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KIDS WELCOME! Our 6 Favorite Kid-Friendly Restaurants

Earlier this month Babble contributor Rebekah Kuschmider wrote about “a new sushi place opening in a trendy area of Alexandria, Virginia” that was banning kids under 18 years old. While I understand why some places may choose this option, it alienates so many families who want to dine at kid-friendly restaurants.

Before we became parents, Joseph and I went out to eat all the time. We both love food, but we don’t love cooking (or cleaning up). After our son Norrin was born, there was definitely a limit on the number of times that we could go out. As a new mom, I was nervous about bringing my baby and I knew the experience would not be enjoyable for me.

As Norrin got older, we were hesitant because he was so restless and could not sit still. After he was diagnosed with autism, his restlessness made sense. With the help of our ABA therapist, some time, and a lot of patience, we were able to teach Norrin how to sit and behave in a restaurant. Now Norrin is seven-years-old and we go out to eat as a family all the time. He still gets restless, but we can sit for up to an hour at a restaurant and have a nice time.

I don’t know what we’d do if a restaurant we loved decided to ban kids. Eating out is one of the things we enjoy doing as a family and it’s a great learning experience for Norrin. Luckily, there is no shortage of kid-friendly restaurants that provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

These are our personal favorites:

  • Kid-Friendly Restaurants 1 of 7
    Kid-Friendly Restaurants Lisa QuinonesFontanez AutismWonderland for Babble

    Click through to see six of our favorite kid-friendly places to get our grub on! 

  • Boy’s Night Out 2 of 7
    TGI Fridays 3

    Joseph is a beer and bar food kind of guy. Before becoming a dad, he spent many afternoons and happy hours watching a game at TGI Friday's with his buddies. Every once in a while Joseph will have a Boys Night Out (usually around 4 PM) with his best friend, Julio, and Norrin at Friday's. They watch the game and munch on chicken wings and other bar snacks. Obviously since they're with Norrin they can't sit at the bar, but they sit close enough to be part of the action and excitement. 

  • Fun For Us All 3 of 7
    PF Chang's

    One of our former therapists suggested P.F. Chang's as a kid-friendly restaurant option. That was five years ago and it's been a favorite of ours ever since. Norrin loves Chinese food, the kid could eat Chinese rice six days a week. But what he especially loves at P.F. Chang's is the lettuce wraps. We even get to work on Norrin's fine motor skills since he likes eating with chop sticks. And when we leave, we always ask for rice noodles, those are Norrin's favorite!   

  • Special Sunday Brunch 4 of 7
    Bone Fish Grill

    We went to Blue Fish Grill for the first time for brunch on Father's Day. It immediately made a place onto our list. We  already know that we'll return again and again. I love any place with paper laid out over the table cloth. Norrin had the whole table to color, write, and scribble. It kept him so entertained during our meal that he didn't even ask for the iPad.

  • Three’s Company 5 of 7
    Yard House

    Yard House is one of the few places where Joseph and I have dined alone and then returned with Norrin. It's a laid back place with dim lights that make it romantic enough for a date night, but kid-friendly enough that you don't feel guilty about taking the whole family.

  • Our ALL-TIME Favorite! 6 of 7
    Blue Smoke AutismWonderland

    Hands down our ALL TIME FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Blue Smoke in New York City. We went a few weeks ago and the hostess remembered us—specifically Norrin. I love when that happens, it shows that people genuinely care. What I really love about this place (aside from the amazing food) is the way they really cater to kids. All kids get a (unbaked) cookie pig to decorate with sprinkles. At the end of the meal it's brought out warm and freshly baked.   

  • Keeping it Local 7 of 7
    Taqueria Tlaxcalli

    There is nothing like having a fantastic kid-friendly restaurant within walking distance. Taqueria Tlaxcalli is a few short blocks away from our Bronx apartment and we love it. The owners of our local Mexican favorite are a married couple with three daughters; they understand the importance of family and sharing meals together. Walking into Taqueria Tlaxcalli is as warm and as inviting as walking into a good friend's home.

What do all our favorite places have in common? Great, fun kid-friendly menus, plastic cups (with lids) for little hands, and if they don’t provide crayons/coloring sheets, there’s a small (safe) toy or special treat offered.

What’s your favorite kid-friendly restaurant?

Read more of Lisa’s writing at AutismWonderland.

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