I have had the unfortunate experience of bringing my then 6 month old son to a restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for an early dinner (it was 5pm, folks). We were run out of there by a cranky couple seated next to us, who didn’t really enjoy our son’s chirping. What a nightmare. I swore off restaurants for a while and then made it my mission to find restaurants that had good food for me, as well as, for my kids with the right atmosphere.
Here are some fun local picks.
Chips Family Restaurant has “Family” in their name and they mean it! Pancakes for dinner? Yes! Choose from their extensive list of pancakes– “Bacon Pancakes”!–and other delish diner fare: eggs any way you want, sandwiches, salads, etc. Tons of booths and tables so even when there’s a line out the door (and there often is one), service moves quickly. Which is the best when you’re with your kids. Fast service = happy customers. They also have Take Out at the Fairfield location only!
Cos Cob’s Fonda La Paloma has 1970s décor that will make the adults feel right at home. This family-owned, amazing Mexican restaurant is over the top kid friendly from the easy to eat (a ton of) menu items especially the quesadillas and their home-made guacamole to their friendly service. You’ll want to stay for a post-meal siesta.
Tequila Mockingbird has been making folks happy in New Canaan for over 17 years! The yummy Mexican/TexMex menu with all the hits, including perfect guacamole. (You can eat it by the spoonful. Seriously.) The dining room is kid-friendly so don’t worry about noisy eaters here. This place is pop-u-lar so go early or make a reservation!
Rio Border Cafe I know, I know it’s another Mexican restaurant, but it’s worth a trip to the Best Buy anchored strip mall, where it’s located, for the authentico food, the killer décor (a feast for the eyes–your kids won’t get antsy here!), and the festive Mariachi Band– yes, they take requests! “One Ton Tomato” anyone? (at least that’s what my kids think they’re singing). At Christmas time Santa visits the tables and poses for photos which they deliver to your table (free!)
The Cellar Door is a cozy, hip restaurant with a more upscale vibe, so the kids think it’s “fancy”. The zinc bar is very cool to sidle up to on date night. All the brick oven pizzas are named after streets in Ridgefield. The “Ivy Hill” is terrific!
Plan B Burger Bar While “Beers, Bourbon and Burgers” is the tag line, don’t worry about the beers and bourbon part because it really is about the burgers (ah-maz-ing) and it caters to a family crowd. Plus they only serve 100% Verified Humane beef (no hormones, no fillers, no colors, no chemicals.) The waiters are excellent with kids. Wait. One of your kids hates burgers? No problem. Their pasta dishes and chicken tenders will fill ’em up. Caveat: it’s located at the Stamford Town Center Mall, but before you scoff at this locale. . . the Mall has created a really nice section of restaurants that are totally separate and don’t have that typical food-court feel.
Lumberyard Pub is a true bar with a huge beer menu, but kids love it here because of the loud atmosphere and all the games! They’ll amuse themselves at pinball, bowling, playing pool, choosing tunes on the electronic juke box, losing all your money at the claw game, or playing one of the tons of board games on hand. The food is great, simple as that. Go for the chicken wings and fish tacos. They have standard kid-menu fare, but who cares? There’s pinball!
Westport Pizzaria & Restaurant is a true local favorite. They’ve been throwing dough in the air for over 43 years. So let’s just say they know what they’re doing. I love that you don’t have to order a whole pie. You can order a slice or two with more exotic toppings for yourself (like broccoli and spinach, heaven forbid!) and get your kids’ what they want–plain or pepperoni. Friendly, atmosphere, sitting at the bar is fun! (Also steaming pastas, chicken parm, heroes, and crisp salads are on the menu so my daughter who hates pizza (what??) is always happy here, too!)
Swanky Franks is where I pretend to take my kids because they love it; but my dirty secret is that I really love this place. The 1950’s style diner décor, the never-ending supply of napkins (that you need) and the quick service are great! But it’s the amazing greasy-spoon style burgers and ‘dogs and the old fashioned milk shakes they serve up that’ll have you coming back again and again. (They have salads, too, don’t worry!) Oh did I mention the fries?
Pound Ridge, NY’s DiNardo’s Ristorante Italian has supremely delicious Italian food served up family style. Their restaurant has a “family side” and an “adult side” so you don’t have to worry about sidelong glances from aggravated patrons at your sauce covered kids! The family side simply could not be any friendlier. Your kids will love their awesome pizza and pasta with meatballs served by the nicest waitstaff. The menu is top notch (you won’t feel like you’re eating at a kid-friendly restaurant, if you know what I mean, and I think you do!) and they also have an impressive wine menu.
Bedford, NY’s TRUCK has the perfect restaurant name for kids! The décor is simple, clean vintage–not dusty fusty vintage–in cheerful colors. Their menu of down-home Northern New Mexico inspired dishes with influences of Cowboy, Native American and Mexican cuisine is delightful. The tacos are killer and they pride themselves on serving only grass-fed beef, sustainably raised pork and vegetables right off local farms (when possible) or greens from their kitchen garden. With a dessert menu that includes soft-served ice cream, you and your kids are going to love this place. If your kids aren’t so sure about tacos have them dig into the juicy Truck Burger, or one of their gorgeous salads.