The following first appeared in Washingtonian’s weekly food newsletter. Not subscribed? Sign up for free here.
Fresh back from maternity leave, I’m still trying to figure out how to get enough sleep, what to do about getting a stroller up and down two flights of stairs, and of course, where I can eat out with my three-month-old daughter. Before she was born, I was out for dinner at least three times per week, and sometimes as many as seven while scouting for our 100 Very Best Restaurants issue. Dining out is not just a big part of my job, but my life, and since having a baby, I’ve been determined not to suddenly become a homebody.
Needless to say, though, things are definitely different. A Koala Kare changing table in the restroom has become just as critical a decent cocktail menu. I have an even greater appreciation for patient service and a quick check. And the deafening dining room chatter that used to annoy me is now a relief because it conveniently masks the cries of an occasional meltdown (and somehow lulls my daughter to sleep). During my parental leave, I also rediscovered the wonderful world of the leisurely weekday lunch (or as leisurely as it can get with a tiny dining companion who will probably spit up on my shirt). So I thought I’d share five favorites that are particularly great with a baby, but also if you just like lunch.
43 N St., NW
This modern Tex-Mex newcomer is a fun destination for avocado margaritas and gochujang-marinated steak fajitas at night. But during the day, it’s a low-key cafe focused on coffee and breakfast tacos (get the brisket and egg)—both ideal baby-caring fuel. The small collection of toys near the entrance immediately signal kids are welcome. And for small babies, there’s ample room to squeeze a car seat into one of the booths.
3715 Macomb St., NW
Nothing feels more like self-care than a midday visit to this pizza hotspot with its accommodating staff, relaxed vibe, and delightful anchovies. Tuesday through Friday, the restaurant is open all day beginning at 11 AM, which means it was never too late for lunch when I didn’t get my act together until 3 PM. I’m always a fan of the specials, but my go-to on the regular menu is the “Calabrese” pie because, again, anchovies. (Babies don’t mind anchovy breath, as it turns out.)
3221 Mount Pleasant St., NW
This esteemed bakery-cafe-restaurant is a bit of a madhouse on the weekends, but totally chill if you’re craving a gourmet grilled cheese during weekday lunch. I became so obsessed with Elle’s farro-kale salad with vadouvan yogurt and plumped golden raisins, I tried (not very successfully) to replicate it home. Bonus: Elle also has an excellent diaper changing situation where you can roll the entire stroller right into the unisex single-stall restroom (and the soap smells nice).
1309 5th St., NE
Let’s face it, this is basically Baby Mecca. The place has more strollers than a Buy Buy Baby, so you never have to worry about being the only person trying to balance a dosa and a diaper bag. (Strength in numbers!) Whether you’re craving a cheesesteak from Philly Wing Fry or pesto gnocchi from Cucina Al Volo, you can chow down without the stress of chasing down a check. Or for moms like me who really missed oysters for nine months, consider this your friendly reminder that Rappahannock Oyster Bar offers a happy hour with $1.50 oysters and $1 clams from 3 to 6 PM on weekdays.
1801 14th St., NW
OK, technically this one isn’t open for weekday lunch except on Fridays (at 1 PM). And yes, I realize we are now reaching the end of beer garden season. Still, beer gardens are great for babies, and this is one of my personal favorites. I love the giant pretzels and pulled pork sandwiches and onion rings and steins of Hofbrau and orange wine…so basically everything. Everyone is just more friendly when you’re outside sharing a picnic table, especially to babies.