Where to Dine Out with Kids

To dine out successfully with small children, you just need a solid restaurant-selection strategy.

©Squire Fox

Squire Fox

You love dining out. You love your kids. Sometimes it may seem impossible to combine these two passions, but never fear. To dine out successfully with small children, you just need a solid restaurant-selection strategy. Here are four restaurant categories to zone in on.

Think “kid-friendly restaurant” and your mental picture might involve a massive chain restaurant with plastic children’s menus and crayons on every table. Fortunately, that’s not the only game in town if you want to eat happily with kids. Some of the top restaurants in cities coast to coast are surprisingly welcoming to tiny diners. We rounded up restaurant gems that have a soft spot for kids, like Boston’s date-night spot Rialto and Charleston’s beloved Hominy Grill, plus pizza and barbecue joints that raise the bar on these classically kid-friendly cuisines.

Photo by: Rey Lopez ©UnderABushel.com

Rey Lopez, UnderABushel.com

A long, drawn-out meal is rarely ideal with small kids in tow. Luckily, fast-food options have come a long way from the drive-thru. These innovative fast-casual spots offer fresh, healthy menu items that appeal to even the toughest chicken-finger addicts as well as their food-savvy parents. Browse our guide to find the best kid-friendly fast-casual spots to seek out in your neck of the woods, plus what to order.

Franklin's BBQ, ribs, pulled pork, sausage, turkey, ribs, brisket and sides

Photo by: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Buff Strickland, Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Some restaurant genres are inherently kid-friendly, and barbecue joints top our list. No matter the regional style, barbecue is always casual, hands-on and, yes, messy, but that’s part of the fun. ‘Cue offers a great opportunity to introduce the kids to different cuts of meat, like brisket and ribs, and the roster of sides most often includes surefire crowd-pleasers like mac and cheese, if all else fails. Here’s our handy guide to the four major barbecue regions, plus where to find great ’cue of each style even if you’re not lucky enough to live near one of them. Most restaurants that serve killer fried chicken are also solid bets for families.

Dying to try that buzzy new spot getting rave reviews, but haven’t got a babysitter this weekend? Go for brunch, and bring the kids! The upside to being up early with little ones is that you’ll beat the lazy brunch crowd if you arrive right as the doors open at 10 or 11 a.m., and most restaurants offer a more kid-friendly scene during daylight hours. Check the brunch menu ahead of time to make sure there’s something the kids will surely eat – most likely, some spin on pancakes, waffles or French toast will make an appearance. Check out our guide to the best pancakes from coast to coast and put these spots on your family brunch hit list.

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