Food Critic’s Picks: Mother’s Day Brunch 2024

Where to go for an unfussy celebratory feast.

Ellie Bird's kimchi Bloody Mary. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

This Mother’s Day, I’m looking to brunch somewhere that’s relaxed but that still feels a little special. I have a seven year-old, so we’re out of the toddler phase where you could virtually hear the tick-tick-tick at every meal. Still, my daughter isn’t yet old enough to sit through say, a $135  four course prix fixe (I’m generally not a fan of holiday set menus anyway). If you’re looking for something similar, here’s where I’d go:


4316 Markham St., Annandale; 1319 Rockville Pike, Rockville

These zero-frills, no-reservations, no-carts dim sum houses put out terrific Northern Chinese daytime feasts. The noodles, dumplings, and buns are top-notch, and everything is so affordable you can order with abandon.  

Alfredo at Caruso’s Grocery. Photo by Stacey Windsor.

Caruso’s Grocery 

11820 Trade St., North Bethesda

The newer Pike & Rose location of this Italian American hotspot has a couple advantages over the Capitol Hill original—it’s bigger, so it’s easier to get a table, and it serves a stellar brunch. Graze on chicken parm sliders with vodka sauce, a vibrant Greek salad, eggs Florentine on garlic bread, and the chicken tenders from the kids menu. Or just call it a day with a big plate of Alfredo. 


801 O St., NW

Cedric Maupillier’s low-key Shaw bistro is one of DC’s top French restaurants. Looking for an ace baguette? You’ll find that here. Fabulous cinnamon buns, too. On the savory side, go for a long, slender slab of quiche, the juicy cheeseburger, or the cassoulet, which will likely double as your late-night leftovers snack. 

El Presidente’s nacho platter comes with a single layer of chips so every bite is fully loaded. Photograph by Birch Thomas.

El Presidente

1255 Union St., NE

There’s French toast, a breakfast burrito, and huevos rancheros on the menu at Stephen Starr’s Mexico City-inspired dining room near Union Market, but I tend to go here when I’m in a lunchier mood. On my can’t miss list: the tuna tostada with salsa macha, the fried cod tacos, the sheet pan nachos, and—coincidentally—the Picante Mami cocktail, with chili vodka and charred shishitos. 

Ellie Bird

125 Founders Ave., Falls Church 

Is there a better way to celebrate parenthood than a cocktail named for the Kids’ Choice Awards? The concoction, is yes, slime green, but it’s also a very tasty, very punchy mix of coconut, pandan, mango, and gin. Food-wise, Yuan Tang, also of Rooster & Owl, oversees a kitchen that puts out a lovely pastry array, a pho-like onion soup, and a dramatically presented tornado omelet, hiding a mound of kimchi fried rice. 


8045 Leesburg Pike, Vienna

The swank Persian dining room in Tysons does it up on the weekends. There are mimosa towers. There are tons of all-you-can-eat ($45 per person) or a la carte choices (from doughnuts to omelets to kebabs). And on Mother’s Day, there’s a raffle for a home dinner for six cooked by chef Chris Morgan.

Brunch, Presidents' Day
Pearl Dive dishes up its catfish po’ boy for brunch. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

1612 14th St., NW

Jeff Black’s folksy 14th Street hangout has long been one of my weekend go-tos. I could basically make a morning out of oysters and bloodies here, but there are more substantial pleasures, too: a Louisiana-inflected Benedict with crawfish and Tasso ham, tasty fried catfish po’boys, and excellent clam chowder. 

Petite Cerise

1027 Seventh St., NW

The sunny French restaurant in Shaw comes from the Dabney team, and it does mornings right (perhaps you’ve seen their grid-worthy rolled croissants. which are takeout-only). Settle in for  beignets with foie gras or buckwheat crepes with burnt honey, apples, and mascarpone. And I say it’s never too early for the onion soup here. 

Pair pizza with beer at Pizzeria Paradiso's winterfest. Photograph by Juliana Molina, courtesy of Paradiso
A pie at Pizzeria Paradiso. Photograph by Juliana Molina, courtesy of the restaurant.

Pizzeria Paradiso

4800 Rhode Island Ave., Hyattsville; 4850 Massachusetts Ave., NW

If you’ve got younger kids to entertain, the Hyattsville and Spring Valley locations of this long-running Neapolitan pizza place are holding a “Mother’s Day Funday,” with happy hour beer prices, kid’s art and play areas, and free pizzas for the littles. In Spring Valley, head over to Millie’s ice cream stand and finish with a shake or cone. 


1190 New Hampshire Ave., NW

Looking for a scene without sticky fingers? Only eight year-olds and up are allowed at the Ashok Bajaj’s beloved Indian institution in the West End. There’s an a la carte menu with delightful coconut/jaggery pancakes and staples like lobster with Bengali curry, but also a special $60 three-courser with an intriguing-sounding purple-potato dosa. 

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.