Bringing kids to a restaurant is a daunting task. Navigating the menu is a chore if they’re picky eaters, they get bored waiting for the food to arrive, and glares from fellow diners can be expected if they start acting up. But while lots of restaurants offer a perfunctory children’s menu, some chains go above and beyond in their efforts to appeal to the whole family.
For chain restaurants, the days of the boring old chain menu with the same five to 10 items (usually with names like “Mickey Mouse” or “Ninja Turtles” attached) are long gone. These days, kids' menus feature everything from mini pretzel roll cheeseburgers to wood-grilled fish and steak medallions. Lots of chains are also really good at keeping kids occupied by giving them a coloring and activity book or even arranging an occasional mascot appearance.
In order to rank the most family-friendly chains, we looked at all the major chains and judged them on the following criteria: They needed to be casual, the noise level needed to be moderate, the atmosphere and décor needed to be fun and inviting, and most importantly, the kids' menu needed to be awesome, with both healthy and unique options. We only considered sit-down restaurants; fast food joints are kid-friendly by definition.
There’s something about chain restaurants that always seems to be a bit more “fun” than non-chains — they’re just better at catering to children, which makes it a no-brainer to keep chains in mind when you’re going out to dinner with the entire family. These are the chains that are the most family-friendly.
IHOP goes above and beyond to make sure that kids are happy, usually paying them extra-special attention. The kids' menu here is legendary; who doesn’t have great memories of being served their classic “Funny Face” pancake as a kid? Other kids’ menu options include Jr. Chicken & Waffles, a banana crêpe with Nutella, and Kraft macaroni and cheese. Each kids menu item contains fewer than 600 calories.
#9 Beef ‘O’Brady’s
Quite possibly the silliest-named chain restaurant in existence, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s bills itself as a “family-friendly sports bar,” and they succeed at that concept. Parents can watch the game while kids choose between pretzel roll cheeseburgers, chicken tacos, chicken salad, quesadillas, or other classics, each of which comes with a wide selection of side dishes. It’s a fun atmosphere where kids and adults alike will feel right at home.