Great Family-Friendly Restaurants from Coast to Coast

We've got the scoop on dozens of kid-friendly restaurants from coast to coast.

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Comfort Food, For Kids
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Chicken fingers aren't the only game in town. Dozens of child-friendly restaurants around the country are serving up delicious, sophisticated meals that are winning raves from kids and parents alike. With dishes like wood-grilled shrimp and quinoa pilaf as well as gourmet pizza, the younger set is enjoying the fruits of the farm-to-table revolution. Pull up a chair at one of these welcoming spots and tuck into the new happy meal.

Atlanta: Osteria 832 Pasta and Pizza

A spacious patio strung with twinkling lights is the draw at this beloved Virginia Highlands cafe. Just as enticing: the reasonably priced menu filled with arugula and Parmesan salad, Slow-Cooked Rigatoni Bolognese, and thin-crust artisan-style pizzas in adult and kiddie sizes. The management's friendly tongue-in-cheek instructions to parents on curbing little ones — "Thou shalt not run around the dining room" — keeps the place buzzing with a refreshing mix of date-night couples, neighborhood walk-ins and young families.

Austin: Franklin Barbecue

Lunch at this Austin institution, hailed as the best barbecue in the country, doesn't come easy but is always worth it. The first test is the line, which starts assembling an hour or so before the 11 o'clock opening, making this eating spot best for the middle school and up crowd, who will appreciate the camaraderie that comes from waiting with other adventurers. (To ease the time, owner Aaron Franklin provides cold drinks and mist spray; experienced pilgrims bring their own coolers filled with refreshments.) Once inside, you have a choice of fall-apart tender brisket, smoky ribs, zesty sausage and deliciously moist turkey cut to order and served on brown butcher paper by Aaron. Or go for the Tipsy Texan, a towering sandwich of chopped brisket, smoked sausage, crisp coleslaw and pickles. Save room for dessert if you can: The individual 4-inch pies come in Key Lime, Bourbon Banana and not-to-be-missed Lemon Chess.

Boston: The Cottage

Stepping inside The Cottage is like hopping a ferry to Nantucket. High ceilings, white woodwork and bright, sunny windows exude a beachy New England vibe that is perfectly matched by the casually elegant food: think Main Lobster Cobb Salad, Ale Battered Haddock and Chips and the signature Laura's Meatloaf with Cabernet Gravy. Kids feast on above-average standbys like Cheeseburger Sliders, Chicken over Garden Salad, Mashed Potatoes and Fruit Salad. For dessert, everyone can dig into the dreamy White Chocolate Raspberry Bread Pudding. Bonus: Both the men's and women's rooms are equipped with baby changing tables.

Boston: Rialto Restaurant and Bar

Bostonians make a beeline to this Cambridge institution for celebration dinners and date nights, but James Beard Award-Winning Chef Jody Adams also has a soft spot for children. On Mother's Day, Easter and other family-focused holidays, kids can sample simplified versions of her delectable cooking from a children's brunch menu. Other nights, the school-age crowd happily dines on half portions of regional Italian dishes like tortellini with sugar snap peas, and cavatelli with sausage, eggplant and tomato. No matter what the occasion, highchairs are kept at the ready.

Charleston, SC: Hominy Grill

Housed in a historic red clapboard house, this gem is a standout in a town famous for low-country comfort food. Though there isn't a children's menu per se, Charleston's youngsters have been happily gobbling up kid-friendly dishes like the Pimento Cheese Sandwich on a Pretzel Roll, creamy Macaroni and Cheese, and Fried Green Tomatoes with Ranch Dressing since the place opened in 1996. No matter what your age, a taste of the signature Shrimp and Grits is a must. Tip: If you're wary of the bustling brunch crowd, go for a late lunch, or opt for dinner, for which you can make reservations.

Chicago: Wishbone

This Windy City landmark is truly a family affair. Founded by Joel Nickson in 1990 and now located in Chicago's West Loop, the toddler-friendly restaurant features brother Greg's eye-popping fried egg chandeliers and mother Mia's fanciful barnyard paintings and pastels. The Southern-influenced home-style menu is just as enticing. Brunch picks for kids include Fruit Pancakes, Crunchy French Toast (coated in Corn Flakes) and a Rabbit Patch plate made up of any three sides. Adults have their choice of Crab Cakes Benedict and Blackened Chicken Sandwiches, among other lip-smacking favorites. Further proof these folks understand hungry kids? The basket of warm corn muffins dropped off at your table as soon as you take a seat. Tuesday night, children eat free.

Dallas: Chicken Scratch

Keeping the kids occupied while you wait for your food is never a problem at this hip joint, thanks to the large interior courtyard designed for games of hopscotch, tag and Twister. Place your order at the walk-up counter, take a number, then let the little ones run free while you grab a seat at one of the picnic tables skirting the space — or in one of the funky recycled shipping containers outfitted with sofas, coffee tables and ceiling fans. When dinner does arrive — we're talking juicy fried chicken, locally sourced vegetable sides (the Smoked Turkey Stewed Collard Greens is a winner) and Thick Homemade Ranch dipping sauce — the kids will have worked up an appetite. Grownups can wash it all down with an icy brew from The Foundry, the adjacent bar that shares the space, while the junior set grabs house-made fresh fruit ice pops, called Paletas, and returns to having fun.

Denver: Steuben's Food Service

The cool quotient is high at this uptown hangout. Housed in a converted auto body garage, the restaurant serves retro cocktails, deviled egg apps and kids' meals on old-school cafeteria trays. Happily, the food is well above institutional levels. Children's dinners come with carrot sticks, cucumbers, edamame and fresh berries. For adults there are elevated comfort classics like Chicken Marsala, BBQ Beef Brisket and a Monte Christo that earns rave reviews. Local gourmet scoop shop Sweet Action provides the ice cream for the dreamy floats, brownies a la mode and ice cream sandwiches.

Detroit: Local Kitchen & Bar

"Life is short. Eat real food." That's the motto that graces the menu of this Ferndale newcomer. And while there is no official children's menu, restaurant-savvy families will find plenty of tempting ways to put this farm-centric philosophy to the test. Recently cited at the seasonally inspired watering hole: Sweet "Potater" Tots with Chipotle Ketchup, BBQ Beef Brisket Sliders, Carnita Nachos, and a decadent Baked Mac and Cheese available with or without Candied Bacon. On the lighter side there are daily vegetable specials like grilled Mexican Street Corn. And, of course, there's no need for coaxing when it comes to Mister's Banana Pudding and made-from-scratch fruit pies.

Fort Worth, Texas: Café Modern

After a morning of gallery hopping, treat your burgeoning art lover to a truly tasteful meal at this thoroughly civilized dining room in the Modern Art Museum's striking Tadao Ando-designed building. Menus change by the season — snap up the Moroccan Chicken Salad if you see it. For kids, there are enticing options like Grilled Chicken Breast with buttered vegetables, as well as a Mac and Cheese made with cavatappi. Make sure to book a table by the enchanting reflecting pool.

Houston: Amazon Grille

There's plenty to love about this West U go-to, starting with the complimentary bar of warm plantain chips and addictive cilantro, salsa and chimichurri dipping sauces. But don't fill up! Generous plates of grilled chicken with crema fresca corn sauce, South American-style mixed grill, and a killer Amazon Burger loaded with pickled red onion, ripe tomatoes and jalapeño remoulade (not mayo) all win applause. Having customers order at a counter keeps prices low; a kid's menu filled with no-fail popcorn chicken and grilled beef or chicken quesadillas (served with cotton candy) keeps the place bustling. The build your own s'mores — complete with mini fire pit — are a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, but for a true taste of the Americas, go for the Tres Leches cake, a traditional sponge cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream (served in a Mason jar).

Los Angeles: Farmshop

Brunch is the name of the game at this celebrity favorite. Run by an alum of Thomas Keller's famed Ad Hoc, this sunny sky-lit restaurant places an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients showcased in a constantly changing menu. Kids can happily make a meal from expertly prepared sides like Bruleed Ruby Grapefruit, Chicken Sausage and Breakfast Potatoes; adults can indulge in Coddled Eggs with brioche toast, Poached Chicken Salad (changes seasonally) with Frog Hollow Farm apricots or a Morel Mushroom Frittata. For dessert, hop next door for a double-scoop cone at Sweet Rose Creamery and some window-shopping at Toy Crazy.

Miami: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

The shared plates trend takes a family-friendly turn at this South Beach hot spot, where heaping platters of crisp fried chicken, tender waffles and juicy watermelon seem custom-made for little fingers. Request a seat at one of the huge round banquettes, unroll the paper napkin rings printed with cheeky reminders like "Elbows Off the Table" and dig in. Southern-style drinks — sweet tea, bourbon-spiked lemonade — served in cute Mason jars provide ample refreshment. And the ultra-rich Mississippi Mud Pie makes a delectable end to the meal.

Miami: Essensia

At this romantic spot tucked inside the Palms Hotel & Spa, Chef Julie Frans welcomes young visitors to her poolside kitchen gardens for tours during the growing season (call for times). The children's menu veers toward the sophisticated: Salmon Teriyaki, Black Thai Rice, Quinoa and Caesar Salad are among the healthy options offered, making indulging in a Chocolate-Dipped Rice Crispy Treat Pop or a Banana Split feel practically guilt-free.

Minneapolis: Brasa Premium Rotisserie

Parents tired of the fast food treadmill head to one of these two outposts for children's meals that are healthy — picture roasted rotisserie chicken, rice and beans, cornbread with honey butter — and made from locally grown, responsibly sourced ingredients. For adults, there are namesake rotisserie meats served family style in small, medium and large portions. Choose from a succulent roast rotisserie chicken, slow-cooked pork or smoked beef, then take your pick from more than a dozen Southern and Latin American sides. If you're lucky enough to snag a patio table, even the dog is welcome.

New Orleans: Cochon Butcher

If you adhere to the philosophy that a sandwich is always tastier when someone else makes it, you'll be in hog heaven at Cochon Butcher, the casual cafe next door to Chef Donald Link's celebrated pork-centric fine-dining establishment. Here, the meats are house-cured and the homemade sausages are loaded with fragrant spices. The place is best for the 5 and older set, who won't be daunted by the high-top tables. The Muffaletta is one of the best in town, and the sliders (made with duck confit) arrive precut into finger-friendly wedges. And if all else fails, there is a Pancetta Mac-n-Cheese that will bring a smile to the face of any pastaholic.

New York: Blue Smoke

In food-obsessed New York, most restaurants will happily accommodate growing gourmands, but few quality spots make families feel as welcome as this stylish barbecue joint. "Blue Smoke loves kids!" the menu proclaims, and the proof is evident the minute you sit down and your little one is given a cookie dough pig to decorate. (It's baked in the oven while you dine.) There are Wikki craft sticks for busy fingers, booster seats and highchairs aplenty, and a children's menu that offers Grilled Salmon and Memphis Baby Back Ribs, in addition to the usual pasta and grilled cheese. Meanwhile, discerning adults get the satisfaction of savoring authentic Southern fare overseen by Danny Meyer, the creator of some of the most-lauded restaurants in town.

New York: Landmarc at The Time Warner Center

With mesmerizing views of Central Park, juicy chops and heavy white cloth napkins, this elegant aerie on the third floor of the Time Warner Center sees its share of expense account diners. But the same generous perks are laid out for kids too. Owner Marc Murphy has crafted a children's menu adults will envy: Picture Sliced Skirt Steak, Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken Legs and PB & Nutella sandwiches. And for dessert? A gossamer, sweet cone of freshly spun cotton candy.

Philadelphia: Marathon Grill

Sure, there are chicken fingers on the kid's menu at this Philly mini chain. But you'll also find less expected options, like Matzoh Ball Soup with chicken and veggies, house-made hummus with pita, and a Thanksgiving Dinner complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy. All are made with ingredients from the restaurant's farm or sourced from a network of local purveyors. Add a festive cocktail menu, wine list, and adult food options ranging from Cheesesteak Wontons to Grilled Vegetable and Grain Salad, and you have the makings of a solid neighborhood joint that never fails to satisfy.

Phoenix: Joe's Farm Grill

How do you improve on crowd-pleasers like burgers, dogs and salads? Make them with fresh, organic ingredients you grow on your own farm. That's the formula that keeps Arizona families flocking to this suburban oasis for grilled thin-crust pizzas, tender barbecued ribs and crisp onion rings that have achieved legendary status. Place your order, then find a seat at one of the plentiful picnic tables among the tall trees. In hot weather, outdoor misters keep diners cool. In the winter, the patio is heated.

Portland, Ore.: Sushi Hana

In a town bursting with fish options of every description, budget-savvy families flock to these suburban Portland spots for fresh sushi that won't break the bank. Once you take your seat, there's no waiting to sate grumbling bellies: Plates of West Coast-style rolls, think asparagus with cream cheese, deep-fried shrimp with avocado and salmon with mango, come riding past on a conveyor belt that winds along the dining counter. Just grab a couple of dishes and dig in. An all-day, every day Happy Hour special featuring $1 to $1.75 plates makes the trip worth it.

San Francisco: Yank Sing

This San Francisco landmark has been delighting families for three generations, thanks to its bustling atmosphere and seemingly endless number of rolling carts filled with more than 60 varieties of Deem Sum. Must-haves include shrimp siu mye, spinach dumplings filled with vegetables and chive sauce, fried turnip cake, steamed buns with honey-glazed barbecue pork filling and chicken feet (always worth a try for the giggle value alone). Don't miss the piping-hot Shanghai soup dumplings, which must be ordered off the menu. Teach the kids how to eat them safely — a small nibble on the side will release the steam — and you'll have devotees for life.

St. Louis: Blueberry Hill

When it comes to burgers in St Louis, it's hard to beat the juicy patties at Blueberry Hill. But food is really the least of the attractions at this University City classic. Half pop culture museum, half rock and roll shrine, the restaurant is filled with television memorabilia — the Simpsons, Scooby Doo, I Love Lucy — video games, a photo booth and cases of shiny guitars owned by the legendary Chuck Berry (who plays regularly in the music room downstairs). Factor in a menu loaded with pub snacks like chicken wings, zucchini sticks and chili dogs, and you have the makings of a memorable afternoon outing.

Washington, D.C.: 2Amys

If there's one thing kids and parents can agree on, it's pizza. And there's no shortage of options to please both generations at this Cleveland Park classic. Serving authentic thin-crust, wood-fired pies made with ingredients that change seasonally, the friendly corner spot is a magnet for foodies. For timid palates, there's a sublime Margherita made with Italian plum tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala and fresh basil. The more adventurous can sink their teeth into a Vongole Pie blanketed with fresh garlic, capers, hot pepper and cockles. Add to that a tasty wine list, small plates like Oven Roasted Olives, and Potato and Prosciutto Croquettes, plus homemade ice cream and sorbet, and a good time for all is guaranteed.