You want to take your family out for a meal — and give yourself a break from the nonstop cooking — but dining indoors still doesn’t feel right. As the weather yo-yos between wintry flurries, springlike showers and summery warmth, alfresco dining can feel like a roll of the dice. Not to worry: These restaurants offer thoughtful outdoor setups — including chalets and igloos, heaters and firepits — along with fun dining options for kids. As you settle in for a much-deserved night out, winter won’t feel so long after all.
This vibrant Navy Yard eatery wants folks to feel like they’re thousands of miles away on an endless-summer isle. Reggae burbles out of the speakers on the heated patio, while Maydan alums Chris Morgan and Gerald Addison put out a Caribbean-minded menu. Sunny sups for youngsters include pimento fried chicken, macaroni pie and crispy conch fritters. Moms and dads can take the island vibes to another level with painkillers and margaritas or warm up with a gingery rum toddy, while the kids can run around on the waterfront boardwalk without disturbing anyone’s meal. 301 Water St. SE; 202-599-4400; bammysdc.com. Entrees $15-$22.
If you have a splurge-worthy occasion coming up — like a special birthday — consider one of the charming wooden chalets dotting the Four Seasons’ courtyard. Kids will love glamping in the heated micro-cabins, which are set up as a cozy lounge or a comfy dining room and hold two to six diners (rentals start at $200 with a $100 food and beverage minimum, and are available through mid-March). Each comes with a Bluetooth speaker, so you can set the soundtrack for your meal, and thick blankets to encourage snuggling. There’s plenty of comforting fare on the menu — from the trio of duck fat fries and truffled mac and cheese to the hefty steak burger and a showstopping s’mores-inspired dessert under a smoke-filled glass dome that’s whisked away tableside for oohs, aahs and Instagrams. 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-944-2026; bourbonsteakdc.com. Entrees $36-$148.
This brewpub on the edge of the Mosaic District in Fairfax is popular with pint lovers and the pint-size set. A large patio area is first come, first served, though tables, as well as a fire pit, can be reserved for a fee on Caboose’s website. Executive chef David Rabin turns out plenty of fare specifically aimed at kids — grilled cheese, chicken tenders, a burger — though more adventurous eaters may be drawn to avocado toast speckled with nori, cheese-drenched nachos and hummus perked up with harissa. When the temperature dips below 50 degrees it’s cause for celebration here, because happy hour specials and pricing go into effect in the outdoor area for Caboose’s “Crappy Hour.” 2918 Eskridge Rd., Fairfax, Va.; 703-663-8833; caboosebrewing.com/fairfax-va/. Kids’ menu $7-$9; entrees $10-$18.
It feels like spring is already here in this Penn Quarter restaurant’s garden terrace, home to a half-dozen private outdoor dining structures bedazzled with luxurious floral arrangements. (The holiday-themed arrangements will switch to spring florals in mid-March.) The all-day brasserie, kitty corner to the National Portrait Gallery, has a kids’ menu with the usual suspects: buttered pasta, grilled cheese, hamburger. But there’s plenty for more open-minded little eaters on the regular menu, such as butternut squash soup rich with coconut milk, roast chicken and an omelet oozing creamy Vache cheese. 900 F St. NW; 202-788-2800; riggsdc.com/bars-restaurants/cafe-riggs. Kids’ menu $9-$12; entrees $19-$34.
Cozy up under one of the umbrellaed patio tables alongside propane heaters at this memorable “fine-casual” Mexican restaurant in Takoma Park. The kids’ menu includes options for budding vegetarians, such as crispy-edged cheese quesadillas and cheesy enfrijoladas dressed up with black bean sauce and cashew cream, as well as meatier options. Zero-proof drink choices include tangy-sweet hibiscus agua Fresca and silky cinnamon-laced horchata, so little ones will feel just as sophisticated as the adults who are knocking back jalapeno-basil margaritas. 7056 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park, Md.; 301-755-0833; cielo-rojo.com. Kids’ menu $8-$12; entrees $12.75-$20.
This Del Rey garden-center-turned-beer-garden stays in bloom all winter long. The gigantic sunken firepit and heated igloos ensure families (and their dogs) can gather despite snow, sleet or rain. Make sure to get there early, because it’s first come, first seated, and folks love to hang out. The menu is packed with shareable crowd pleasers from chef Justus Frank — from pepperoni dotted pizza sticks and cheeseburger sliders to ice cream sandwiches and salty-sweet peanut butter squares. While parents can choose from more than a dozen brews on tap and hot spiced cider, kids can feel all grown up by ordering a nonalcoholic cranberry accented Moscow Mule.
1503 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Va.; 571-970-2791; thegardendelray.com. Kids’ chicken nuggets $7; entrees $10-$14.
With a stellar view of the hustle and bustle of the Wharf, the new American restaurant offers both a patio that can enclose in inclement weather and a fully outdoor patio bolstered with heaters. The Grill’s substantial kids menu includes barbecued pork ribs, fish and chips, skirt steak with fries, buttered pasta and more, each served with a drink and dessert. For those who want their littles getting bigger helpings of vegetables at mealtime, there are lots of plant-forward side dishes to supplement, such as pesto sauced green beans, grilled sweet potatoes and creamed spinach.
99 Market Square SW; 202-916-5996; thegrilldc.com. Kids’ menu $10-$14; entrees $21-$67.
There’s something for everyone at this Capitol Hill food hall — and you don’t need to go inside to access it all. Stay outside on the heated, pet-friendly patio and use your phone to order from the vendors: orange soda braised carnitas tacos by Hi/Fi and pizza-as-you-like-it courtesy of Slice Joint, or Yoko & Kota’s dumplings and decadent sundaes by State Fair. Shelter is home to a thoughtfully curated beer list, alongside strong selections of natural wines and low ABV cocktails, while Cameo offers all the caffeination parents might need, as well as tasty little treats for everyone. 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; theroostsedc.com. Prices vary by vendor.
This is a slice of Switzerland on H Street NE. Families can cuddle up on the patio, where each table comes with a heater and Swiss military blankets for extra warmth. To maximize the Alpine vibes, order the kid-friendly raclette experience at brunch or dinner (4-12 guests; reservations required). Switzerland’s iconic cheese is melted tableside, then used to smother baby potatoes and pickles. If you go for dinner or brunch, the fondue feast — a bubbling pot of cheese accompanied by bread, potatoes, and pickles — is available without a reservation (two guest minimum). 1324 H St. NE; 202-733-4604; stabledc.com. Raclette experience $35 per person; fondue $27-$30 per person.
Punctuated by a picturesque gazebo and a charming bridge, the rolling lawn at this recently opened beer garden — taking over the historic Mrs. K’s Tollhouse — offers a pair of outdoor dining options. Through the website, guests can reserve an open-air firepit for 2-12 people or a table for 2-8 diners on the uncovered patio with propane heaters. Chef Katie Juban offers up lots of dishes with kid-appeal: grilled cheese, chicken fingers, pasta marinara, and mac and cheese (all served with fruit or fries). Finish your visit with a DIY s’mores kit that will delight the young and the young at heart. 9201 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring, Md.; 301-704-6653; eatzinnia.com. Kids’ menu $10; entrees $15-$40.