Look, I get it.
There are lots of folks who think that children and restaurants don’t mix, outside a Mickey D’s. They picture snot-nosed screamers throwing food and breaking dishes and whatnot. Sure, there are demon children who do that, and honestly, ALL children have done ALL of those things at one time or another. It’s just that hopefully, they do it in the privacy of their parents’ homes. But I digress. I happen to be in the possession of a pair of two-year-old twin toddlers, as well as the strong desire to eat out at relatively delicious places. I also happen to refuse to eat any more bullshit food just because a place has been labeled “kid-friendly,” either by itself or the general public. So it’s particularly important to me that my food babies attend meals out along with me and my Food Bastard Husband (AKA FBH). This also accomplishes two other goals: 1) we get to train them to behave properly at all sorts of dining establishments, as well as 2) expose their tiny little palates to many types of foods and avoid Obnoxious Picky Eater Syndrome (totally made up name). With that in mind, and because lots of people take their kids to shit places because they don’t know any better (sorry, but it’s true), I present the Top 20 Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Dallas According to Foodbitch:
THE FOODBABIES’ FAVES
Mostly because they can eat their weights in green chile mac and cheese and brisket, but also because a fast-moving line, lots of hustle and bustle to look at, sweet bus boys, plenty of high chairs and a ‘mo-messy-mo-better’ attitude keeps us all fat and happy.
French Toast and tons of cute old folks… what more can a couple of twin toddlers want? Plus, Mom and Dad can get their fill of bagels with lox and/or the #1 deli sandwich (turkey and pastrami on rye). Oh, and bottomless pickles.
Incredible, award-winning pizza that’s practically in our backyard? Yes please. The twins have been eating this stuff since they’ve been eating. Despite the fountain controversy (parents: control your kids, and haters: control yourselves), this spot is always packed with families.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER
This East Dallas gem is always packed with families enjoying gringo-style tacos, quesadillas and frozen margaritas. Personally, I’m a fan of the 2-taco combo with a Lester and a brisket taco. The kiddos eat a chicken quesadilla, half my brisket along with plenty of beans and rice. Pretty much perfect.
Ask for the kids menu, which offers cheap kid-sized bites and a fried PBJ item that you might want to steal. Plus, they also have margaritas.
Tex-Mex is generally kid-friendly, so pick a spot you love and feast. We are fond of this East Dallas resto that claims to have invented the frozen marg and has a bunch of old fashioned, coin-operated ride-on horses out front. Oh, plus a giant stuffed bear. Tons of fun.
PUT AN EGG ON IT
One Arts Plaza is a bit of an odd space to bring your kids, unless they go to school at Booker T. or you’re taking them to a musical or something. But, we bring ours to Yolk because they effing love that place. A huge menu is not usually something I tend to gravitate toward, but I let it slide at Yolk, where the service is good and the quality of the food is solid. P.S.: Smoked salmon eggs benny.
This greasy spoon is 50% old folks, 50% cops, and 100% old school. But one mention of its name, and East Dallassites whisper “beer biscuits.” There’s a good reason. If your kids get cranky, you can have a beer biscuit in their mouths in less than 10 seconds. Amazing.
Bottomless coffee, open 24 hours. These are things you only thought you needed in college, but until you’re a sleep-deprived new parent, you don’t even have a CLUE as to what “tired” means. So when someone will serve you banana pancakes any time and doesn’t care what you look like, that’s a win-win.
C’MON GET HEALTHY
A former food truck turned permanent restaurant inside Northpark Mall, Green House is a great place to let your kids try out new, healthy options. It’s where my kids discovered their love for chia pudding, for example. Besides, it’s light and bright in there, and the staff is lovely.
If Boston Market lost about 1,000 calories per meal and went way western with the decor, you’d have Cowboy Chicken. My food babies love the rotisserie-style chicken there, and so do I. Add green beans, sweet potatoes and a serving of the slightly more sinful loaded mashed potatoes, and it’s the perfect family-friendly meal.
Here’s another spot guaranteed to get your kids to try something new. From quinoa to white beans, feta to hummus, this healthy spot with a Greek slant has plenty of variety and lots of kid-friendly options. My favorite? The Grueben sandwich with a side of braised white beans.
The newest spot on this list, Unleavened in Lakewood has breakfast, lunch and dinner covered for your littlest ones. The owners have even created menu items named after their own kiddos. Too cute, right? UPDATE: Unleavened just let me know that KIDS EAT FREE EVERY DAMN DAY after 4pm. What? #dingding
BEST OF THE BURBS
This place at Frankford and Preston in North Dallas has it all. Great coffee, wine (when it’s appropriate to drink wine), live music, BLTs and killer brunch. Like, super killer. Like, challah french toast egg sandwich killer. Yeah. And they know enough to put the guests-with-kids in one room, and the other guests in the rest of the place, so everybody feels good about their time there. Ooh, and if you don’t have time to dine? Drive through. Yup.
If Hopdoddy had a less annoying/cumbersome way of ordering/seating/serving, it would basically be Liberty Burger (sorry, not sorry). Thus, Liberty Burger makes this family-friendly list and Hopdoddy is better reserved for going at off times like 5:00 pm or 11:00 am. Anyway, adult milkshakes, great fries and super solid burgers of all kinds from buffalo to turkey, tuna to beef make this place one you can take your kiddos to again and again without you or them getting tired of it. Did I mention adult milkshakes?
Lots of folks tend to compare SuperChix to Chick-fil-A, and it kind of makes sense. First of all, SuperChix is open on Sundays. So there’s that. They also don’t hate the gays. Win again. If you’re interested in a Polynesian-like sauce, hit up the Signature sauce. They sell strips and chicken sandwiches, in regular and spicy varieties. They also offer pretty incredible soft custard in rotating flavors. And really great fries cut straight into the fryer. Basically it’s a losing battle for those overplayed cows and their terrible penmanship. Plenty of highchairs and healthy options like fruit and salads make Super Chix a kid-friendly and family-friendly haven in North Dallas.
WHERE THE PLAYERS PLAY
Known for its large, sandy play space, let’s not forget that The Lot’s bar is almost as large. The kids menu is one of the larger ones in town, and they offer local slices from Emporium Pies for dessert. Win.
I love La Duni for its killer food (including a fantastic kids menu), great coffee and desserts, kind staff and an outdoor eating space where you can even let (well-behaved) kids run around a bit after they’ve finished eating. Try their gelato. Trust.
BONUS: Klyde Warren Park
This is a bit of a bonus, as it’s not a specific restaurant, but more of an area. I love taking the kids to KWP for a picnic, to eat food truck foods, or lounge on the patio at Savor (ask for Faith; she’s the best).
Since lots of folks have been adding their 2 cents (which I very much appreciate) all over Facebook, I’ll try to list the best of those additions here in a laundry list format. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below as well.
OTHER KID-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS PEOPLE FEEL VERY STRONGLY ABOUT:
Last but not least, because I juggle twin girls and drag them out more often than most, I offer up these tips for happy meals without having to resort to… Happy Meals.
Bring snacks. Snacking kids are happy kids, no matter what that chick said about her bebe in that book you read.
Order ASAP. If you know what your kids like at a restaurant, go ahead and have them bring you one when you sit so they can start while you decide so your kiddos aren’t hangry.
Don’t give in. It wasn’t easy, but we managed to train ours to sit in their high chairs by basically not letting them sit in our laps at meals. Everything in its place… or something. It makes for a much less chaotic meal.
Don’t rely on kids menus or “American” food. My kids like pot roast. So I’ll just order them that rather than the kid food because I’d rather they try something new that I’m pretty sure they like rather than the same old dumbed-down food for kids. And they certainly don’t need a hamburger at a Tex-Mex place, or <shudder> buttered noodles or something worse.
Remove the noisy ones. If your kid is losing his or her shit, remove him promptly. Kids lose their shit sometimes. It’s okay. Sometimes they just need to go outside, calm down, get distracted by something, be talked to calmly, air their grievances, pick their nose, whatever. But odds are they’ll return with you in a few minutes refreshed and everyone will feel better.
Relax! Your kids only sound super loud to YOU. Probably. Most of the other folks at the restaurant are not thinking about what your kids are doing. So relax and enjoy your meal with your family. You earned it. You should do it again sometime!