Walking into a restaurant with small children can feel a little like walking around an English village during the Dark Ages wearing a sign that reads “I have the Bubonic Plague.” Your hostess, in an attempt to avoid contact with the infected, will seat you as quickly as possible. Fellow diners look on, their eyes a reflection of pity, disgust, and please-God-don’t-let-that-family-sit-next-to-me.
We get it. Parents and non-parents can agree: Meals are best enjoyed with small children nowhere near the vicinity. Life would be a lot easier if kids didn’t have to eat until they were 15 or so. But eat they must, and we are here to help. To be fair, the term “kid-friendly” is pretty vague. Does that mean the restaurant has a children’s menu and a playground? Or just that the staff promises to try very hard not to barf when your kid uses their garlic aioli as an exfoliator?
Here are five restaurants we like for those times when you are dining with tiny humans. There is no rubric. We picked them for various reasons. We’re parents, dammit, and we’re exhausted.
This little sandwich shop on McDowell Road is cool without trying. The place offers breakfast and lunch, sources their food locally, and has a kids’ menu that is basically a smaller version of the grown-up stuff. The tiny playhouse out back might not look like much to you, but 4-year-olds will be occupied at least as long as it takes you to have a sandwich and catch up with a friend. And the place is laid out in such a way that you can have grown-up time inside and still keep an eye on them in the (contained) back patio. Yesssssss.
Chestnut Fine Foods & Provisions
You know when you walk into a restaurant and think, “Yeah. Whoever owns this place has kids.” Chestnut is just such a place. Don’t write off this Arcadia hotspot for being too Arcadia (read: pricy, trendy, and difficult to park at). It is also run by a mom, who knows that you don’t need much more than a couple small chairs and a basket of IKEA toys to give parents that priceless, elusive gift: a peaceful meal. The options on the children’s menu are awesome, and even when the restaurant turns into Water Chestnut (Thursday through Saturday evenings), the menu offers kids’ bento boxes and ramen bowls.
Some restaurants have exquisitely crafted food made from local, seasonal ingredients, and some restaurants have a place where kids can play. Not many have both. Ocotillo does, and we guarantee your blue corn pancake or Peruvian salmon ceviche (not making this up) will taste even better, knowing that your children are happily playing on the patch of grass nearby. Or, stand with a friend at their coffee bar and enjoy some adult conversation, only lightly sprinkled with repeated warnings to your toddlers not to touch the agave.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Luci’s at The Orchard
In a state that sees an average of 291 days of sunshine per year, you’d think more places would have done what the team behind The Orchard did: create a shared outdoor space with astroturf and a tiny splashpad, and then sell food around its perimeter. These guys understand that parents will literally hang out all day in a place where their kids are playing happily. Many moms and dads have seen their coffee playdate at Luci’s turn into lunch and ice cream (at on-site Splurge) before the place clears for nap time. Die-hards can power through to an early cocktail at Pomelo for happy hour. If The Orchard had a nap room, we might just move in.
You know your friend who has all the cool kid stuff? The treehouse, the water guns, the balance bikes? Now, imagine that friend charges you to play at their house. Wait, but they have coffee and lunch! But, that also costs money. Maybe we’re not selling it right. The point is, The Teapot is a sweet little house in the Roosevelt District that turned its inside into a coffee shop and its outside into kid paradise. Your kids will love it, and it’s a great place to meet other parents. They do add a $2 “play ticket” charge (per child) to your bill, in order to keep the place clean and functioning, but think of it like a cover charge. Only, instead of seeing that cool death metal band, you’re watching 20 children, ages 1 to 8, play in a yard. Sounds the same.