Eating out with little kids can be tough — on both parents and other diners. While older kids tend to have dining out down pat, a restaurant trip with the younger set can prove a challenge. But what if there was a place you could bring your child where you can enjoy a good meal and there are kid-friendly options, even including food that a picky toddler (aren't they all?) might actually eat. Here are ten places that excel not only at cooking up good eats for adults, but in creating an environment that's great for your youngsters, as well.
1644 Platte Street
Fast and casual are two key words when picking a place to dine with the kids, but you want it to taste good, too. At chef/co-owner Steven Redzikowski's Brider, it's the best of both worlds: scrumptious wagyu French dip sandwiches, rotisserie roasted lamb and craft beer for the adults, and chicken fingers with mac and cheese for the kids. The kids' menu also includes meatballs with polenta, grilled cheese sandwiches and roast chicken, which all come with veggies and fresh fruit. Order at the counter and spend as long as you like (or as long as your tot will let you) enjoying the laid-back atmosphere and craft cocktails. And if things get a little dicey, think about switching scenery for a minute and touring the hall of colorful art, located right near the bathrooms.
The Empress Seafood Restaurant
2825 West Alameda Avenue
No, you won't get any coloring pages or toys to play with at this spacious Chinese restaurant, but if you go during brunch and lunch, you'll get oodles of tiny dishes brimming with tasty treats. Think tender pot stickers, fluffy barbecued-pork buns, adorable egg custard tarts and soft, sweet breads. Maybe your kid will try everything, maybe not, but with so many options, there's bound to be something to please every palate. And with all the carts circling your table, your kids are likely to find picking their own dishes entertaining. The staff is nice, too, which helps when Junior upturns that cup of tea you just poured. While other dim sum restaurants in the area often have long lines, there usually isn't much of a wait at the Empress, especially if you go early (starting at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays).
Fire on the Mountain
3801 West 32nd Avenue
While it should be a given that a place that sells wings caters to kids (a favorite finger food), not all wing specialists do. The nice thing about Fire on the Mountain is that you would never know it's a prime spot for your mini-me (unless you're there when the place is filled with kiddos). It's a casual joint with simple, seat-yourself tables, a covered outdoor patio, lots of napkins and an ample supply of high chairs, slings and booster seats. The menu consists of fresh-cut french fries, sweet-potato tots, regular and boneless (bonus!) wings and tons of sauces (a dozen, to be specific) to choose from, which means a fiery Buffalo for you and the sweeter barbecue sauce for younger tastebuds. If you don't feel like sharing, you can always order from the $6 kids' menu. Then check out the venue's great list of local brews — for the adults, naturally. But since this is somewhat of a sports bar, take our advice and arrive before 6:30 p.m., and steer clear during major televised sporting events (unless you want hungry kids waiting for a seat).
Next Door American Eatery
When a restaurant has a stack of Etch A Sketches just waiting to be played with, you know it's a great spot for kids. The menu alone proves perfect, as kids can order a vegetarian beet burger, macaroni and cheese, grilled or fried chicken and more. Each plate comes with a choice of creative and healthy-sounding sides such as kale chips, tomato soup and grilled broccolini. If your kid gets the crispy smashers, consider ordering another plate for yourself, since the salty, crunchy potatoes prove highly addictive. The five-location restaurant group was started by Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Musk of the Kitchen Restaurant Group (The Kitchen in Boulder and Hedge Row), who are dedicated to childhood nutrition through their Learning Gardens at elementary schools.
Lola Coastal Mexican
1575 Boulder Street
Again and again, the staff at this Highland restaurant impresses with their care and attentiveness to children. Maybe they all really like kids, or maybe it's such a great place to work that no one is fazed if a three-year-old is having a tantrum over a broken chip. Either way, bringing kids here is great for the whole family. Go early and order the tableside guacamole service, a spectacle sure to at least impress your children, even if they don't eat any of it. Then consider sharing the smoked-chicken enchiladas, purple potato kale hash or some warming queso fundido, followed, of course, by cinnamon-sugar churros for dessert. In between courses, let the kids color, or take them for a walk around the colorful dining room (as long as it's not too busy). If things feel tough, that probably means you need another margarita. Of course, if brunch is more your speed, you can't go wrong with the massive horchata pancakes, an order big enough to feed a whole family. Lola also hosts a date night the last Thursday of the month, when the kids can eat and play in one area of the restaurant while you dine in superb peace in another.
4526 Tennyson Street
You know a place is perfect for little kids when the menu items revolve around pizza and tacos. At Patrick Mangold-White's Berkeley eatery, the restaurateur combined his popular pizza and taco concepts on South Pearl Street — Kaos Pizzeria and Uno Mas Taqueria — to create a restaurant that specializes in both. It works well, too: Family members needn't compromise when it comes to their favorites. Go ahead, order the meatballs — and the chips with salsa. Or load up on some barbacoa or pork-belly tacos to pair with a wood-fired, four-cheese pizza and a plate of bacon-laden macaroni and cheese. If your kids are adventurous eaters, consider ordering the broccoli-and-potato pizza — or if they want to play it safe, there's always the kids' menu. As for the space, it's open and casual, great for the younger set as well as the adults who want to throw back a couple of margaritas.
3961 Tennyson Street
There's something about Midwestern food that just appeals to toddlers and adults alike. Maybe it's the delicious fried cheese curds, scrumptious chicken tenders, Chicago-style hot dogs, or the Juicy Lucy, a cheese-stuffed burger with the works. At Andrea and Dan DeShano's Berkeley saloon, you can get all this and more for both you and your kids. And don't worry: If you head there early for brunch or dinner, you won't be the only parent who thought to bring the family. Let the kids color while you sip a craft beer and maybe catch a part of whatever game happens to be on.
523 East 17th Avenue
7355 Ralston Road, Arvada
For years, this Uptown (and now Arvada) staple has churned out awesome American comfort food, and the children's menu proves just as good. Kids can choose from favorites such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hamburgers, grilled chicken, macaroni and cheese, fries and seasonal veggies. Each plate comes with a side of fresh fruit, edamame and carrot sticks with ranch dressing. And while they wait, your young ones can color the placemat and sample a flight of flavored milk. As for the adults, the comfortable setting, easy-to-please food and friendly staff help make dinner with a youngster feel like a breeze.
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River and Woods
2328 Pearl Street, Boulder
If you happen to be wandering around Boulder in the middle of a sunny weekend day, consider taking your young ones to chef Daniel Asher and Josh Dinar's adorable eatery. When the weather's nice, there's a fun back yard that's perfect for a little one who needs to explore while you wait for brunch. For food, you can order them a mini granola parfait, a bowl of cereal, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or let them sample tasty treats from your own plate of buttermilk biscuits with elk sausage and sage gravy or the challah banana cream pie French toast.
1600 West 33rd Avenue
Give a child some bendable wax sticks, and they may be so entertained they'll forget to eat their food. But Root Down also tempts the kiddos with fun food that's nearly as adventurous as what's on the regular menu: It will be hard to pass up a bistro tender steak with cheese sauce, a beef slider with white cheddar, country fried tofu or a Colombian grilled cheese sandwich with pico de gallo. Each of these options are on the kids' menu and come with fresh fruit, broccoli, sweet-potato fries and organic ketchup, all for $9. Between all the eats and things to do, there's little chance of getting bored or leaving hungry.