If you have kids, you know this scenario well: It's meal time, everyone is starving, and you're in a neighborhood you don't know. Fortunately for your frayed nerves and grumpy youngsters, we've scouted out ten Denver neighborhoods (both official and newly named) and discovered each one's most family-friendly eatery. These restaurants tout great kids' menus, settings conducive to little eaters, and something unique to make them especially appealing to both parents and children.
Berkeley: Hops & Pie
3920 Tennyson Street
There's no shortage of good options for dining out with kids in Berkeley, but Hops & Pie adds the attraction of a pile of toys and an endless supply of pizza dough to play with. Your kids will probably find the toys near the entrance as soon as you walk in, and you can just ask your server for dough from the kitchen. Once the tots are entertained, dive into a hand-tossed or Sicilian-style pizza, delectable sandwich or plate of chipotle-mango pork tacos. Five dollars will get your kid a ten-inch pizza to themselves (or split if you have two little ones), or a grilled cheese sandwich, quesadilla, plain mac and cheese or buttered noodles with Parmesan. A drink — milk, root beer or apple juice, for example — is also included. For the adults, there's a long beer list worth reading, which will make the whole dining-with-kids experience even better.
Baker: Punch Bowl Social
With bowling, board games, karaoke and arcade games, PBS packs in plenty of entertainment for kids and adults before and after dinner. The staff, decor and layout impart an easygoing vibe, so even if you don't make it back to your table when that tray of nachos arrives, no one will sweat it. Chicken tacos, hummus with celery and potato chips, grilled cheese sandwiches and pepperoni and mozzarella flatbread are among the many food choices designed just for little ones. Go for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch and know that a good dining adventure awaits the whole gang.
Congress Park: Blue Pan Pizza
3509 East 12th Avenue
Most parents know that the trick to getting their kids engaged while dining out is to give them something fun to do. At Blue Pan, it doesn't get more fun than making your own pizza. Kids get to spread sauce, sprinkle mozzarella and add toppings, then the kitchen takes over to bake and serve your child's culinary masterpiece. If your kids are weird and just don't like pizza, they can order a meatball with bread or chicken and veggies instead. And because the Congress Park pizzeria is a roomier outpost than the original West Highland location (which also has a kids' make-your-own-pizza menu item), there's plenty of space for the whole family to eat in comfort.
Downtown/LoDo: Next Door American Eatery
1701 Wynkoop Street
Why every restaurant doesn't have an Etch A Sketch available for kids is a mystery. Your little ones can test out the toy while dining downtown at the Union Station location of Next Door (which also has several other metro Denver eateries). Not only does the OG tablet device keep younger guests occupied, but the kids' menu also proves a winner. Children can choose from a vegetarian beet burger, mac and cheese, grilled or fried chicken tenders, a cheeseburger slider or a grilled cheese sandwich. Sides like kale chips, crispy smashed potatoes and grilled broccolini push the standard boundaries of kids' fare, but pickier eaters can stick with tomato soup, carrots or apple slices. Add an ice cream sandwich for dessert and your kid will never argue about going out to eat again.
3940 West 32nd Avenue
Troy Guard's Highland joint opened a little over a year ago, and it's been a neighborhood hot spot ever since, both for adults and kids. With a menu full of tater tots, tiny sandwiches and burgers (okay, sliders, but don't tell your kids), and macaroni and cheese topped with goldfish, it's easy to see why the younger set is happy here. But beyond the food, the little ones will love the vintage lunchboxes full of goodies to play with while they eat. The best times to go are for lunch or an early dinner, but even when it's busy, the staff and venue remain friendly to pint-sized guests.
3651 Navajo Street
Sean and Betsy Workman, owners of Acova and the Hornet on South Broadway, wanted a dedicated spot for kids to play in while at their Highland restaurant. So Betsy planned and built a mini play yard just off the sunny patio. When the weather is nice it's the perfect place to have dinner and a drink al fresco while the little ones explore the swing, colorful tires, things to climb on, textiles, twists and turns and objects that make gentle sounds. The menu, too, has a side of whimsy. For example, if your kids say they want "nothing" for dinner, order just that, which is Acova's name for mac and cheese. Or if they say "I'm not hungry," they'll get a hamburger with a side of sweet-potato fries. Other clever menu names include "I don't care," "Whatever" and "I don't know." As a bonus, $2 from every kids' menu order will be donated to a children's charity.
2615 Larimer Street
Though not every kid loves sushi, they do love being able to see the food and pick what to eat. This intimate but color-splashed space sends dishes loaded with sushi rolls and nigiri rolling past your eyes on a conveyer belt. Let your little dining companions grab what looks good, such as shrimp tempura rolls, old-school salmon rolls and glossy unagi nigiri. Aside from the grab-your-own options, a printed menu includes steamed pot stickers, grilled Korean chicken skewers and mochi ice cream. Chef/owner Jeff Osaka opened the original Sushi-Rama in RiNo in 2015, and since then has added outposts in the Denver Tech Center and Lone Tree. It's a fun and unique way to introduce young ones to sushi. Who knows? They just might get addicted.
Sloan's Lake: Sloan's Lake Tap & Burger
1565 Raleigh Street
After a jaunt around Sloan's Lake and time at one of the two playgrounds there, your family will be famished. The nearby Sloan's Lake Tap & Burger is an easygoing option with good food for both kids and adults. On Tuesdays, kids eat free from 3 to 6:30 p.m. with the purchase of an adult meal; otherwise, it's $7 to pig out on pulled pork sliders, chicken tenders, grilled cheese sandwiches or hamburgers. All come with fries, a veggie plate, a drink and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. No one will go hungry, that's for sure, and the adult options range from sandwiches to grass-fed beef to an entire plant-based menu.
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Uptown: Steuben's Food Service
523 East 17th Avenue
For years, Steuben's has offered one of the best children's menus in town, with grilled chicken, hot dogs, grilled cheese, hamburgers, buttered pasta, peanut butter and jelly, and macaroni and cheese. Each order comes with edamame, carrots and ranch dressing, as well as a side such as fries, seasonal veggies or tomato soup. There's even a milk tasting menu, if your kid is feeling fancy. Not only does the food work for little eaters, but the setting does, too. It's a laid-back sort of place with a friendly staff who won't make you feel bad if your kid throws a fit. The menu doubles as a coloring sheet, too, complete with games. There's a branch of Steuben's in Arvada, too, in case you're in that area and hungry.
Washington Park West: Blue Bonnet Restaurant
457 South Broadway
This friendly Mexican spot has served the Washington Park West and Baker neighborhoods for fifty years under the guidance of owners Arlene and Philip Mobell and their family. Over the decades, it has been one of the best places to take a horde of hungry kids. The food comes out quickly, with options to make most children happy: cheese enchiladas, chicken taquitos and chicken or cheese quesadillas, to name a few. Each plate comes with rice and beans or fries, along with a little dessert. The casual setting also makes things easy on families: If your child feels the need to throw a fit or be noisy, it's easily ignored over the din of the space.