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Child-Friendly Restaurants


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Good morning!

Can you help me solve this dining puzzle? Family coming in from Texas for 3 nights, staying at the Willard. Pieces of the puzzle are as follows:

60-something aunt, 40-something cousins, two kids (9 and 7)
Traditional eaters - not particularly into ethnic, unless you count French and Italian as ethnic!
Favorite restaurants include La Grenouille (NY), Galatoire's (NO), Charleston (Bmore)
Price no object

They are doing the standard sight-seeing during the day, and the kids are used to eating late. They are GENERALLY very well-behaved, but I don't want to take them anywhere where the mere sight of kids in the dining room will make people shudder. I was thinking of recommending 2 Amys one night as a more casual (but delicious) stop; the other two nights I'd like to go more upscale. I'm very tempted by Cafe du Parc, especially considering its location!

I don't usually travel with kids - I doubt that, say, Bardeo would welcome this group! - so all suggestions/advice welcome. Thank you!

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I was struck by the fact that on my past two most recent visits to Mendocino (if Georgetown is in the sightseeing plan) there were parties including young children, and I didn't hear any squeals of discontent from the young'uns. Or on Capitol Hill there's Sonoma which has the advantage of the larger communal tables to accomodate a big group.

Edited to add: Best to make reservations though.

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I'm sure any of the bistros in town -- from Parc to Du Coin -- would work well. Buck's Fishing and Camping seems to draw a lot of families. Lavandou, which gets mixed reviews but has always done well by me -- is kid-friendly. I don't see six and seven as aggressively young, and suspect that any of the nicer restaurants in town would be happy top welcome them, particularly if a) get a relaitvely early rezzie and ;) don't lock the family into a 7-course tasting menu. Also, even if they're kids, make 'em put on something nice; sending a signal that you're serious about dining never hurts.

Another thought -- think of hotel restaurants, which likely get kids more often than Bardeo :blink: . Firefly, Circle Bistro, Cordouroy, Citronelle...

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Cafe du Parc, Central, and Le Halles (sit outside) would be fine choices - Central would definitely require a reservation. For pizza, 2 Amy's is good, but Matchbox and Ella's would be more convenient to the the Mall, Spy Museum, etc. If it's for dinner Comet Ping-Pong is fun but a bit out of your way.

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PS: Having been the parent of small children, I am mystified by the logic of taking kids to a place because it is "kid friendly", when it has a 45-to-90 minute wait for a table. Seems self-defeating. Which is to say, you may want to hit 2 Amy's at an off-hour if you go there at all. (Although, is the second room open? Are waits shorter?)

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PS: Having been the parent of small children, I am mystified by the logic of taking kids to a place because it is "kid friendly", when it has a 45-to-90 minute wait for a table. Seems self-defeating.
Good point although the OP said that the kids are used to eating late. The only time we've been to 2 Amy's is right at 5 PM, because even a 15 minute wait with my kids is too long.
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I'll take you at your word that the kids are used to eating late and are generally well behaved. That said, there is no restaurant in this town where the restaurant will shudder at seeing well behaved children. The DC area has the largest proportion of two working professional couples in the country. As such, they are used to eating out and taking their kids with them (my son has been eating in nice restaurants since he was a year old and is now in college).

For places that are good bets as you describe, try Dino (Italian) where the appetizers and meals come quickly (and a great wine list for you two), Dish, Firefly, or Two Amys. I'd also try any of the new Bistros (Parc, Central, etc.) or Neyla. You might even try LIMA for a Latin/Fusion meal that might be fun.

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My kids love the decor at Firefly - and the terrace provides a good tantrum exit strategy. Poste does a good job of taking care of kids (i.e. bowls of fresh strawberries and quick service.) and again, the hotel lobby = good exit strategy. Although not much of a food destination, it doesn't get more kid-friendly than the American City Diner in Chevy Chase. They have a juke-box and a train that travels through the dining room. Maybe just for breakfast . . .

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Our daughter is over a year old now, and we have been taking her to restaurants since she was about 2 weeks old. She is well-behaved and enjoys the "people-watching". However, we wind up going to the same places over and over, sometimes out of convenience, but often because we are unsure whether a restaurant is kid-appropriate. Do they have high chairs? Do restrooms have changing tables? Given that there are so many members that have infants/toddlers, I thought it might be good to start a thread where we can share recommendations on restaurants that are infant/toddler friendly, especially places that you wouldn't normally think of as infant/toddler friendly. Below are a few places where we have had success.

Brasserie Beck - we have only gone to their Sunday brunch. The waiters were really friendly to our little one. I think they have high chairs (we brought one with us). They have changing tables in the restrooms.

Ray's The Steaks / Hellburger - Staff is always friendly. They have high chairs but do not have changing tables in the restrooms.

Foster's Grille (Vienna location) - Very kid-friendly. Have changing tables, high chairs, and even have high chair slings for infant car seats.

Sakana Sushi (Vienna) - staff is extremely kid-friendly. They have high chairs but do not have changing tables in the restrooms.

American Flatbread - They have high chairs and have changing tables (but not in the mens room).

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2 Amys is baby/kid central anytime before 6pm (afterwards they are welcome, just less common due to the hour). The staff is very friendly and gives kids cups with tops and straws for easy kid access. They do have highchairs, but unsure about changing tables. I don't think I've seen them in the men's room, but I wasn't really looking (no baby myself just yet).

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The lack of baby-friendly dining downtown has put a big cramp in our style. But, we have found a few places (both in and around town).

Beck - It does have high chairs, and it has changing tables in both restrooms (although they are really high - but I'm not complaining, it's just odd). Extremely baby-friendly, so much so that it is difficult to go many other places. Especially because the beer helps the parenting.

Hell Burger - As mentioned above, it has high chairs, but no changing tables. Very baby friendly.

Taqueria Poblano - High chairs, no changing tables, lots of babies. They are so wonderful to babies here. I love taking her there!

Eamonn's - It has high chairs, but I don't believe it has changing tables. Tons of babies, but the seating actually makes it quite difficult with the babies as the chairs don't fit well with the picnic tables.

Pete's Apizza - Fold-out high chairs that attach to the chairs. They seem to work pretty well. I don't recall any changing tables.

Nando's - High chairs and changing tables. Just be careful because babies don't seem to like the hot sauce too much.

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2 Amys is baby/kid central anytime before 6pm (afterwards they are welcome, just less common due to the hour). The staff is very friendly and gives kids cups with tops and straws for easy kid access. They do have highchairs, but unsure about changing tables. I don't think I've seen them in the men's room, but I wasn't really looking (no baby myself just yet).

Don't laugh, but if 2 Amys is full, Cactus Cantina is very kid-friendly also - plus they have that mesmerizing tortilla machine and also Native American costumes made with real porcupine quills.

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Dino - High Chair & changing table. Lots of families.

Hook - High Chair.* Not a real baby-friendly place, but they were super nice and played with gebaby A LOT. But this was before Barton & Josh left, as it was them (and other front & kitchen staff) who talked to/entertained gebaby a bit.

Natalia's Creations (FC bakery but can get some food) - High Chairs. Baby-friendly. Changing table.

Pho Hot - High Chair*, family-friendly.

Four Sisters - High Chair*, family-friendly.

ETA: A&J's Rockville didn't have a high chair last time I went. I can't remember the reason.

Agree with V.H. that most Asian places welcome babies:

Yuan Fu (Rockville)* - High Chair, baby-friendly, played with gebaby.

Oriental Gourmet (Arlington Lee-Harrison) - High Chair, baby-friendly.

Sunflower (7 corners) - High Chair, changing table, but not-so baby-friendly. Got some looks when gebaby was fussy last time.

Tachibana (McLean)* - High Chair, not-so baby-friendly. See Sunflower.

*Places I can't remember if there are changing tables or not.

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Dino - High Chair & changing table. Lots of families.

Hook - High Chair.* Not a real baby-friendly place, but they were super nice and played with gebaby A LOT. But this was before Barton & Josh left, as it was them who talked to gebaby a bit.

Natalia's Creations (FC bakery but can get some food) - High Chairs. Baby-friendly. Changing table.

Pho Hot - High Chair*, family-friendly.

Four Sisters - High Chair*, family-friendly.

*Places I can't remember if there are changing tables or not.

We've taken our 5 month old to a few places.

Sweetwater Tavern is one of our standdby's If he has a meltdown it tends to be so loud there he doesn't bother other people. Not sure about the changing tables. Last time we were there the boy had a category 4 explosion. There were no changing tables in either bathroom although they may have been in the handicaped stalls which were occupado.

Matsu Sushi in Centreville is very friendly to infants. They've talked to him every time we are there.

A & J is friendly as well. haven't had to change him there either.

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Jaleo, downtown, highchairs, no changing table. Very baby friendly

RTC--highchairs, no changing table. Very baby friendly.

Not sure if Corduroy has highchairs at the new location. The old one did.

Central--no high chairs or changing tables but super baby friendly. I've done lunch in the lounge with BLBaby in the stroller.

Proof--baby friendly in discussions I've had about taking him but we ended up going alone.

Bobby's Crabcakes--highchairs, never needed to change a diaper there so I don't know about the changing table. Very baby friendly.

I actually can't remember taking him somewhere locally where he wasn't greeted warmly. Hell at Palena, I get a lot of crap for NOT bringing him around.

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Kotobuki-no high chairs or changing tables but very family friendly. A bowl of rice and a few slices of egg omelet, and a bowl of edamame was our go to toddler meal. Added bonus is that you can generally be in and out in under an hour.

Pietanza-This place is almost too kid friendly in that the noise levels at dinner time can approach jet engine level decibels but it's good pizza and they have a great kids menu, high chairs, and infant seat slings.

Liberty Tavern-Awesome kids menu. Look no further if you've been lamenting the lack of places that offer fruit or veggies with a kids meal. Included in the kids meal is two scoops of the housemade ice creams and sorbets.

Pretty much any Asian place.

When in doubt about high chairs, one of these is pretty handy to leave in the car just in case you need it.

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Ah, I remember when we could go to a restaurant with our son. Now that he's two, three things must be true in order to make a place sufficiently kid-friendly: (i) it must be very friendly, (ii) it must be quick, and (iii) it must be our home.

We stopped taking Charlie out at about 19 months, because he started to throw food. We thought he had stopped, so we tried again a few weeks ago. No dice.

Our next experiment is Woodlands, by far our favorite Indian restaurant, and a buffet to boot. In and out, nobody gets hurt. We used to go there every weekend with him, so hopefully he'll have fond memories (that don't involve throwing food).

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I don't think I've ever taken my kids to a restaurant that didn't have a high chair.

I always assume that if a restaurant doesn't have a high chair available at all, they probably don't want babies there. And, it certainly isn't baby-friendly. I was shocked that Kotobuki doesn't have one. But then again, the reception that our baby received was not so very friendly either. We managed as we were already there, but I will not return with the baby.

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Bethesda's Rio Grand Cafe was overrun with kids a few Friday's back, at 5:30 PM. It almost seemed to be a requirement that each table have at least one <6 year old. High chairs were available; I think the women's room had a changing table. If you are looking for a place to take a potentially crying or noisy child, this is it.

We've had nice brunches at Black Market Bistro in Garrett Park. Seating is tight, but they have high chairs. And neighboring diners are always a good distraction for the toddlers (or is that the other way around?).

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I second 2 Amys and Cactus Cantina.

For my wife and me, it has more to do with where we'll feel most, um... 'comfortable' when our boys unexpectedly (but assuredly) switch from good diners to toddlers. I like those two places because they are full of other kids, have a pretty high noise level (which is a good thing,) the food comes out fast, and it is easy for the kids to eat.

Potomac Pizza is also pretty good for kids...

Rio Grande (or Uncle Julios) in Bethesda (also mentioned earlier) is legendary in how many kids they can accommodate; that place turns into a stroller parking lot.

Most restaurants have high-chairs/boosters (mine do) and all seem accommodating, but I see the threshold as; the children should be able to stay seated and not disturb other guests, an accomplishment which my boys are nowhere near achieving. If I can't relax and enjoy my food, drink, service, and ambiance... it isn't worth my time or money.

Let's just say we frequent 2 Amys and Cactus Cantina a lot these days...

Long live 'date night.'

Jared Rager - Owner

Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar | sonomadc.com

Redwood Restaurant and Bar | redwoodbethesda.com

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Don't laugh, but if 2 Amys is full, Cactus Cantina is very kid-friendly also - plus they have that mesmerizing tortilla machine and also Native American costumes made with real porcupine quills.
I was going to post about this but if you DON'T like dining around young kids DO NOT go to Cactus Cantina at 6pm on a Sunday night. Last Sunday, it was truly a scene out of Romper Room. Kids running rampant, volume level off the charts. I had my almost 3-year old in tow, so it was fine by me!

I agree with most of the posts in this thread and should add Cafe Deluxe as very family friendly. Crayons and high chairs. Also, the loud atmosphere drowns out any kiddie noise.

And any of the Clyde's too.

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Oriental Gourmet (Arlington Lee-Harrison) - High Chair, baby-friendly.

Tachibana (McLean)* - High Chair, not-so baby-friendly. See Sunflower.

Yes, Lee-Harrison is like a mecca of kid friendly dining.

Surprised by your Tachibana comments, we've been there several times with no issues and the kids menu sushi options are great. One other place not yet mentioned is Harry's Tap Room. We go there for brunch a lot and for a little while were regular attendees of the burgers and bottles nights. Lots of families and a solid kids menu with crayons

Depending upon the reader, my comments may need to be taken with a grain of salt as I don't expect or need much from a place to be kid friendly. We usually bring our own seat top high chair and utensils and often don't even bother to order off the (generally subpar and unimaginative) kid's menu. I look it as an opportunity to try an extra appetizer and the toddler just shares with us, that's what she wants anyways. Obviously no fine dining, multi course, or clearly unsuitable places but if we get there early and be prepared, most of the places I would want to go to are very doable. Lastly, since it has come up before, Thirsty Bernie's was great to me and the toddler one weekday evening but that's more of a daddy's babysitting night place.

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Definitely 2 Amy's. Always welcoming and usually very fast. Our baby has eaten a lot of meals here, in utero and out.

New Heights was really nice to us when we made reservations and told them we'd have an infant and asked to be seated in a more private/quiet/out of the way place to not disturb other diners and to breastfeed inconspicuously if necessary.

Buzz Bakery - not a full-service restaurant but a great place for coffee and breakfast with the bambino. they have some comfy couches, toys, real chocolate milk. changing table in bathrooms.

IKEA College Park - the clean bright and airy cafeteria is adjacent to the kids' toys/furniture section, with cool high chairs, a kids' pen in the cafeteria for kids to watch dvds, family restrooms with changing table and a chair for breastfeeding. one saturday they had face painting and a balloon artist for the kids. we love this place, even the food (swedish meatballs, gravlax, smorrebord, cinnamon rolls, apple cake, chocolate torte, lingonberry juice) . husband thinks it's just clever marketing to a new generation of consumers but i say hurray for the swedes!

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Actually, I think you will find that most restaurants in DC are somewhat kid friendly as long as you are reasonable. Since this area has the highest level of two working professional couples in the country, and they are used to taking their kids out to eat, most restaurants will try to accommodate a child. That said, I wouldn't take a toddler to a really fancy place, and when I did take my son with us (he is in college now however) we usually went earlier than we do now. I'd look for Chinese restaurants (they usually love kids) and places that are not frequented by the business crowd.

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Actually, I think you will find that most restaurants in DC are somewhat kid friendly as long as you are reasonable. Since this area has the highest level of two working professional couples in the country, and they are used to taking their kids out to eat, most restaurants will try to accommodate a child. That said, I wouldn't take a toddler to a really fancy place, and when I did take my son with us (he is in college now however) we usually went earlier than we do now. I'd look for Chinese restaurants (they usually love kids) and places that are not frequented by the business crowd.

I see Dinwiddie's suggestion on Chinese and raise him almost any serious ethnic-run restaurant. I still recall the late, great, Katmandu restaurant -- the waitresses would take our son and play with him while we ate. And -- though it may be changing now because its more mainstream -- bringing our kids into an Ethiopian joint always won the hearts of servers and owners.

Beware, though. Not sure if my experience was typical, but a one-year-old is in many ways much easier to deal with in a restaurant than they will be for the next six or seven years. They get pickier and more rambunctious.

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Well, I can certainly add Rustico to this list, as um, they were really nice to put up with two pre-nap, cranky babies. Gebaby and gf's baby weren't cooperating, but the staff was super nice and tolerant of us at 11:45am. *sigh* Definitely count high chairs and boosters to the inventory.

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Any of the family run Korean place in Annandale is very kid friendly. The Korean ladies working there love babies.

Personally, I have lots of restaurants that I want to try, but are currently off limit to me since the boy has develop a penchant to screech even when he's happy. :rolleyes:

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This is one -- happily, not in the DC area -- that certainly does not!

Kids Not Welcome

hehehe -

I'd say that place was kid friendly. The precious note at the end was provided for free - which is a decent deal, even in euros!

For my money, I found my babies and young toddlers were generally OK most anywhere - if they acted up, we could contain/remove them pretty easily. The issues start in the mid-twos, where they start to become independent (ie, no high chair). And most nice places aren't fertile grounds for expressions of freedom by toddlers - no matter how nice they are about it - it just isn't fair to anyone.

Our strategy has been to find places with the following features:

1. Fast. Time is the enemy, especially when hungry.

2. Some kind of distraction to kill time, like crayons.

3. Simple foods such as fries, mac and cheese, etc.

4. Autonomy for us is a plus, like seating ourselves, getting our own drinks, etc.

5. A generally high noise level and casual feel.

We'll take a high mark in most any category - so for instance, a really high noise level can mitigate other factors.

Some places we like:

- Noodles and Co.

- Japanese Steakhouses (although I'm usually not a big fan of the food)

- Chinese places

- Pizza places

- diners

My wife and I went to Black's kitchen once and loved it. We took our kids there the second time and while the food was just as good, the experience was not - I was too tense from the kids to really enjoy. The staff was kind and there were no issues, but I still was in constant "don't do that...sit still!" mode.

So to me, if I feel like I might wear a tie to the place, I also leave the kids with a sitter.

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Most restaurants in Arlington, even on the Orange Line, are pretty good, even some you would not necessarily expect (like Eventide and Liberty Tavern). Boulevard Woodgrill, Mexicali Blues, Rio Grande and PFC are all good bets, plus all the places in North Arlington of course.

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Have been traveling with a two-year-old this week, whose patience typically lasts about 15 minutes at the dining table. It's not exactly my idea of a good time, but it is possible, with a bit of a strain.

2 amy's worked out great, the best of the places we have visited so far. When you walk in the door, you can direct your toddler's attention to the oven and the fire inside. This is almost as exciting as riding on the metro. Ours knew what pizza and ice cream are, so actually was able to key in on the food, and he was astute at assessing that even his disproportionately large voice box was probably too weak to penetrate far above the noise level at this restaurant (although that didn't stop him from shouting at a nearby toddler to "sit down" when he was trying to climb out of his highchair.) He also liked the muscles on a stick, which were removed for him first.

Surfside -- where informality rules -- was another success. Chips and dips kept him busy until we were well into our blackened fish tacos and ceviche. The tacos were loaded up and the best we have ever had here over several visits. There can be a bit of inconsistency when it comes to the cooking, but usually within a good range. I only recently tried the quesadillas, which were okay.

Toscana café -- despite the picnic tables -- turned out to be the diciest bet for a toddler so far, although there are three or four concrete stairs with a railing leading down to the patio where those who are done can content themselves with scaling them up and down, as long as they are accompanied by a steadying hand, and despite the fact that there were at least two mothers marching or carrying their toddlers in circles around the restaurant's exterior. Our toddler was finished almost from the start. Too bad we hadn't been able to get him to take a nap after a four-hour trudge along the towpath and the b section of the billygoat trail, with lots of pick-me-ups. We crossed paths with several creatures, but he was out for the most intriguing -- a slow and defenseless mole cowering along a fallen log that put me in the mood for a good piece of soft, pudgy meat. I have never seen a mole on a menu and wonder what a good chef would do with one. anyway, bread and olive oil and whipped potatoes from an unconventional saltinbocca dish were the only things on the table that calmed him down, temporarily. I suppose I still believe what I have read about this being a good lunch spot, but the food ingredients at dinner seemed to be badly out of proportion. There's an overabundance of sauce for the relatively scant amount of pasta and cheese served in the lasagna. The veal seemed to be okay, tending toward underseasoning, but it was covered up with sliced porcini. Though well cooked, without a trace of grit, they reminded me of a flurry of dead autumn leaves falling all over the plate, brown on brown in the evening light, and annoying to have to chomp through. A thick slice of prosciutto was the only sharp flavor in a recipe that was otherwise bland. A peach-flavored vinaigrette provided a change of pace on the salads, the Toscana a refreshing mix of arugula, fennel and oranges. Roasted baby peppers, on the other hand -- overstuffed with goat cheese filling, accompanied by similar dressed greens and sitting in mashed fig and hazelnut -- became cloying long before they were finished. Two would have been more than enough, three were served. the caprese turns favorable attention to good buffalo mozzarella, but the dish is shortchanged by slices of unripe cellophane tomatoes no better than what can be purchased at the grocery store. A pitcher of sangria was icy cold but diluted and tasteless. you can’t complain about the prices or hefty portions here, and I can see how this could be a reliably safe destination for toddlers who are well rested. However, the service is short, so don’t expect to be able to make a quick retreat when there is a toddler meltdown.

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Are there any places people would add to those noted above? At this time, with our infant, I'd really be interested in kid-friendly places with changing tables in the bathrooms.

thanks!

Dan

We've taken our toddler several times to Open City in Woodley Park with good success. The waits aren't always great, but they have highchairs, crayons, loud noise and changing tables (although the bathroom is down a flight of steps but easily manageable). Also, went to Parkway Deli with her recently - highchairs, crayons, loud, deli - didn't check if there are changing tables though and bathrooms are small. I've never been to Dino with my kid, but I know lots of people do it and Dean, the owner, actively encourages kids and has a good kids menu - again not sure about the changing tables.

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We've taken our toddler several times to Open City in Woodley Park with good success. The waits aren't always great, but they have highchairs, crayons, loud noise and changing tables (although the bathroom is down a flight of steps but easily manageable). Also, went to Parkway Deli with her recently - highchairs, crayons, loud, deli - didn't check if there are changing tables though and bathrooms are small. I've never been to Dino with my kid, but I know lots of people do it and Dean, the owner, actively encourages kids and has a good kids menu - again not sure about the changing tables.

I think there is a changing table in the downstairs bathroom. Dino is definitely incredibly child friendly. The best part is watching Dean freak out as the kid gets older. Blpreschooler is now ordering for himself.

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It appears that the focus on finding restaurants with changing tables in the bathroom suggests that folks get it, but just in case you think this is the first time this issue has gotten any attention here at DR, I'll post this link:

http://donrockwell.com/index.php?showtopic=8340&st=0&p=102246entry102246

The second to last post has some good advice....

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