Dining out with kids can sometimes feel like choosing the lesser of two evils. On one hand, there’s the resignation of eating at a “kiddie restaurant,” picking sand out of your burger while your eardrums receive the abuse of 1,000 Black Flag concerts, courtesy of a couple dozen strange children running around the place like it’s The Lord of the Flies. On the other hand, there’s the glares of your fellow diners as your own kids march around the dining room chanting “kill the pig!”
Fortunately, there are places that manage to sidestep this dilemma. There are places that cater to kids and parents, while maintaining an atmosphere that's enjoyable for both—you can see just such a list here, from our newest issue—and places such as these below. They may be a little outside the mainstream idea of what kid-friendly dining should be, and that's just what we like about them. If you're looking to broaden your little ones' palates and horizons, start here.
Don’t let the notorious wait at this elegantly rustic Heights hotspot deter you. If you do it right, you’ll never hit it; pros know the best time to take your kids out someplace nice is before the unfettered adults show up. It may mean you’re done with dinner in time for Matlock, but it also means you’ll enjoy your wood-oven pizza, house-made pastas and thoughtful preparations of local meats and produce all the more. If you do get
blackwaitlisted, you can always take the kids on a tour of the adjoining garden.
D&T is designed to be a neighborhood spot, meaning friendliness is an integral component. Communal tables in the back add to this welcoming feeling, lending a backyard cookout vibe, so let the kids walk around the place a bit—chances are they’ll even find a new friend or two. Frito pie, nachos and hot dogs, all ever so slightly modernized (pimento cheese on the Frito pie, an all-pork dog from Black Hills Ranch on an El Bolillo bun), are sure bets for both the young and the young at heart.
This multi-purpose Heights favorite might seem like an odd choice at first blush, but then you notice the collection of mocktails at the back of the drink menu. Few things can entice a group of youngsters to play adult like giving them a drink that does the same; fancy drinks are magical for young and old alike. Add to that a “kids’ menu” you might be tempted to sample yourself and Down House is a win/win.
Some of the best Italian food in the city, served in casually elegant surroundings. Your best bet is the charming patio, where generous table spacing gives you a significant annoyance buffer, and the gentle whoosh of Westheimer traffic helps drown out the occasional “outside voice.” The small plates sections of the menu are great for kids, offering a low price point and a wide selection, both solving for picky eaters and lessening the burn when they keep picking.
Few foods say “kid friendly” more than a good hot dog. That’s the key, though—and the dogs at this Heights hotspot are really, really good. They’ll do one up plain if your kid insists, but they’ll also dress your dog in everything from bacon-braised collards and homemade chow-chow to chorizo chili and potato salad. Good Dog also serves a mean fish and chips and some deliciously decadent milkshakes. It’s almost like being a kid again yourself, only better.
Arguably the city’s finest Indo-Pakistani restaurant, Himalaya is a no-frills affair. The spare, slightly cramped dining room might not seem the best place to bring a kid, but the atmosphere is exceedingly casual and chef/owner Kaiser Lashkari has a soft spot for children. He’s been known to bestow a small gift of sweets on a well behaved child, perhaps a few stickily glistening orbs of gulab jamun in recognition of and reward for a job well done. If your kids don’t do spicy, the chicken tikka masala, Persian beef kabob and malai kofta are good options.
Hubcap Grill’s 19th St. location is a little rough and tumble around the edges, but that’s one of the things that makes it so well suited to tiny tagalongs. The expansive backyard is all gravel and weather-worn picnic tables and, as long as your mini-me’s aren’t throwing rocks or bothering other customers, everyone turns a pretty blind eye to their antics. Grab a beer and one of the best burgers in the city, grab a seat in the back corner and free-range those kids a bit.
This Stafford outpost from the folks behind Galleria favorite E-Tao has a special spot just for families: a series of glass-walled alcoves flanking the main dining room, which allow large groups to dine in semi-seclusion while not feeling at all secluded. The opulently appointed family rooms are the perfect place to enjoy top notch Peking duck while blissfully unconcerned about the decibel levels emanating from your brood.
Between the Christmas lights, Polaroids of customers tacked to the walls and a dining room full of concrete patio furniture, Spanish Village looks almost as if it was designed by a kid. The menu is anything but childish, though, offering some of the best old school Tex-Mex in the city. The staff is kid-friendly after the manner of a doting aunt, and the lure of the gratis dessert (a sugar candy topped with a fresh strawberry) is a good way to extract a few extra minutes of decency out of the brood should things head south.