Local Family-Friendly Restaurants (Part 1)

I’ve had a couple of people request restaurant suggestions.  Then  a couple of blogs have been talking restaurants  lately.  At AOA, they’re offering up Albany Jane’s Must-Try Cheap Lunches.  Yum.  I’m considering it a to-do list.  And then at the TU’s Parent-to-Parent they’re talking about Worst Kids-in-Restaurant Behavior.  This sort of post just always depresses me.    But it’s like all sorts of crazy cosmic forces are telling me to do the dang restaurant post.  So I’ve been polling random mom friends about their favorite family restaurant destinations.  And along the way, I’ve made two major discoveries.

Discovery #1:  This groovy mealeo website.  I’ve seen similar sites, but this one actually had plenty of different menus, and it tells you which restaurants deliver:  more than I expected.    Definitely helpful.

Discovery #2: My idea of favorite family restaurant destinations, apparently, is abnormal.  People kept making the same suggestions that sort of made me groan.  A little bit like, Really?  Is that the best you can do?  So, first, I’ll share the conventional wisdom on local family-friendly choices. Then, I will launch myself into one of those mini-rants that I go into every once in a while.  You know, when I’m telling you that you shouldn’t be scared of taking your kids to the theater or that you can breastfeed anywhere.

Okay, here are the frequently-suggested choices for family dining in the Capital Region.  Many of these have more than one location, so I’m just linking you to the main site:

Serve-yourself fast-ish food chains that appeal to kids:

  • Five Guys Burgers & Fries–Peanuts while you wait, but they’re everywhere, so it’s not your place if anyone’s got nut sensitivities.  I know that a ton of people love this place; our family doesn’t.  It is so greasy that no matter what we order, everyone feels sick afterwards.
  • The Pasta Factory–great options for kids and adults.  The girls and I love this place.  At the Rte. 7 location, kids eat free on Tuesday nights and Mr. Twisty adds to the fun.
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill–a favorite to pick up or eat there.  They let kids eat free on Sundays in Clifton Park & on Wolf Road, and on Wednesdays on Central Ave.
  • Panera–my kids love-love-love the broccoli cheddar soup.  Even the pickiest eater will be willing to eat a plain bagel or some yogurt, right?

Personal Juke Box at Johnny Rockets

Sit-down Chains that folks consider family-friendly:

  • Red Robin–“Delicious mac and cheese”. I have never, ever been here, but several people suggested it as a family favorite.
  • Johnny Rockets–Tasty retro diner food with criminally cheerful service and your own juke box–kids love it.
  • Bucca di Beppo–“Amazing chocolate cake, and if you’ve got 12 or more, the Pope Room is really fun”.  They serve family-style portions, which can be nice and flexible when you’ve got kids who are picky or who are a little too small or too big to “fit” a kid’s portion.
  • Friendly’s–I understand that children love this, but I will always strive to go somewhere else.

Many people also enjoy some favorite seasonal spots for ice cream, hot dogs, and other basics.

You know what?  I’m going to save my rant for tomorrow.  Because it’s after 11 pm.  I mean, even as I started this thing I recognized that it was ridiculous because I’m super tired and we’re hosting a birthday party tomorrow.  So consider this part one.  Tomorrow I’ll talk about where we like to go.  And, maybe I’ll rant a teensy bit.


  1. Mari

    I find that in general, staff at ethnic restaurants are much happier to have kids around. We take our son to Karavelli’s – go early, before the rush – order him plenty of naan and a lassi – and everyone’s happy. And it’s not Friendly’s. Also recently discovered calling and pre-ordering at restaurants, so that your food is ready more or less when you get there…

  2. I will admit that two of my son’s fave places are in that list, but I have a feeling that I will enjoy your rant! I probably feel the same way. We’ve been going with him to any and all restaurants that appeal to us grown ups since he was a baby. He absolutely loves Japanese, and it doesn’t even have to be the Hibachi, that’s just a plus!

  3. Mari & Kate, stop it this minute! If you two keep talking I won’t have anything left to talk about in Part 2!!!! 😉

  4. Michelle

    This is me, playing devils advocate.

    I have some PERSONAL favorites that I like to take my family to, but I think when you asked for places that are “family friendly” that people generally fall back on what first comes to mind when they hear that phrase. (Marketing ploy anyone?!)

    We haven’t done much explorative eating out just yet, but LOVE Tai Pan in Clifton Park with big hearts. (Had dinner there tonight, actually!) We’ve also found a cute pizza place not too far from our house, but I don’t know the name of it, so that probably won’t help much.

    Hole-in-the-wall, off-the-beaten-path places are generally our favorites, and big name places are treated as fall backs when we feel like going out but can’t agree on a place. (Panera is the exception to that rule – that is ALWAYS good.) BUT – I wouldn’t necessarily think to call any of the places we might eat as “family friendly” – not because they aren’t, but because they cater to people, but not specifically FAMILIES. (Does that even make sense or am I babbling?)

    I guess its kind of like asking about “kid food” – what my kids eat is usually pulled from the adult menu due mainly to the fact that most restaurants only have traditionally-understood-as kid food (mac & cheese, hot dogs, chicken nuggests, etc). Nothing considered remotely healthy or interesting in any way.

    Anyway, food for thought 🙂

  5. I guess it’s true that if you say “family friendly” people automatically think of places that will hand you a coloring page and crayons. But I also think that, for at least some of the times when I was asking people, I was saying, “Where do you like to go to dinner with your family?” And it was all, Red Robin, Red Robin, McDonald’s. Depressing. Yeah, I hate the kid food menus. I mean, it’s a nice thought, but that’s what the kids gravitate toward when the menu’s in front of them, so I almost wish it weren’t.

  6. marion

    We took our 4 year old daughter to Wine and Diner. It’s on Delaware Ave where Avenue A and before that, The Bagel Bite used to be. They have mac and cheese, and all kinds of kids friendly food. The owner brought our daughter a coloring book page from a local artist, and some crayons. Even better, they also have great grown up food, and a pretty hip atmosphere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.