Most of your dinners lately have been the food left on your kids’ plates and the rest of your glass of wine from last night - it was already on your nightstand, no need to explain. And while your kids would happily eat microwaved chicken nuggets everyday of their lives, it’s time to go out.
While the thought of dealing with intense side-eye from other people as your child scream-sings Frozen songs is enough to make you turn your car around, you won’t find any of that at the restaurants in this guide. They’re all about as kid-friendly as it gets, and include everything from a few nicer spots where you can eat really well to a barbecue spot where you won’t be stuck in line for half the day.
If your kids say no to pizza night, they’re either young enough that “no” is the only word they’ve learned or old enough to know it’ll make you mad. But once you put a slice down in front of them, there will be fewer objections. The newer Home Slice in North Loop has plenty of seating and a big outdoor play area for your kids to hopefully get tired enough to fall asleep on the first try tonight. The giant pizzas are classic and the Sicilian slice is one of the best things there for adults - other than the full bar.
Chuy’s has been an Austin institution for longer than you’ve understood how babies were born, let alone how to make one of your own. The kid’s menu has plenty of options and you can get a huge burrito, along with a much needed Texas martini after playing an unintentional and terrifying game of hide-and-seek with your three-year-old in Target today. There are hubcaps on the walls, fish hanging from the ceiling, and brightly-colored decor, so your kid will feel like they’re inside a coloring book and you’ll be the hero who brought them there.
Burgers and fries are always an easy sell, which is why you’ll always find a lot of parents and kids at Hopdoddy. There are giant stacks of fries, simple burgers, and milkshakes for kids if they’ve behaved, or as a bribe to get them to stop yelling about how Sarah stole one of their pickles. And there are burgers with toppings like caramelized onions, seared poblanos, and brie for adults. There’s also a great beer selection for when your kids insist on kicking each other under the table. To avoid a long wait, head to the location in the Triangle and come on the earlier side for dinner.
Hula Hut is the ideal spot for when someone with kids is coming to visit - or when you weren’t able to swing that pre-baby beach trip. The patio is right on the lake, brightly painted, and covered in palm fronds that make it look like a very large cabana. The plastic-covered tables are easy to wipe down and the wood floors are meant for children who like to sprinkle their meals on the ground. The menu has things like a shrimp po’boy with a fried pineapple ring and coconut shrimp, so everyone will feel like they’re on vacation.
Your trips to Magnolia used to be post-midnight when you desperately needed to eat a stack of pancakes. Now circumstances have changed and your late-night activities are more Moana sing-along than karaoke. Not everything has to change, though, and Magnolia can still be a go-to. Now you can use it to convince your kid that “Breakfast for Dinner” is a special holiday for kids who haven’t finger painted the walls in the last week. Get the gingerbread pancakes or the EggScape - a mountain of potatoes, cheese, sausage, and eggs - then try to remember the last time you stayed up past 11:30pm.
Suggesting you go to the grocery store might appear a little passive-aggressive, but we promise we’re not directing you to the produce aisle. Head to the North Lamar Central Market’s cafe - they have a giant playground, occasional live music, and the classic kids menu options. For adults, they have everything from salads and sandwiches to fresh fish and tacos. Buy a bottle of wine or a 6-pack in the store and drink it outside while you watch as your kid teaches the other kids words you didn’t mean to say around them.
From the multi-colored chairs and string lights outside to the interior walls covered in framed horse pictures, Shady Grove is a very casual space that’s perfect for kids. Come here for the Frito Pie, chili cheese fries, and fried shrimp - and the kids menu that includes a corn dog, which we always thought of as the jackpot of kid dishes. And then get a side of onion rings that you can use to lure your children back to the table when they start fighting about who gets to sit in the pink chair.
Turns out kids can’t tell the difference between barbecue that people wait hours for and barbecue at places where you can sit immediately. While many Rudy’s locations are huge and located in gas stations, their barbecue is much better than you’d expect. Which means Rudy’s is your best bet in terms of the quality-of-meat-to-time-you-waited ratio.
Top Notch is an old-school burger joint with an adult menu that’s about as cheap as the kids one. Get a burger for yourself and your kids, along with some tater tots and a milkshake for dessert. It’s been open since the 70s and was in Dazed and Confused, which won’t mean anything to your offspring yet, but it will in a few years.
This tiny pizza spot in North Austin is easy to pass by, but parents know all about Little Deli. Call in a takeout order and when it’s ready, grab some beer and wine at the grocery store across the street before posting up at a picnic table outside to let your kids run around in their big field out back. Even though you’re here for the pizza, the hoagies are also great, especially the pastrami. Tell your kids they’re made of vegetables so you don’t have to share.
Sour Duck Market is like the Pixar of restaurants - it’s fun and easy enough for kids to be entertained by, but it’s really beloved by adults. There’s a big outdoor area that works well if you’re with kids and dogs, and since your child turned down your attempt at matching outfits, opt for matching burgers instead - they have a small one on the kids menu and an adult-sized one with umami mayo. Then keep it going and get two croissants from the bakery counter.
When you’re worried your child’s vegetable-to-chicken-tender ratio has been dangerously low lately, head to Picnik. Your kid will be into the cassava flour pancakes, breakfast tacos, and cashew queso, and you’ll like the Thai red curry and the fish tacos. And if your child’s newest friend has a laundry list of allergies, the menu is gluten, corn, peanut, and soy free.
Your kids think tacos are made for children because they’re small and fit perfectly in their hands. Which works to your advantage since you know tacos are basically the most perfect food - and Torchy’s is where you go to get some of the best. They have a long list of options for when one kid’s afraid of chicken, one watches a lot of Top Chef Junior, and another refuses to eat anything but hot dogs (they have a hot dog taco). As always, don’t forget the queso.