Where to Dine Out With Kids
These restaurants have patios, room to move, fun handouts and menus that cater to both adults and the younger set.
Going out with kids is complicated enough—finding dishes for picky eaters, hoping they will sit still long enough to finish their food and not terrorize other tables, praying you can relax for five minutes. Add Covid angst to the equation and it’s no wonder many families are just staying home. But if you’re itching to go out with the kiddos in tow, know that you’ve got options. These restaurants are going out of their way to create a welcoming, inclusive and safe dining environment for families, with outdoor dining and child-pleasing choices.
Both Arlington locations of the Neapolitan pizzeria have patio space that’s been expanded for year-round dining. The original location in Arlington’s Bluemont neighborhood is the larger of the two, with plenty of room for small bodies to get the wiggles out and not disturb others (too much). The kids’ menu includes favorites like pasta with meatballs and a special dessert pizza with Nutella and apples. Another kid pleaser is the panzarotti—potato croquettes stuffed with ham and mozzarella. Now in major expansion mode, Pupatella plans to open a West Springfield location this year. // 5104 Wilson Blvd. (Bluemont) and 1621 S. Walter Reed Drive (Columbia Heights) and 1621 S. Walter Reed Drive (Columbia Heights), Arlington
Need a vacation? This beachy chain will at least make you feel like you’ve escaped to Baja. Both area locations offer customizable kids meals, patios and (for littles who like to play grown-up) a spirits-free mojito—as well as fully-leaded cocktails for the over-21 set. Diners can order digitally to speed up food service and pair their mains with a number of healthy kids’ sides, including fresh corn, avocado, cucumbers and fruit skewers. Kids will get a kick out of having their tacos, quesadillas, chips and not-spicy guacamole served on a metal lunch tray, along with a coloring book and crayons. //4238 Wilson Blvd. (Ballston), Arlington, and 2920 District Ave. (Mosaic), Fairfax
Chef-owner David Guas has made significant changes to his Courthouse restaurant and bakery amid the pandemic. In addition to introducing touch-free ordering technology and mechanical improvements to increase air flow indoors, he launched a family meal program, Chefs Feeding Families, in partnership with Real Food for Kids, a charitable initiative (which Guas co-founded), that has served 180,000 meals to food insecure families since Covid began. The New Orleans native and father to two has always aimed to make dining out fun for kids. The house grilled cheese, turkey melt and hot dogs are crowd pleasers, and the warm, powdered-sugar-laced beignets are a must. A small patio offers outdoor tables and plenty of people watching in this busy neighborhood. //1515 N. Courthouse Road (Courthouse), Arlington
Owners Joe and Mandy Neuman had family in mind when they opened Sloppy Mama’s in 2014. (With the arrival of their third child earlier this year, they are now a family of five.) Though the restaurant’s seated video game machines have been phased out (they were constantly breaking and thus a source of frustration), there is still a TV for distraction if you choose to eat at one of the large, indoor tables. Alternately, you can order carry-out or scope out a spot on the homey parking lot patio—a popular pandemic addition. The menu includes build-your-own family meal option, such as make-your-own brisket sandwiches or generous combinations of meats and sides that feed a hungry group, in some cases, for days. The Neuman kids can personally vouch for the mac ‘n’ cheese, pork, brisket and buttery cornbread, as well as the homemade banana pudding and mud pie. Follow their lead. //5731 Lee Highway (Langston Blvd.), Arlington
This convivial eatery in Seven Corners reopened its Halal buffet to the delight of its regulars earlier this year. The expansive and colorful spread costs less than $11 for kids, and plates can be brought onto the large, covered back patio. Families can also select from several kids’ meals, including the popular kufta kabob with thick-cut fries. Owner Khalid Mekki knows the way to kids’ hearts. Little diners here are set up with crayons and coloring sheets, and Mekki offers (with parents’ permission) a cup of gummy candies as an after-dinner treat. Grown-ups can feast on succulent lamb, rice dishes, grape leaves, falafel and an incredible array of baked goods, including sweet, cheesy kunafa and crunchy baklava. //6304 Leesburg Pike (Seven Corners) Falls Church
A carved-wood bear greets customers at the host stand of this 11-year-old casual Italian eatery, where youngsters can nibble on fried pizza dough while coloring on the paper kids’ menu. The restaurant’s outdoor dining patio—which is adjacent to a larger shared patio for the office building that houses Orso—also has plenty of room to move around. If you’re seated inside, the constant action at the wood-fired oven provides a free show, and the dining room continues to operate at limited capacity to allow social distancing. Kids give a thumbs-up to menu choices such as spaghetti with meatballs and orecchiette “mac” and cheese. Check tomorrow night’s dinner off your list by ordering a pizza kit to-go, complete with dough, fresh basil, San Marzano tomato sauce and two types of cheese. Look for a new fall menu later in September. //400 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church City
Silver Diner has long offered a kids’ dining program for guests under 12, featuring prizes, birthday surprises and free meals made with healthy ingredients (the chicken pot pie and gluten-free quinoa coconut pancakes are fan favorites). During the pandemic, the D.C.-based chainlet introduced tented outdoor seating at its Arlington, Merrifield and Tysons locations, and it continues to offer contact-free carryout and delivery. Silver Diner has also invested heavily in indoor air quality, adding hospital-grade air filtration systems to all of its locations, and Plexiglass dividers between tables—an extra reassurance if your kids insist on commandeering the music choices at the tabletop jukeboxes at the inside booths. A new Ballston location is expected to open in summer 2022. //3200 Wilson Blvd. (Clarendon), Arlington; 8101 Fletcher St., McLean; 8150 Porter Road (Merrifield), Falls Church
Everyone wants something different? We know how that goes. Happily, this sprawling food hall offers more than a dozen dining options (all from local or regional chefs and food businesses), from fast-casual Indian and fresh-shucked oysters to wood-fired pizza and 12 types of pierogi. Families will find plenty of hand sanitizing stations, touchless doors, hospital-quality air filters and spaced seating inside, as well as room to spread out with your meal on the outside plaza, which is covered in artificial turf. With so many food stalls, one person can go for arepas while another can order up a hot chicken sandwich, and everyone can save room for a Nutella s’more doughnut or a peanut-butter-chocolate milkshake for dessert. //4238 Wilson Blvd. (Ballston), Arlington
Families have been the backbone of Clare & Don’s clientele ever since the beach shack-themed restaurant moved to Falls Church City 15 years ago. David Tax, who owns and operates the restaurant with his sister Rebecca, knows that if the kids are comfortable, the parents will be, too. Children are currently restricted from inside dining, but the expansive patio set-up offers ample, covered space to move, as well live music during prime, early dining hours. (Diners are also sometimes well within earshot of concerts held next door in The State Theatre parking lot.) Corndogs are a go-to favorite for young eaters, as are the burrito bowls. (The secret appeal? House beans cooked with fried onions.) Look for family-style meals like pot pie and pot roast to make a comeback this winter. The restaurant’s tented patio is now a year-round feature, with side flaps to be added as the weather cools. //130 N. Washington St., Falls Church City
When the name of your restaurant includes the word “doughnuts” it’s hard not to be a family favorite. Kids here will enjoy slathering peanut butter and jelly on honey English muffins and snacking on fresh apple slices with house caramel sauce (just a few of the options on the exhaustive menu, which also includes breakfast all day and savory options like lobster rolls and brisket). The cafe also offers a special decorating kit for kids to customize their own doughnut treats. But there are also other reasons to love this family-owned Ballston eatery. Good Company leaned into its support for families during Covid with a special lunch program, launched in March 2020 and still ongoing, that offers free weekday lunches to school-age kids in need. Order online ahead of time to skip the line on weekend mornings, and grab a seat on the skinny sidewalk patio overlooking Ballston’s main drag. //672 N. Glebe Road (Ballston), Arlington
Dogwood offers not one but three outside dining areas, including sidewalk seating out front, as well as a covered patio and rooftop bar in back. Classic kids’ meals like chicken fingers and pasta with marinara sauce—cheekily renamed “I’m Not Hungry” and “I Don’t Want That”—are served with a drink, fries and carrot sticks for $7. The carryout menu occasionally includes family meals, too, such as large format fried chicken or braised pork shank. Keep an eye out for holiday-themes dishes, drinks and decorations in the months ahead, including some fun ones for Halloween. //132 W. Broad St., Falls Church City