Let’s face it: even if you taught your kids to love food by feeding them scallops, steak tartare, and foie gras straight out the womb, they probably just want to chow down on cheese pizza, peanut butter sandwiches, and endless amounts of mac and cheese—blame it on their teeny-tiny palates.
Alas, it can be tricky to find a decent restaurant that accommodates children just as well as adults. You need a place with a great kids’ menu, yes, but it also has to have a menu that the grownups will love. You need a fenced-in space with ample room for kids to run and play; major bonus points if there’s a playground involved. In short, you need a restaurant where both children and parents will feel right at home.
Luckily, in Dallas, parents don’t have to forgo good food to eat out with kids. There are plenty of local family-friendly spots that serve delicious cuisine for people of all ages. Here are our favorites.
Dallas Farmers Market
Want to treat the kiddos to a yummy meal and teach them about the source of their food? At the Dallas Farmers Market, there are multiple food stalls to choose from, though we particularly adore Mudhen Meat and Greens. Recently named the “Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant in Dallas” by Food Network, Mudhen has a light, healthy, locally-sourced menu—think veggie flatbreads, greens, grains, spring rolls, and sandwiches. The “Young Coots” menu has a hot dog on brioche, a mini-burger (both of which are served with vegetable sticks), a chicken plate, and a vegetable plate with sweet potato mash, cauliflower rice, and broccolini.
The Lot, a beloved beer-garden eatery in the heart of East Dallas, is just as known for its sprawling children’s playground as it is for its adult playground (the beer garden and patio area). Plus, the kids’ menu here has more options than most, including a mini-burger, cheese quesadillas, and bowtie pasta with butter, while the regular lunch menu features tasty sandwiches, burgers, salads, and tacos.
Chicken Scratch, in West Dallas, is everyone’s idea of a good time. Crucially, there’s plenty of space for kids to roam around and play while the adults kick back and relax with a beverage (Chicken Scratch shares its space with The Foundry, which stocks tons of local craft brews). Bands often play free music, and dogs are welcome. And, the all-natural fresh fruit popsicles, which come in seasonal flavors, really hit the spot when it’s hot outside.
For a taste of healthy, scrumptious homestyle cooking, there’s no better family-friendly spot than Celebration. Open since 1971, Dallas’s “original farm-to-table restaurant” is quite the property, with the original restaurant, two transformed houses, a full-service bar, and a spacious patio. Parents can choose from an array of fresh, grilled fish, grass-fed steak, meatloaf, or several other entrees; kids will love the grilled cheese and meat or veggie options. Just be sure to save room for their homemade banana pudding.
Klyde Warren Park
For those times when the kiddos need to run around and blow off some steam, Klyde Warren Park is the best—this 5.2-acre urban park, perched atop the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, has a wonderful (gated!) Children’s Park (complete with a storytelling tree, a merry-go-round, and a multi-dimensional playground) and huge lawns, plus daily educational programming for kids who aren’t in school yet. When lunchtime hunger pangs hit, there are several rotating food trucks that line the streets every day, with plenty of kid-friendly fare like pizza and ice cream. Find a table, or spread out a blanket on the lawn or under the trees near the kid’s area; Klyde Warren is the picture-perfect spot for a picnic.
Complete with a treehouse, trailer bar, daily food trucks, and live music, the Truck Yard is a must-do food & play experience. There’s plenty of room for kids to run around, and plenty of food options—you certainly won’t have to worry about anyone going home hungry. The Truck Yard is billed as a “come-as-you-are beer garden and adult playground,” meaning parents will be just as happy to be here as the kids. Don’t forget to check their calendar to see what trucks and live entertainment will be there on the day you visit.
Unleavened Fresh Kitchen
Unleavened Fresh Kitchen has four locations, all of which have a fabulous children’s menu that includes a shaved cheddar grilled cheese, a peanut butter sandwich served with strawberries, pizza, and fried or grilled chicken tenders, with fresh fruit or chips. For the grown-ups in the room, the new warm bowls (mole verde, cashew sesame, and lemon pesto lentils) are a standout. Families will also undoubtedly appreciate that kids eat free after 4 p.m. here.
Hat Creek Burger Company
A family-friendly chain that got its start as a food truck in Austin, Hat Creek Burger Company in Walnut Hill has a spacious play area for kids that features a half-airstream, buried tires, climbing equipment, and a slide. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the milkshakes and burgers, which are made with fresh, high-quality ingredients. Keep in mind that Tuesday nights are Family Night, when Big Hat and Little Hat burgers are half price.
You may see more youngsters than adults at Arepa TX, and it’s not hard to see why. This Venezuelan-style areperia has several amenities that kids love, including a giant chalkboard, tons of toys, and four TVs, along with a designated children’s area. The menu is focused on arepas, a South American delicacy. Arepas are corn cakes stuffed with a variety of flavored vegetables and slow-cooked meats. Kids can choose from pizza, a cheeseburger, grilled and fried chicken, and grilled cheese on the “arepitas” menu.
The Spiral Diner has been a popular place since it opened its doors 15 years ago. Offering incredibly tasty, vegan comfort food, this health-conscious spot doesn’t skimp on flavor—even the pickiest of kiddos will love the nachos, spaghetti, sandwiches, or burgers here. Almost everything is made in-house, and for the adults, there’s a great selection of craft beers and free-trade coffee and teas. In the land of barbecue and chicken-fried steak, the Spiral Diner is a much-needed presence. Don’t leave without sampling a root beer float or brownie sundae.
At Nico’s, parents can sip frozen margaritas and sample starters like ceviche acapulqueño, bean nachos, and queso fundido on the patio while watching kids play around on the background playground. The children’s menu has tacos, quesadillas, chicken tenders, burritos, and grilled cheese; on the regular menu, you’ll find Tex-Mex and Mexican staples like tamales, enchiladas, flautas, and more.