Fabulous Family-Friendly Restaurants

  • Defining Family Friendliness

    First of all, let’s define what a family-friendly restaurant means. I mean, technically, few restaurants are 100% family-unfriendly. But a true family restaurant keeps the kids entertained while you enjoy quiet conversation with your spouse, or with other adults (grandparents, included). And the setting is kid appropriate — lighthearted and fun with Americana and old-fashioned Route 66 gas station signs hanging on the walls. Or at least cheap drinks. Without further ado, the list of restaurants… Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Claim Jumper
  • Claim Jumper

    Many parents run into the issue of satisfying both a toddler and a pre-teen. Luckily, Claim Jumper offers a solution: “The only chain on the ten-best list to have separate menu options for younger and older kids, Claim Jumper's choices are extensive -- 15 entrees and 10 sides. While you'll find some typical fare, the build-your-own pizza, frozen grapes, bean-and-cheese burrito, and barbecued chicken breast are more fun options,” according to Parents.com. Eat at one of 45 locations in eight different states. Photo Credit: Claim Jumper
    The Apple Pan
  • The Apple Pan

    If you’re ever in Los Angeles, check out The Apple Pan at 10801 W. Pico Blvd. (near Westwood Blvd.) Here’s what one review site gushes about this family-friendly oasis: “The cooks-waiters at this tiny, always-crowded spot race around inside the horseshoe-shaped counter turning out orders fast. Those waiting for seats—there are no tables here, just stools at the counter—will stare ravenously at you, making sure you devour your food pronto.” The atmosphere sounds busy and thriving – enough to tire out any kid hopped up from a live show of The Wiggles. The place is known for its “steakburger” with melted Tillamook cheddar. It’s basically a high-end alternative to a fast-food restaurant, and the kids will also like their “equally delicious” ham and cheese sandwiches. Photo Credit: The Apple Pan
  • America

    It’s called America, how much more family-friendly could it get? This New York restaurant is located at 9 E. 18th St. (near Broadway). It’s reviewed as a “quintessential family restaurant” that has a cool “Statue of Liberty motif and kiddie favorites like sliders and macaroni and cheese.” Plus, on weekends, they bring in a magician or balloon artist to entertain the children. Dibs on the balloon animal giraffe! Photo Credit: America
    The Stand
  • The Stand

    Another popular California family eatery, The Stand is located at 17000 Ventura Blvd. (near Balboa Ave.) in Encino. It is apparently a contender in the Valley’s “hot dog wars.” The hot dogs are, of course, delicious and the dining area is surprisingly nice, offering you and your family a “cozy retro feel.” Although they are known for their dogs, you can also order Polish or apple-chicken sausage. Plus, who doesn’t love a hot dog? Photo Credit: The Stand
    ESPN Zone
  • ESPN Zone

    Located at 555 12th St. NW, in Washington, D.C., this entertainment mega-center, with food included, is definitely a kid-friendly stop when you visit the nation’s capital. ESPN Zone also has locations in other major cities across the country: Anaheim, Baltimore, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York. It consists of “a 10,000 square foot interactive sports center with a variety of competitive games.” Your kids (and your husband) may be too distracted to eat. Photo Credit: ESPN Zone
    Big Nick's Burger and Pizza Joint
  • Big Nick's Burger and Pizza Joint

    This New York establishment, located at 2175 Broadway, sounds perfect for keeping the kids in a TV trance: "In the unlikely event that your kids can't find anything they like on the 27-page menu, they can just tune in to the nonstop Three Stooges marathon playing on the restaurant's TVs." A 27-page menu?! Don't let its unassuming "burger joint" name trick you: this one serves veal, ostrich, buffalo and other exotic burger varieties. Photo Credit: Big Nick's NYC
  • Cool-de-sac

    Located in south Miami, at 5701 Sunset Drive, Cool-de-sac is a children's entertainment center with a wide range of toys and art projects. The entires dning area is surrounded by play areas. Cool-de-sac prides itself on having a real restaurant for the adults on-site: "A restaurant, a real restaurant! When was the last time you took your kids to a 'Kid’s' place where you had a server bring you a gourmet salad along with a glass of wine and you actually enjoyed your meal? We understand how unappealing it is to eat the typical pizza and green salad from the snack bar or buffet at most other children’s entertainment centers, that’s why we made things different." Photo Credit: Cool-de-sac
    Magic Time Machine
  • Magic Time Machine

    This one is, umm, a bit odd. The food is good enough, with a menu that includes "succulent Prime Rib and Steaks, but also offers many Chicken, Pork, and Seafood dishes as well." Except instead of being served by a regular uniformed waiter, you and your children will interact with "Captain Jack Sparrow, Ace Ventura, Woody the Sheriff, and Wonder Woman" -- yes, they do the serving. I guess Captain Jack has hit hard times if he is waiting tables, rather than seeking out great treasure. Spiderman and Dr. Evil also have shifts at the Magic Time Machine. Photo Credit: Magic Time Machine
    Mars 2112
  • Mars 2112

    This sci-fi lover's fantasy come true is located in New York at 1633 Broadway (at 51st Street). Mars 2112, a mainstay among the Times Square tourist crowd, is "a 35,000-square-foot, bi-level, multi-dimensional, immersive environment that catapults travelers to a completely new world." You enter and are soon whisked away to the Red Planet, where you interact with Martians who sling the drinks and serve the food. They don't dress anything like us, but they're people, too (sort of) -- so remember that a 15-20% tip is standard on Mars as well. Photo Credit: Mars 2112
  • iCream

    Chicago's iCream is located at 1533 Milwaukee Avenue. It gives you a pretty good excuse to eat lots of ice cream, too. As Babble.com explains, "Kids will come for the ice cream, but they’ll stay for the science. Part ice cream shop, part lab, iCream allows kids (and geeky adults) to create their own ice cream, sorbet or frozen yogurt completely from scratch customized right down to the color." Your selected mixture is frozen right before your eyes using liquid nitrogen. Now that's cool. Photo Credit: iCreamCafe
  • Beacon

    Another NY family hot spot, Beacon is located at 25 W. 56th St. (near Fifth Avenue). “The rotisserie and grill show at chef Waldy Malouf’s open-fire kitchen will thrill your kids. Younger tykes can color away, while chef wannabes view the action up close. So no one gets cranky, waitstaff bring kiddie amuse-bouches of pizza or French fries right away,” says New York Magazine. Plus, kids 9 and younger eat free. Free food is probably the best friend a family could have, especially in this recession. Photo Credit: Beacon
  • Fuddruckers

    This fun burger joint is known for its creamy milkshakes and custom-tailored, made-to-order cheeseburgers. Fuddruckers has locations all over the country. The ambience is definitely family-friendly; like a TGI Friday’s, only with a bit less “flair” and better fries. Photo Credit: Fuddruckers
    Outback Steakhouse
  • Outback Steakhouse

    Outback Steakhouses are everywhere. No rules, just right, as the chain slogan goes. Shrimp on the barbie and loaded cheese and bacon fries are both great shareable appetizers. For the kids, Outback offers crayons and a fun environment where they can doodle as parents down a pint or two of Foster’s. A tip: Make a game of your trip and talk in Australian accents. It might annoy your waiter or waitress, but your kids will love it. Photo Credit: Outback Steakhouse
  • Denny’s

    “There's no denying that the children's menu at this chain is far out: While your kids are waiting for their star-shaped chicken nuggets, anti-gravity grapes, astronaut applesauce, or any of the other space-themed fare to arrive, they get to sip their milk or juice from a rocket-shaped cup,” says Parents.com about the Denny’s chain. Personally I wouldn’t consider Denny’s “far out,” but they have a good point about the space-themed fare. That will amuse kids, although not nearly as well as an iPhone might. Photo Credit: Denny’s
  • McDonald’s

    No discussion of family “restaurants” would be complete without mentioning the golden arches. High-brow? Definitely not. But the PlayPlace—complete with its ball playpen and tubes (though, fair warning, in the past we’ve written about how sketchy these playrooms can be)— and, of course, the happy meals make it a safe bet. Just don’t go there too many times in a week. Remember: a playground at a local school or park offers the same chance for you to tire out your kids without filling them with fast food first. Photo Credit: bludgeoner86
  • Friendly’s

    “Where ice cream makes the meal,” as their slogan goes. This restaurant is a total excuse to eat lots of ice cream at dinner time, and at least the chain owns up to its strength. The kids menu at Friendly’s includes your choice of Mac & Cheese, Mini Mozzarella Sticks or a “Friendly Frank”—we’re assuming that’s a kind of hot dog, and not a creepy uncle. Don’t forget the clown ice cream cone too (unless your child has a clown phobia, then maybe you should skip it). Photo Credit: Friendly's
    Capitol City Brewing Company
  • Capitol City Brewing Company

    Some might suggest that a brewing company isn’t a great spot to take kids, but wouldn’t you want a good beer after a busy Saturday with three kids? Plus, happy parents mean happy kids, right? This one has two locations in Washington, D.C. (1100 New York Ave, NW and 2 Massachusetts Ave, NE) in addition to a location at 2700 S. Quincy St. in Arlington, Va. The light-hearted  “brew pub offers a great selection of casual food in a fun atmosphere that is appropriate for all ages.” Just be safe and make your sober significant other is the designated driver. Photo Credit: Capitol City Brewing Company
    Don't Gross Your Kids Out
  • Don't Gross Your Kids Out

    Kids like pizza and mac & cheese. If they are especially adventurous, you might seem them poke a piece of broccoli with a fork. But don't expect them to eat a fertilized chicken egg, bone marrow, worms or any of the other weird items included in our coverage of cheap, gross delicacies. Also avoid feeding them anything on our list of the worst fast food meals! Photo Credit: Ifl16
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