Dining out with young kids can be a balancing act -- you have to consider menu options, wait times, and short attention spans. Finding a place to eat that makes everyone happy may seem like an impossible feat, but in Durham it's not!
We polled the moms and dads on staff to find parent tested, kid-approved restaurants that appeal to different palates and dining styles. Keep on reading for our kid-friendly restaurant picks.
Chicken and waffles is a great combination for adults and kids alike. In addition to chicken, waffles, and shmears, this Durham icon offers plates for "Chick-a-dees," kids ages 8 and under. Try the Carolina Kid -- two drumsticks and a petite waffle -- for a pint-sized Dame's experience. If your youngster is getting a little antsy, request crayons: little ones can color on the paper tablecloths!
Tip: Dame's is a popular Durham restaurant, so the line often runs out the door. Avoid peak lunch and dinner hours.
Elmo's Diner serves American comfort food in a casual and bustling environment. It has an extensive kids menu (featuring pancakes, spaghetti, and sandwiches) and offers crayons and coloring sheets for its younger patrons. Even the pickiest of eaters should be pleased with the wide selection and parents will enjoy all-day breakfast, sandwiches, salads, and home-style meals.
Tip: Families can request a roomy corner booth. The seats are deep enough for a booster seat and a high chair can be placed at the end of the table.
True Flavors serves elevated diner classics in a retro-style dining room. While it doesn't have a specific kids menu, True Flavors' breakfast and lunch menu feature kid-friendly items like creamy buttered grits, scratch-made pancakes, and honey chicken biscuits. Come with an empty stomach because this little diner delivers large portions of classic comfort food favorites with big flavors.
Tip: Save room for dessert. Kids will go crazy for the handmade shakes and floats, which add a hint of soda shop nostalgia to the experience.
On Tuesdays this casual Neapolitan pizza place engages a kid's creative side, when they can build their own pizzas. Young chefs can stretch dough, spread sauce, and sprinkle cheese for the perfect DIY pizza, which they can pair with a juice box or organic milk. Throughout the week you'll find coloring sheets, a play area, and kids menu for patrons 10 and under.
Tip: Check out the fish tanks that are part of Pompieri's aquaponics system - they are both captivating and educational.
For a hands-on, fondue experience for older kids, head to The Little Dipper in Brightleaf Square. Adults and kids will enjoy cooking their food on a shared, tabletop burner, then dipping meats, vegetables, and bread in various sauces.
Tip: Plan on a lengthy, participatory meal. Leave ample time if you have post-dinner plans.
This Salvadoran restaurant is a family-friendly spot for Latin food lovers. Young foodies can try items off the regular menu, though there's also a children's menu that includes a mini quesadilla, chicken wings, and a burrito with rice. On Friday nights this spot features live music.
Tip: Instead of ordering a quesadilla, try the pupusa (tortilla filled with cheese, beans, or meat), which appeals to both adults and younger diners.
For a dining experience that's as much about the entertainment as the food, head to Kanki. A skilled chef will put on a show by artfully chopping and preparing food, to the delight of both older and younger kids. A children's menu is available for kids under 10, featuring junior hibachi entrees, tempura shrimp, and chicken tenders. Kanki also serves mocktail-esque children's drinks.
Tip: Request grill-front seating for the best view of the hibachi action.
This gourmet food market and cafe is the perfect spot for a leisurely weekend brunch or a relaxed lunch. In addition to a wide array of sandwiches and breakfast items, you can order a grilled cheese or PB&J off the kids menu. The best part? Foster's has abundant outdoor seating and a grassy lawn, perfect for rambunctious types who need to work up an appetite before sitting down for a meal.
Tip: Most sandwiches are available in half-sizes, so your youngster's options for a kid-sized meal aren't limited to the childrens menu.
Bull City Burger and Brewery (BCBB) is serious about its grass-fed beef and it has a kids menu for ages 10 and under featuring small burgers (veggie and regular), grilled cheese, and hot dogs with fries. BCBB also has an indoor play nook and coloring sheets, as well as an outdoor patio where children often frolic. This laid back environment with family-style tables is well suited for younger patrons.
Tip: In the warmer months plan to sit on the patio outback and engage your youngsters with all the herbs, peppers, and more grown on-site for use in the restaurant.
A food court may not be the first place foodie parents think about going with their kids. But the Streets at Southpoint isn't your typical food court. Try mouth-watering gourmet grilled cheeses or Italian-style pork sandwiches from locally owned shops American Meltdown and Porchetta, in addition to other offerings. With large open seating and a higher decibel level, kids and adults can eat in comfort without fear of being too loud.
Tip: For delicious sides, try the Crispy Rosemary Potatoes at Porchetta or the fried Brussel sprouts at American Meltdown. Then take the toddlers to the play area on the lower level. Southpoint also has family restrooms and breastfeeding rooms near the food court for your convenience.
This kid-friendly tavern offers casual dining at its American Tobacco location. Older children will enjoy the pool tables, foosball, arcade games, and corn hole in the beer garden, plus the menu offerings include appealing pub and comfort food (burgers, mac and cheese, chicken tenders).
Tip: Tyler's is open until 2 a.m., so remember that kid-friendly taverns turn into taverns around 9 p.m. Use your parental judgment.