Whether it's because the babysitter canceled at the last minute or because you want quality family time at a dinner you don't have to cook, loading up the kids for a restaurant excursion can be fun for the whole gang, provided the destination is suitable for the young ones. We know it can be awkward trying to ignore pointed looks from other patrons at some hushed foodie mecca while your toddler squawks and burbles happily -- and we also know it can be tricky trying to keep the kids from that obnoxious drunk a few tables away. That's why we've come up with this list of kid-friendly restaurants that aren't some some kiddie-theme playground with miserable food, but places with menus that will appeal to adult palates, too. Keep reading for our top ten...
10) DJ's 9th Avenue Cafe 865 Lincoln Street 303-386-3375
Going out for a weekend breakfast or brunch with the family shouldn't require getting in line with a throng of hungry hipsters; after all, kids aren't well-equipped to deal with long waits.The sunny dining room at this second DJ's offers a more relaxed pace -- without the wait lists common to some trendier spots. And what kid could resist PB & J French toast?
9) Vine Street Pub 1700 Vine Street 303-388-2337
The dining room at this brewpub feels like a big, open playroom for adults, with the bar area and hodgepodge of tables all blending into a lively social spot for hanging with old friends or making new ones. But if you get there early enough, the same social atmosphere is fun for children, too. A kid's menu featuring burgers, nachos and grilled cheese sandwiches will fill them up before they head to the other end of the community table to find their own new friends.
8) Ernie's Pizza 2915 West 44th Avenue 303-955-5580
Kid's love pizza, and Ernie's loves kids. Many restaurants have kid's menus, and many will bring a jar of crayons on request. But Ernie's combines the two with a menu that kids can draw on after Mom and Dad have helped them choose from a selection of mini-pizzas and other downsized treats. For the tweens, the full menu is bulging with calzones, pasta plates and pizza by the slice. Open and airy patio seating is a good option for families, because there's plenty of distracting people-watching off nearby Federal.
Keep reading for more of our kid-friendly favorites...
7) Osteria Marco 1453 Larimer Street 303-534-5855
Families love Osteria Marco because it's big, noisy and Italian, featuring a range of choices from simple but well-sourced pizzas and panini with amazingly fresh bread to more sophisticated fare, including housemade salumi and cheese. While there's something for everyone on the menu, it's the welcoming service that seals the deal. Owner Frank Bonanno named two of his restaurants after his sons (the other is Luca d'Italia), so making kids feel welcome is a point of pride.
6) La Loma 2527 West 26th Avenue 303-433-8307
Grabbing a table at La Loma is the next best thing to eating at home. The always-friendly service means you won't have to worry about getting the cold shoulder, and with a big menu of Mexican plates in the Denver tradition, you should have no trouble choosing a dish for picky tots -- what kid doesn't like quesadillas? If your little ones are still in the grabby phase, you might want to avoid a sizzling platter of fajitas, but there are plenty of other options to choose from, perfected in La Loma's kitchen over four decades.
5) Park Burger 1890 South Pearl Street 720-242-9951
The original Park Burger may be a little cramped for bigger families (and it's definitely too tight for strollers), but you'll find outdoor seating, plenty of fun menu items -- fries, shakes and soft-serve cones, for example -- and a crowd swarming with kids, which means the staff is adroit at dealing with the youngsters while still providing great service and delicious dinner options for parents.
4) The Post Brewing Company 105 West Emma Street, Lafayette 303-593-2066
If it seems strange to send kids to a brewery for lunch or dinner, reserve judgement until you've seen the Post and tasted the food. Featuring fried chicken fit for a picnic and an array of other kid-friendly items like fluffy buttermilk cheddar biscuits, the Post also sports a huge patio with big tables and a play area for when the kids get fidgety. And if they want to feel useful, they can always help in the garden that supplies the kitchen.
Keep reading for more of our kid-friendly favorites...
3) Lowry Beer Garden 7577 East Academy Boulevard 303-366-0114
With over 4,500 square-feet of outdoor seating, communal tables and a playground tucked alongside the covered area, this biergarten follows the German tradition of making whole families feel welcome. Mom and Dad (hopefully not both at the same time) can relax with a beer or two from the extensive tap list while the young ones gorge on hot dogs and chicken nuggets. While not exactly high-end cuisine, the menu features plenty of backyard favorites to satisfy on a hot summer day.
2) Steuben's 523 East 17th Avenue 303-830-1001
Steuben's, with its dominant curved bar and excellent cocktail program, seems like an odd choice for a family meal. But with an early seating, you can avoid the tipplers and tuck into a menu of homestyle American classics that'll please kids and parents alike. And if the plates look too big, a kid's menu is also available -- and each order is served with fun finger foods like carrot sticks, edamame and fresh berries. As a special treat for the well-behaved, Steuben's also offers a flight of flavored milks.
1) Kaos Pizzeria 1439 South Pearl Street 303-733-5267
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Another Platt Park family favorite, Kaos doesn't look like much inside, but if the weather's decent, the outdoor seating and back patio become a wonderland for wandering waifs. At times a bit too, well, chaotic for the child-free, Kaos is a great place for parents to relax and appreciate expertly assembled Neapolitan pies while the kiddos are making new buddies at the next table.