Eating Adventures

Ten Kid-Friendly Restaurants That Won't Drive You Crazy

Etch A Sketch and macaroni and cheese, a great kid combo at Next Door American Eatery in Union Station.
Etch A Sketch and macaroni and cheese, a great kid combo at Next Door American Eatery in Union Station. Linnea Covington
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.

Brider
1644 Platte Street
303-455-3084

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.

click to enlarge Dim sum at the Empress Seafood Restaurant is great for little fingers. - LINNEA COVINGTON
Dim sum at the Empress Seafood Restaurant is great for little fingers.
Linnea Covington
The Empress Seafood Restaurant
2825 West Alameda Avenue
303-922-2822

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).

click to enlarge A basket of sweet-potato tots from Fire on the Mountain. - LINNEA COVINGTON
A basket of sweet-potato tots from Fire on the Mountain.
Linnea Covington
Fire on the Mountain
3801 West 32nd Avenue
303-480-9464

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).


click to enlarge Etch A Sketch and macaroni and cheese, a great kid combo at Next Door American Eatery in Union Station. - LINNEA COVINGTON
Etch A Sketch and macaroni and cheese, a great kid combo at Next Door American Eatery in Union Station.
Linnea Covington
Next Door American Eatery
Multiple locations

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.

click to enlarge A spread of goodies from brunch at Lola Coastal Mexican in Highland - LINNEA COVINGTON
A spread of goodies from brunch at Lola Coastal Mexican in Highland
Linnea Covington
Lola Coastal Mexican
1575 Boulder Street
720-570-8686

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.

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Linnea Covington moved back to Denver after spending thirteen years in New York City and couldn't be happier to be home, exploring the Mile High and eating as much as possible, especially when it involves pizza or ice cream.
Contact: Linnea Covington