Family Matters: Best Kids' Menus

Some nights there’s nothing better than throwing a frozen pizza in the oven, calling a babysitter, and heading out for a few hours of quiet dining with grown-ups. But if you’re in the mood to bring the kiddos along and would rather not spend the evening dodging stray plastic balls at Chuck E. Cheese, there are some great, family-friendly restaurants around town where your little ones—and you—can get a delicious meal. Whether junior prefers chicken fingers and mac ’n’ cheese or he’s a blossoming culinary genius, these local dining spots offer smaller portions with big flavor for your pint-size family members.
Peter Taylor

Amalfi Italian Cuisine
Head to the University area for some seriously authentic cuisine from southern Italy. This cozy restaurant offers cheesy gourmet pizzas, bursting calzones, and some of the best pasta you’ll find this side of Naples. Kids under twelve can dig into miniature versions of the flavorful dishes like lasagna ($4.75). Plus, many of the pizzas are available by the slice, making them the perfect size for smaller stomachs. 8542 University City Blvd., 704-547-8651

Boudreaux’s Louisiana Kitchen
Go when there’s live jazz music and load up on the beignets—coated in sugar, these are the kind of regional culinary treat both kids and adults love. While the menu features the spicy Cajun food you crave, like jambalaya and crawfish etouffee, there’s a kids menu with more simple (and nonspicy) offerings like chicken tenders ($3.95) and mini corndogs. 501 E. Thirty-sixth St., 704-331-9898

Bonefish Grill
Bonefish draws families for early-evening dinners where enthusiastic servers joke with the kids and adults enjoy the wine specials. Yes, there are chicken tenders and yes there’s mac ’n’ cheese, but on the kid’s menu you’ll also find strips of fish, grilled chicken, and a choice of fresh veggies for sides. So you can rest assured you and the kids are eating healthfully when you order the perfectly cooked salmon from the restaurant’s signature wood-burning grill. 7520 Pineville Matthews Rd., 704-541-6659; 10056 E. Independence Blvd, 704-845-8001

Cabo Fish Taco
The fiesta never ends at this colorful NoDa restaurant. Sure, talking your tyke into a taco with fish on it may sound like an impossible feat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy one of those tasty tacos (and its famed margaritas) while your child munches on the popular spot’s popcorn shrimp ($4.95) or cheese quesadillas ($4.95). Plus, with its convivial atmosphere and new, larger space, you’ll feel right at home among other families out for the evening. 3201 N. Davidson St., 704-332-8868

Pike’s Old Fashioned Soda Shop
This quintessential family restaurant features soda fountain décor and a patio facing the light rail line. With its noisy interior and cozy booths, it’s the kind of place designed for kids—and grown-up kids—to kick back with a milk shake and grilled cheese. Plant your little ones at the counter stools and watch as malts, shakes, and floats are made. Whether you’re going for Sunday brunch where kids ages three to six can dig into the all-you-can-eat buffet—and dessert bar— for $3.95 (two and under eat free) or looking for a fun lunch spot where your youngster can enjoy a Grape Nehi alongside his burger, this is family-friendly dining at its best. 1930 Camden Rd., 704-372-0092

Flying Biscuit Café
When the kid’s menu doubles as a coloring sheet, you know you’ve arrived at a place that gets children. There’s a steady parade of strollers coming in and out on Wednesday nights from 4 to 7 p.m., when kids under twelve eat for free from the children’s menu. Your kids will love the stacks of sweet pancakes and colorful décor. You’ll love the fried green tomatoes and surprisingly diverse wine list. 7930 Rea Rd., 704-295-4440; 4241 Park Rd., 704-714-3400

Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen
However unlikely it may be, Chef Jim Noble’s sophisticated à la carte menu has plenty of offerings for families. Go early to avoid the fancier crowds and order from the kid’s menu, which features items like sliders or pizza for $6, but also offers choices like duck confit ($14) and fried calamari ($7). Still trying to talk them into veggies? Order Rooster’s super-fresh corn or butter beans—just be prepared to want a bite off their plate for a change. 6601 Morrison Blvd., 704-366-8688

Mama Ricotta’s
There are two ways to dine with children here. First, order the family-size versions of almost anything on the menu including fresh salads, heaping plates of pasta, or large pizzas, giving you plenty to pass around for everyone. Or, if you’re dealing with a less adventurous palate, your child can enjoy one of the children’s options like a delicious grilled cheese panini, pasta with red sauce, or a kid’s pizza (all for $5.75). Either way, come with a big appetite and a big family. 601 S. Kings Dr., 704-343-0148

Greek Isles
A menu that’s almost entirely written in another language may seem intimidating when it comes to the kids. However, at this casual South End restaurant you’ll find friendly servers, a fun atmosphere, and easy children’s options like chicken breasts and pasta. Determined they experience at least a small taste of Greece? Order the kid’s beef patty with a side of the Greek oven potatoes ($5). Now you can enjoy your marinated octopus in peace. 200 E. Bland St., 704-444-9000

Harper’s Restaurant

This Charlotte favorite gets kids. First there’s the PB&J sushi—small rolls of peanut butter with a raspberry yogurt dipping sauce. Then there are BBQ sliders, small-mouth-size portions of the ’cue sandwich. And then there’s the fact that every kid’s meal ($6) comes with a dessert option. But Harper’s understands that parents also want healthful options for their tots, so they’ve added nutritious options like grilled Atlantic salmon and side of fresh vegetables. 6518 Fairview Rd., 704-366-6688; 11059 Carolina Place Pkwy., 704-541-5255

Big View Diner
This south Charlotte restaurant may not have the most healthful kid’s menu in town (or adult menu for that matter), but the place is huge and loud—something that works well when you’ve got the whole boisterous crew in tow. You’ll find plenty of kid dishes like burgers and pastas. Plus, there’s the all-day kid’s breakfast menu on which everything is $3.99 and includes juice or milk. Someone get straight A’s this week? This is the place to treat with kid’s desserts like dirt and worms—it’s chocolate pudding with Oreo crumbles and gummie worms ($4.49) and tastes much better than it sounds. 16637 Lancaster Hwy., 704-544-0313

PF Chang’s China Bistro

Kids love Chinese food, especially when it includes dishes like sweet-and-sour chicken served with extra dipping sauce. Last year this stylish chain launched its first kid’s menu, and it’s quickly become a favorite of tots who enjoy their lo mein—and parents who enjoy introducing kids to new fare. Beware, though: the chicken fried rice is lacking veggies, so if you were looking for ways to sneak in snap peas, stick with sharing the adult version. 10325 Perimeter Pkwy., 704-598-1927, 6809-F Phillips Place Ct., 704-552-6644