I have to say it, I love to go to restaurants but going to restaurants with kids, now that’s a different story. One of my recurring nightmares is being in a quiet restaurant and one of my children is having a quasi-tantrum while my iPad battery quickly drains and suddenly they are fresh out of chicken nuggets. I know many parents who have stopped going out to eat during the toddler years but not even toddlerdom could put the brakes on my love affair with going out to eat. So in the three years since my oldest has come into this world, my restaurant tastes had to change drastically. Goodbye cloth tablecloths and low lighting, hello family-friendly restaurants and coloring pages. So whether you wanted to take the family to celebrate a second birthday or you are simply having a “get me out of this house” Sunday, here are some of my family’s favorites:
Moe’s Original BBQ (Granville and Newark): Holy cow Batman! Have you seen their play area? My mouth dropped when I saw the children’s area in the corner of the restaurant (Newark)- I’m pretty sure I was just as excited as my kids. A cute fenced in area with a children’s picnic table and playhouse equipped with a little kitchen and tool bench. Even better? They have a large cement bar overlooking the play area so you can enjoy your delicious grilled wings and pulled pork sandwich as you keep an eye on your kids. This is one of our absolute favorites. If you like BBQ, this is the place to be.
Barnstormer Diner: Ok, seriously how cool is this place? Located at the OSU airport you can see inside the plane hangar from inside the restaurant. The little diner is decked out with airplane memorabilia. After the kids finish their airplane shaped pancakes they can go up in the tower to watch the planes take off and land. You and your little pilot will love the food.
Mellow Mushroom (Dublin and Polaris): This is home to some of my favorite pizza (Holy Shiitake) and pretzel bites with beer cheese (Drunken Fun- Guys). Puns aside, this is making my mouth water just thinking about it. The decor is so much fun! The mushroom theme takes over both locations and makes for a fantastic game of “I spy”. A bonus for the Avengers fan: you can even take a picture with a ginormous replica of Iron Man (Dublin) or the Hulk (Polaris)
Quaker Steak and Lube (Polaris): This is the place to go for your little car and motorcycle aficionados. Full-size race cars and motorcycles line the ceiling of the restaurant to give your kid something to look at rather than watch Boss Baby for the millionth time on Netflix. This is also home to some of my favorite wing sauce: the Louisiana Lickers. The kid’s food is served in a cute cardboard race car and Twizzlers come with the check. They have a few video games in the main lobby that the kids can play either while they are waiting for their food or when they are done eating.
Spaghetti Warehouse (Downtown): This place has been around forever but it is still so cool! In fact, when I was little, we always made sure to make a stop here when visiting Cbus. There is nothing my kids want more in life than eating spaghetti on or near a life size trolley. The unique decor transports you back in time and makes it such a neat overall dining experience. With each kids’ meal, they give you a token to give to the hostess for a yummy candy stick.
Dirty Franks (Downtown): Although small in size, this restaurant is worth the short wait you might encounter. The kids love the fun environment and the delicious food. Their favorite is the Octodog which is a hotdog cut like an octopus over Mac & Cheese. Their menu is comfort food central with things like funnel fries, hot dogs, soft pretzels, nachos, and slushies. For the root beer fan, they even have it straight off the tap for the most refreshing root beer you have ever encountered.
101 Beer Kitchen (Dublin, Westerville, Gahanna): Ok maybe this one is a little more for my husband and I, but we just simply love the food here. The kid’s food is served on an old-school lunch tray and my kids are both obsessed. And this is “not your Mother’s” kids menu, this menu is upgraded with things like parmesan crusted chicken tenders, naan grilled cheese, and crispy cod filet (don’t worry they have pizza, mac & cheese, and hotdog for those picky eaters too). For dessert, they can pick a chocolate chip cookie or a blondie.
Buca di Beppo (Worthington, Downtown): My kids think the old school pictures hung everywhere are pretty funny. So much so that it gives the most stubborn potty training toddler incentive to be dragged back to the bathroom. Cool environment: Check. Good food: Check. Enormous proportions that the whole family can share to save you from buying a kids meal they won’t even eat anyways: Check. Buca is an overall win in my book.
Fusion Japanese Steakhouse (Grove City): I love my local Japanese steakhouse. The chefs are so interactive with the kids and they make a pretty darn good hibachi while they are at it. Have a noodle/ rice loving kid? This is the place to go. Even if you are not celebrating something, the environment is lively and can cheer up even a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Carsonies (Upper Arlington): After a tiresome Monday, I don’t think there is a better phrase than “kids eat free”. What can make this place even better? If your answer is “balloon animals” then this will be your new favorite restaurant (check out Erica Carlson for her schedule). The food is delicious for adults and picky eaters alike. Do yourself a favor and order the Italian Fries, you can thank me later.
Texas Roadhouse (Multiple Locations): Ok don’t judge me, but we eat here nearly every week on kids eat free night (the night that coincides with my grocery shopping). Love steak? The 8 oz sirloin is only $12.99. My kids get excited every time they hear the Birthday song and who doesn’t love to throw peanuts on the floor. And don’t even get me started on the bread and butter.