It is a familiar scenario for parents. While visiting a city they don't know well, they are too often forced to settle for a national chain restaurant because of its family-friendly atmosphere. Unfortunately, this means they are unable to sample many of the great, unique local options, some of which are perfectly suited for the kids.
Now, just about every restaurant will tell you that kids are more than welcome. They certainly value all customers and don't want to alienate any potential visitor; however, some atmospheres and menus make parents somewhat less than comfortable bringing along the little ones. In Oklahoma City, several excellent, local restaurants make specific efforts to welcome the youngsters. Here are some top choices.
In the evening, it's one of the metro's best spots for romantic dining. All other times of the day, it's still a fine dining atmosphere, but the Museum Cafe, located in Oklahoma City's downtown Museum of Art, welcomes the kids with a menu of their own. Choose a white linen cloth-topped table inside or sit on the casual, comfortable patio area, and enjoy breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Adults can have a pasta or seafood specialty while the kids choose from grilled cheese, sourdough sandwich, ravioli, pizza or peanut butter and jelly. Yogurt, soup and fruit cups are also available on the 12 and under menu.
With or without kids, Kitchen No. 324 is one of the best places to eat in Oklahoma City's central business district downtown. The bakery and cafe inside OKC's historic Braniff Building serves wonderful breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner items. Though the space is simplistically elegant in design, the restaurant is also casual, and the menu features local, organic ingredients. The kids menu has only a few items (pasta, grilled cheese, chicken tenders, veggies), but each meal comes with a healthy side such as fresh fruit or a mixed green salad.
Pretty much any burger place works for kids, and there are several fantastic burgers in and around Oklahoma City. S & B's Burger Joint is on that list and has several locations around the metro, including one in Automobile Alley for those visitors staying downtown.
Adults will love the thick, tasty burgers and unique combinations like "The King" with peanut butter and bacon or "The Frenchman" with mushrooms, fried onions and French onion sauce. Less adventurous youngsters can select mini options on the kids menu or, if they're not in the mood for a burger, they can have peanut butter and jelly, chicken sandwich or grilled cheese. Side choices include sweet potato fries or fruit cup. While S & B's has a bar and plenty of drink choices for the adults, kids will feel perfectly at home sipping a milk shake in the rock-themed atmosphere.
Iron Star Urban Barbeque is one of my favorite restaurants in Oklahoma City, and though it's certainly nice, with a good wine selection, it is more than appropriate for kids. Servers are very accommodating for families, and the kids menu is more extensive than many. The little ones can even try the specialty meats in kid-friendly portions and get great, barbeque restaurant sides such as cole slaw, southern fried okra and baked beans. Oh, and after the meal, give the tikes a treat with a slice from Oklahoma City's outstanding Pie Junkie, one selection carried by Iron Star as a "Pie of the Day."
Gabriella's Italian Grill & Pizzeria
A restaurant with a lineage dating back to the authentic Italian history of the tiny Oklahoma town of Krebs, Gabriella's has somewhat of a rustic atmosphere that interestingly appeals to both adults looking for an intimate experience and families wanting a hearty meal out. For the former, the candlelight and private dining rooms overshadow the red and white checkered tablecloths. For the latter, the focus is on the casual comfort.
As for food, the menu includes all the traditional Italian favorites as well as delicious brick oven pizzas the kids will love. Little ones can eat off the affordable "Bambinos" menu, choosing from a slate that includes spaghetti, ravioli and macaroni and cheese. For dessert, treat those kids to a root beer float.
Similar to burgers, it's tough to go wrong with pizza places when considering the kids. The metro has a number of excellent pizza restaurants, but Hideaway has long been considered one of the absolute best, if not the best. There are many locations across the state, and in Oklahoma City, you can find one in Automobile Alley, on North Western, at Memorial and MacArthur, on Northwest Expressway and in metro area communities such as Edmond, Norman, Moore and Yukon.
The interior of each is casual and comfortable, perfect for families, and kids can get a drink in a Hideaway logo cup to go along with their pizza, pasta, sandwich or salad. Share a specialty pie as a family, perhaps the Maui Magic with Canadian bacon, pineapple and oranges, or go with a small, create your own pizza.
Kids may not care too much about history, but Cattlemen's Steakhouse is uniquely Oklahoma City, a place they're sure to enjoy. As one of a few OKC restaurants featured on the Food Network's popular show "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," its history traces back to just a few years after Oklahoma became a state, and it is a key destination in OKC's unique Stockyards City area just southwest of downtown. Older kids will dig the story of how the restaurant was won in a card game in 1945 while the younger ones can still enjoy the diner atmosphere and historical photos.
As for food, Cattlemen's kids menu unfortunately, and perhaps oddly, does not include a steak option. In fact, it's fairly thin on offerings. But the regular menu does include some smaller steaks and several reasonably priced entrees the kids could like.
At one time, Oklahoma City's Plaza District was a run-down area one would have little reason to visit. That has certainly changed now. After the dedicated efforts of community leaders and business people, the tremendous rejuvenation has made it a unique, bustling neighborhood everyone should visit. There are several excellent restaurants there along NW 16th, but one place, despite what you might expect, works well for a kid-friendly experience.
Oak & Ore is a pub and restaurant specializing in craft beer. It hosts special events to celebrate brewing and has both a giant wall of taps and a huge chalkboard advertising the vast array of craft offerings. But it's much more than just a beer bar. The menu features delicious, unique dishes such as street tacos and Korean BBQ.
Moms and dads might look at the concept and think it's not necessarily welcoming for the kids, but owners want you to know that's not the case at all. They have a kids menu, and in fact it's one of the larger ones you'll find, offering everything from nachos and grilled cheese to brisket taquitoes and a continental brunch with yogurt parfait and banana nut bread.
So on this list we have a variety of restaurants: pubs, casual eateries and even fine dining, white tablecloth establishments. Well, here's something quite a bit different. Located in Midtown at the corner of NW 10th and Harvey, Bleu Garten is a food truck park with outdoor, shaded seating, a bar and live music. While it certainly appeals to college students and young adults, it is a popular spot for many area families as well. The food trucks don't necessarily have menus just for the kids, but organizers specifically mention their goal of a family-friendly atmosphere. The park has tvs and games such as cornhole. Though it is closed during the cold winter months of December through February, other chilly nights feature fire pit and heaters, and in the summer, they have misters.