Joy by Seven Reasons Has a Very Fancy Children’s Menu—So We Enlisted Two Kids to Review It

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These are not your average chicken tenders.

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Our critic’s nephew and daughter dig into a bee-pollen-sprinkled sundae at Joy by Seven Reasons. Below, the kids’ menu’s very grown-up burger. Photograph by Evy Mages

Joy by Seven Reasons, the nearly six-month-old Chevy Chase spot from Seven Reasons/Imperfecto restaurateur Enrique Limardo, got lots of attention early on for its $65 short-rib sandwich. Yet something else caught my eye about the place, which bills itself as “sexy casual” but also aims to draw neighborhood families: its fancypants kids’ menu, with offerings like a $23 burger and $19 chicken tenders. (Prices have since softened.) I summoned a few critics-in-training for a weeknight dinner: my six-year-old daughter, Ava, and seven-year-old nephew, Henry.

The two couldn’t be more different eaters. If Ava had her way, she’d subsist on Annie’s four-cheese penne—but would ruthlessly dismiss a homemade version with Gruyère and bread crumbs. (Don’t get me started on the restaurant that inadvertently put special sauce on her burger.) Besides the usual kid aversions—green stuff, spicy stuff, different ingredients touching—she’s just not into trying new foods (yet).

Meanwhile, her cousin Henry packs sushi in his first-grade lunch box and requested a feast of mussels and clams for his most recent birthday. His afterschool snack of choice? It’s salad. Sigh.

“I’m already loving this place,” Henry proclaims as he settles into a roomy booth and checks out the svelte forks and knives. The candles that change color! The feathery chandeliers! The plants! So many plants. The kids are transfixed.

I rattle off the menu: Besides the burger and chicken tenders, there’s spaghetti with cream sauce and poutine-­style fries topped with eggs, cheddar, and chicken gravy. Burger and tenders it is, they decide.

Before we get to the kid stuff, we order a round of apps—warm vichyssoise with airy crackers, passionfruit-laced ceviche, and a dish called “Is it a potato salad?,” which looks like a whole baked potato but turns out to be a sculptural mix of feta, mustard, eggs, and steamed russets encased in a deep-fried potato skin.

“I call the first bite,” Henry says when the soup hits the table. No argument from Ava there. He eagerly spoons it up and gets her to dunk a cassava cracker into the bowl, swirled with colorful guajillo and rosemary oils. “It’s like dipping graham crackers in milk,” he coaxes. Miracles do happen! Ava winds up almost finishing the velvety blend of cauliflower, leeks, and potato. Meanwhile, Henry has polished off the ­ceviche and is lifting up the bowl to drink the tangy leche de tigre. He proclaims the potato dish “a 10-out-of-10 potato salad,” an assessment I pretty much agree with.

Then comes the kids’-menu fare. The chicken tenders, which now cost $13, are cut from an organic bird, brined for 12 hours, and coated in an extra-crunchy, gluten-free mix of cassava and rice. Blessedly, they look like something that might come out of the freezer, which means Ava will at least clear them for a first bite. She takes a nibble, then ignores them for the rest of the evening to focus on the side of fries. Henry appreciates that they’re hot when they hit the table, and says they’re as good as his Platonic-ideal chicken tender, which is served at Hershey Lodge in Pennsylvania.

Photograph by Jennifer Chase.

The burger, $14, is made from a blend of brisket and coulotte steak and arrives on a potato roll with smoked cheddar, housemade pickles, and Boston lettuce. This burger—the picky­eater’s menu fallback—is not built for picky eaters.

Henry takes a bite. He flops back into his seat. His eyes roll back. “It’s so good I forgot my name,” he says, which is his apparent cue that something is extra-amazing.

“It’s also kinda spicy. Squishy bun, very melted cheese, good lettuce . . . wait, I figured out the spice! It’s mustard.” I’m starting to watch my back for my job.

“What about the fries?” I ask. “Better than McDonald’s?”

Ava nods excitedly. Henry lowers the guillotine blade: “Oh, easy win for McDonald’s.”

Photograph by Maritza Rondón.

We cap off the kids’ dinner with a fantasy of desserts: chocolate-chip cookies with spiced milk, a boozeless piña colada riff, and a tall sundae of bright-purple ube soft-serve festooned with salted-peanut caramel, toffee, and bee pollen. “I get why they took so long,” Henry says. “Look at how fancy this is!”

Proof that sugar erases any inhibitions, Ava, a bug obsessive, is fixated on—and eating!—the bee pollen. She closes her eyes, Henry-style. “It’s good bee pollen,” she says softly.

5471 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase

This article appears in the March 2023 issue of Washingtonian.

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 Logan Circle.

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