The scene is a familiar one: a couple sits down sans children, family of four sits down behind them, loud, unruly children ruin the childless couple’s dinner while mom and dad drown the screams of their children in their drink of choice, probably not enjoying their dinner or drink too much, either.
From the parents’ perspective, however, there are two obvious solutions to this problem: The first, and perhaps more draconian, is to refrain from going to restaurants with your children. The second, and more diner friendly, is to find those places where children are welcomed with open arms, or can at least find themselves entertained throughout the meal without impacting the dining experience of those around them. Enter, then, some of our favorite places to dine with kids in tow. The places to go when Family Matters.
Katy Trail Ice House
When Buddy Cramer initially opened the Katy Trail Ice House, he was thinking the main clientele would be an “Uptown crowd.” Cramer said that they were never “anti-kids” at the Ice House, but the thought just never crossed their mind. Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. On any given Saturday or Sunday “from early on until about 3:00 pm, it is mostly families out on our patio,” states Cramer. And this surprise clientele base has been a “nice addition,” according to Cramer. “When you first open up a restaurant, everyone is talking about you, you’re the ‘hot’ place. But the families – those are stable business. They keep coming back.” The repeat business is likely due not only to the fun, outdoor atmosphere, which boasts some free space for roaming children, a place to play cornhole, and direct access to the Katy Trail, but also to the good food and varied menu. With barbecue, hamburgers, grilled cheese, and other standard bar fare that is above average in taste (everything, except the bread, is homemade) as well as over 100 beers on tap, there is something for everyone from “little kids to older dudes,” explains Cramer. Starting around happy hour and going through the evening hours, the clientele changes to an older crowd, but if you are looking for somewhere to take the kids for brunch, lunch or an early dinner, and the weather is good, the Ice House is an ideal choice.
Company Cafe (Katy Trail location)
Located right on the Katy Trail, with a large outdoor area for dining and playing, Company Cafe is an ideal place for families. As Jeff Wells explains, they were “overwhelmed” by the response when this second Company Cafe opened, but as the months have gone by the “client base started to develop for each meal.” Best bet for families? According to Wells, “weekend brunch seems to be the most family heavy.” On any given weekend morning, you will find lots of dogs, runners, walkers, and children running around. There is a large patio, where you will find children coloring with sidewalk chalk and playing all sorts of games. Another real perk, is the focus on “clean comfort food.” The healthy fare is appealing to children and adults alike. The menu has kid-friendly items — what kid doesn’t love pancakes or waffles? — and parents like that they can be made gluten or dairy free. Heading there for lunch or dinner? You will still find a plethora of kid-friendly healthy fare, such as chicken tenders fried in olive oil, which are pretty popular. Bottom line? Children are having fun and eating healthy, while parents can take a few extra minutes to relax and enjoy their food, too. What’s not to like about that combination?
A fried chicken joint located next to a trailer park? And it shares its property with a bar? While that may not seem like an ideal location for children, Chicken Scratch is just that. With wide open space, a cobbled together playground, popsicles served out of a paletero cart, and live music, families flock to Chicken Scratch. The food appeals to parents and children alike – the mac and cheese may be made spicy for the grown-ups and mild for the kiddos, the fried chicken can be served as tenders or for more grown-up fair, as a fork and knife biscuit sandwich, a whole or half rotisserie bird, or tasty tacos. Really, the only problem you may have with Chicken Scratch? Your kids will not want to leave.
While the other spots are more recent additions to the Dallas dining scene, Dream Cafe has been around for quite awhile. Located in the Quadrangle (with a second location in Addison), Dream Cafe was serving up great brunch and healthy fare before healthy fare was hip. Like the other spots on the list, Dream Cafe is urban but still manages to have some space for children to run around and blow off some steam before and after they eat. Located next to a large outdoor dining area is a fun playhouse and a geometric construction that children can climb in and out and on without ever really figuring out. In other words, places that can occupy the shortest of attention spans that often cut family meals short. Adults can order and enjoy their meal, while the children play, just out of earshot, but not out of sight.