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.
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.
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.
Chili’s donates millions of dollars to the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital each year, and is a participant in the NRA’s Kids Live Well initiative. Some locations offer kids-eat-free nights, and for about $4.59 kids can order an entrée (options include pizza, burgers, Kraft mac and cheese, quesadillas, or a grilled chicken platter), a side (Mandarin oranges, corn on the cob, steamed broccoli, and a salad with low-fat ranch are the healthiest choices), and a drink.
A trip to Cracker Barrel can be loads of fun for the whole family before the meal even begins when you pay a visit to their general store. Once you sit down, the old-fashioned country theme offers plenty of opportunities to rope in kids, who also receive coloring and activity books and a game to play. The kids menu offers smaller-sized versions of some Cracker Barrel classics, like chicken and dumplings, country fried shrimp, and an egg with a biscuit, butter, and jelly.
While the adults enjoy their steak, kids can order from the “Joey Menu,” which includes specialties like sirloin medallions, grilled chicken (both of which are a part of the Kids LiveWell program), junior ribs, and a sundae topped with Oreo crumbles or chocolate sauce. Nearly all items come with apples, grapes, broccoli, or fries.
Not only do kids eat free on Tuesdays, many menu items at Denny’s comply with the National Restaurant Association’s Kids Eat Well initiative: there are loads of healthy kids’ menu items, including banana slices, grapes, dippable veggies, and steamed broccoli. There are also plenty of fun items, like chocolate chip pancakes, dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, and even a bowl of Goldfish crackers.
You know Red Robin is all about the kids, because their website has a whole section devoted to them. Every kid who visits gets one of three activity sheets to keep them occupied, there are plenty of balloons to go around, there’s a kids’ birthday club, and the chain mascot, a bird named Red, even makes an occasional live appearance. Members of their Teen/Kids’ Club also receive a free burger or kids’ meal on their birthdays. The kids' menu isn’t particularly unusual, though, with mac and cheese, chicken fingers, spaghetti, pepperoni pizza, grilled cheese, and a burger joined by a corn dog, grilled chicken on a stick, and healthy sides including baby carrots, fruit salad, and steamed broccoli.
Uno’s is about a lot more than deep-dish pizza these days; they offer a far-reaching menu with a creative kids’ menu to boot. Youngsters can create their own pasta dish, order baked chicken nuggets or a thin-crust pizza, or — most exciting of all —get their own apron, pizza dough, sauce, and toppings, assemble the pizza themselves, then send it back to the kitchen to be baked. Can adults do that too, please?
Legal Sea Foods goes above and beyond to make sure that kids are happy and get the healthiest food possible. Non-seafood items are cooked on separate grills for those with shellfish allergies, the kids’ fries aren’t salted, and all trans fats have been eliminated. Kids get the usual kids menu items like pizza, grilled cheese, hot dogs, and burgers, but they can also order macaroni and cheese ravioli (which sounds awesome); a small-size fisherman’s platter of fried clams, shrimp, scallops, and fish; their own one pound lobster; and even a wood-grilled fish of the day. At Legal Sea Foods, there's no law against kids eating like grown-ups.