 19th century invention that revolutionized the chocolate blending process, is unique in that they infuse cocoa ingredients into everything on the menu. From drinks to salads, to entrees and desserts, it’s a chocolate lover’s dream come true. Not only is chocolate featured in every dish, it’s also made in-house! Kids and adults alike will love the great views of the meal-prep area where they can watch these cocoa-creations come to life. When you’re finished with dinner, be sure to check out the nearby candy emporium Rocket Fizz for some more sweet treats.

1605 Village Market Blvd. SE
Leesburg, VA
Online: www.the-conche.com

photo: John H. via Yelp

Hard Rock Café

Whether you’re on a mission to visit every Hard Rock Café there is, or this is your first visit, this Hard Rock Café is a family-friendly pit stop for some good ol’ American classics in both food and music. The music is a great combo of oldies through more recent hard rock and hip-hop, making this a great way to introduce your youngsters to songs they won’t find on Disney music playlists. HRC is located within a super-short walk of Ford’s Theater and Madame Tussauds, and a slightly longer walk to other National Mall attractions. As a result, it can be a bit touristy sometimes, but it’s also a great place to eat before or after spending an afternoon or evening playing tourist in your own town. Don’t miss “The Embassy of Rock” photo op upstairs. Make a note that the bathroom is in the basement  – so if a little one suddenly expresses interest in visiting it, don’t delay!

999 E St. NW
Federal Triangle
Online: www.hardrockcafe.com

photo: Declaration Pizza Nats Park via Yelp

Declaration Pizza

Don’t forget to put your John Hancock on the receipt when you pay your bill at this pizza place that pays tribute to our founding fathers. From themed pies to images of the founding fathers’ faces burned into the wood of some tables, Declaration Pizza offers a historic pizza experience in two locations. The Shaw location offers a modern yet industrial interior with an accent wall created with 17,500 nickels. Do keep in mind that this location offers limited parking, so you might want to think about using a ride service or Metro. Close to the U Street Music Hall, The Howard Theater and Lincoln Theater, it’s perfectly placed to stop in for a slice before or after a performance.

The Navy Yard location is within throwing distance of Nats Park, as well as the Navy Yard metro station. It’s perfect for stopping for a quick dinner before or after a game. They’ve got a large indoor seating area as well as a nice outdoor patio perfect for people-watching on a nice afternoon or evening. It does get super busy on game days, so make sure you come early if you plan on catching a game post-slice.

804 V. St. NW

1237 First St. SE
Navy Yard
Online: www.declarationrestaurant.com

photo: Shauna S. via Yelp

Lincoln Restaurant

Looking for a delicious and simple meal after a monument or memorial drive? Try Lincoln Restaurant. While there is no dedicated kids’ menu, there are definitely kid-friendly options including burgers and gourmet grilled cheese, though the smallest kids may struggle to find plain options here. The biggest hits with kids are the mac & cheese and the cowboy fries that come with three dipping sauces (they also come in a sweet potato version). Don’t forget to save room for something from the simple yet delicious dessert menu. Make sure you pay attention to where you walk. The floor beneath your feet is rich – with pennies, that is.  Encourage the kids to entertain themselves by counting the pennies or by looking for unique dates. There are monument prints on all the walls for an experience that’s really steeped in history. Cross your fingers that you score the big white chair – it’s amazing!

1110 Vermont Ave. NW
Online: www.lincolnrestaurant-dc.com

photo: Madhatter


If you’ve got a die-hard Alice in Wonderland fan in the house, you won’t want to miss the Madhatter restaurant. With prints of scenes from the famous tale, and even an upside-down dining room, this is a great place for a Wonderland lunch date. You could even dress up your little one in an Alice dress or Mad Hatter costume! Though there is no dedicated kid’s menu, your kid will feel like they’ve slipped down the rabbit-hole as they nibble on chicken tenders or a quesadilla from the apps menu, or a made-to-order burger or fish ‘n chips from the entrees. Madhatter is best done as a lunch date with your kiddo, as it becomes a straight-up bar once happy hour starts (around 4 p.m.).

1319 Connecticut Ave. NW
Dupont Circle
Online: www.madhatterdc.com

—Wendy Miller



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