From bulgogi to shiro wat, the D.C. area is home to a wide array of great ethnic eats. But if you’re having a difficult time getting kiddo to veer from nuggets and buttered noodles (#thestruggleisreal), keep reading. We’ve rounded up a list of yummy restaurants that work hard to redefine the traditional “kids menu,” while taking taste buds on a trip around the world.
They love spaghetti? Try authentic Japanese ramen.
They already love twirling their spaghetti and slurping it up so introduce them to their favorite noodle’s cousin. There are some great spots for authentic Japanese ramen in the DMV and one place to check out is Daikaya in Penn Quarter. Start them off with the milder shio (see salt) broth and add as many veggies and meats as you’d like. Your kid can opt for a simple soup or you can load up on the toppings. You can also order just a side order of noodles. Sit at the counter and watch the chefs dish up big bowls of soup.
705 6th St., NW (Penn Quarter)
They love rotisserie chicken? Try it Peruvian style.
This no-frills joint serves up some of the best Peruvian chicken in the region. The entire menu itself reads like a kids menu. You can get four things: chicken, fries, rice and coleslaw. The chicken is perfectly seasoned and juicy. See if your ketchup loving kids will try dipping their chicken and fries in the chile sauces (but be careful; the green one is hot-hot-hot.)
El Pollo Rico
Locations in Gaithersburg and Wheaton, Md, Arlington, Va, and Woodbridge, Va
To market, to market.
If you haven’t already brought the kids to Union Market, do it now. You will be in good company; there are always lots of families with small children out and about, sampling the artisanal menus. If the kids love Chipotle, check out a TaKorean taco or rice bowl. What do they think of the Korean slaw and sesame seeds? For dessert, you can enjoy a cone of fresh-from-the-farm ice cream from Trickling Springs Creamery.
1309 5th St., NE
Do they have fun saying, “Bulgogi”? Take them to try Korean barbecue.
Honey Pig Gooldaggee is loud and it’s crowded. Translation: the rambunctious set won’t be heard over the bustle, plus the loud Korean pop music playing in the restaurant. The menu features all manner of beef, pork, and poultry, as well as veggie and noodle dishes that are all prepared in front of you on the Korean grill.
Honey Pig Gooldaggee
Locations in Ellicott City, Md, Germantown, Md, Annandale, Va and Centreville, Va
Let them be a pint size expert in fusion cuisine.
You know you’ve been wanting to check out (or return to) China Chilcano, the Jose Andres restaurant that opened in Penn Quarter earlier this year. This is true fusion and the restaurant honors Chinese and Japanese influences on Peruvian cuisine. You do have to be careful when navigating the menu for kid-friendly dishes and might have to ask them to dial the spiciness down a notch. Try the Lucky 12 dim sum (a three tier tower the kids will love uncovering), the Chicharron sandwich with fried pork belly and sweet potato (ask for it without hot sauce), or the Tallarin Zhen dish with Hong Kong noodles, cilantro and a tomato stew (request it on the milder side).
418 7th St., NW (Penn Quarter)
Do they like to eat with their hands? Give Ethiopian a go.
Dama Market and Restaurant has been a family run business for six decades. Try the shiro wot (ground roasted split peas simmered in red pepper), a mild and flavorful dish that makes a perfect baby puree too! You and your kids can also share the awaze tibs (cubed beef cooked with onions, peppers, Ethiopian spices and awaze chile paste). If your kids get antsy, go take a walk to the adjoining market and check out the spices. Keep walking and you will reach the bakery and can pick out the dessert to share after supper.
Dama Market and Restaurant
1505 Columbia Pike (Arlington, Va)
They know whoopie pies. Now, introduce them to macarons.
Macarons are a perfect dessert for little hands. Spend an afternoon in Georgetown and bring your kids to the lovely Olivia Macaron, a French macaron shop named after the owner’s daughter. The proprietor’s daughter favors the rose flavor. A current featured flavor sure to appeal to your kids is the fruity pebble macaron.
3222 M St., NW (Georgetown)
They love chicken fingers? Try fish’n’chips.
Eamon’s in Old Town Alexandria is a great place to try authentic fish’n’chips made with fried cod. See what the littles think of dipping their fries in curry sauce.
Eamon’s A Dublin Chipper
728 King St. (Alexandria, Va)
Kids love dumplings. They just do.
Mark’s Duck House in Falls Church is a dim sum institution. The restaurant serves Hong Kong style Chinese, specializes in peking duck and serves an amazing variety of dim sum. Try to get there before 3 pm (that’s when the bustle of the dim sum carts whizzing back and forth stops ends). See if the kids like duck soup with wontons, shrimp and chive dumplings, pork shumai or the combo crispy noodles.
Mark’s Duck House
6184 Arlington Blvd. (Falls Church, Va)
Where does your family go to experiment with food? Dish in the comments section below.
–Monica Nelson (words and photos)