It’s one thing to go to a kid-friendly restaurant, where you know you won’t get any dirty looks from the proprietors or other patrons. But family dining heaven might just be a place that also allows kids to play—the idea being that you can actually enjoy your meal after they wolf down theirs. We decided to round up a list of such restaurants, focusing on ones that serve up truly good food along with some sort of entertainment. We call that a win-win!
Eat well—and then bowl (as well as you can!) Photo courtesy of Flatbread Pizza, Somerville
1. Flatbread Pizza/Sacco’s Bowl Haven and Flatbread Pizza/Derby Lanes—Somerville, Salem
Flatbread is not your average pizza joint. The handcrafted pies and salads are made with lots of local, organic ingredients in a wood-fired oven that kids love watching from the safety of a nearby bench. Before, during or after your meal, snag a bowling lane and challenge the whole family to a round of candlepin. There’s even gluten-free crust available!
Kids can try their hand at fishing at the indoor trout pond at Legal Harborside. Photo courtesy of Legal Harborside Facebook page
2. Legal Harborside—Seaport
Legal Sea Foods is known for going above and beyond to accommodate guests (lots of gluten-free options), but the Harborside location takes the cake. Kids will love watching boats come in and out of the harbor and can even try their hand at fishing in a stocked trout pond inside the restaurant! This is a great place to have a nice meal with children without worrying they’ll be bored.
3. American Fresh Brewhouse and Beer Garden—Somerville
Owned and operated by a husband and wife team who are also parents, American Fresh Brewhouse and Beer Garden is more than welcoming to families. There are two locations in Somerville, one in Boynton Yards and one at Assembly Row, where you can sip local brews and dine on tasty food. Kids will love the outdoor spaces when the weather is nice and the kid-specific entertainment you’ll often find happening. Local musician Matt Heaton, among others, frequently stops by the beer garden to play some tunes.
Toy buckets are ready-made for kids in the play area. Photo courtesy of Full Moon
4. Full Moon—Cambridge
Full Moon might be the most kid-friendly restaurant in Boston, or anywhere, for that matter. It was opened more than 20 years ago with the express purpose of providing a place for parents to dine on good food (and relax) while their children have fun in a dedicated play area. And that mission is still going strong.
5. Shake Shack—Chestnut Hill
Before I went to a Shake Shack I was skeptical of the hype, but now I’m a true believer. The burgers, fries, and shakes are all delicious—the kind of delightfully decadent but quick meal parents and kids both love. Shake Shack Chestnut Hill is super kid-friendly, with a huge lawn for little ones to run around on, complete with kid-sized benches. It’s right next to the outdoor seating (with umbrellas for shade), so parents can keep an eye on the play without missing their meal.
6. Life Alive—Cambridge
When you feel like having a healthy meal that still tastes great, head to Life Alive in Cambridge. There’s a lot packed into this two-story location, including a special kids’ area in the basement. Small tables and chairs, plus toys, means that little ones will be entertained while you enjoy a rice bowl and green juice.
A cheery atmosphere gets even more fun on Sundays, with DIY sundaes and balloon animals. Photo courtesy of Summer Shack
7. Summer Shack—Cambridge
The name says it all with this next one, it truly feels like a New England summer day even in the dead of winter inside Summer Shack. It features food the whole family will love—classic and unique seafood dishes for parents and simple, homemade meals for kids. Sunday nights at Summer Shack in Cambridge were made for kids. In addition to the usual bucket of crayons and craft paper to draw on, there’s a sundae bar and balloon animals.
8. The Friendly Toast—Back Bay, Burlington, Cambridge
With three locations now in the Boston area, The Friendly Toast is poised for a breakfast takeover. The food is creative yet accessible, making it perfect for parents and kids. Sitting outside at the Back Bay and Cambridge locations makes for great people watching, while indoors you’ll be able to ogle the impressive collection of vintage, kitschy wares the restaurant has collected. Use Yelp and the NoWait App to avoid weekend lines or go on Wednesday evenings when kids eat free.
9. Trident Booksellers and Cafe—Back Bay
This Boston institution has been feeding both the bellies and minds of locals and visitors since it opened more than 30 years ago. The food isn’t fancy, but it’s delicious, and kids will love people watching from the patio. Or let them pick out their new favorite books while you wait for your food.
Video game fun. Photo by Chris Anderson courtesy Bit Bar Salem
10. Woodman’s of Essex—Essex
In business for more than 100 years, Woodman’s of Essex is a must-visit restaurant for any kid who lives near Boston. Home of the original fried clam, Woodman’s is the perfect summer dining spot for the whole family. Not only is the food appealing to both parents and children, but there’s also a beautiful outdoor eating area with water views that’s perfect for running around. Plus, there’s an ice cream shop on the premises!
11. Max Brenner—Back Bay
This is one restaurant where we feel confident your kids will sit and eat their meals. While you can order kid staples like chicken fingers and fries, we suggest throwing out the rules for one night and having dessert for dinner! Try out the chocolate pizza topped with marshmallows and a milkshake. Or if you're feeling really crazy, order the Max's Palace Famous Chocolate Mess Party, complete with whipped cream mountains and a chocolate swimming pool. Your kids will literally play with their food.
12. Bit Bar—Salem
If your little ones love playing video games, this restaurant is going to be a winner. Bit Bar is filled with arcade games you can play while dining. And while going to an arcade drums up images of mediocre pizza and fries, that's not what you'll find on the menu here. Instead, they offer upscale bar food like elk burgers and a West India Seafood Platter for the adults, and classic kid favess like pizza, chicken fingers, and grilled cheese. And if you order your little gamers a meal, they get $3 in token to play with. It is important to note this restaurant becomes 21+ after 8pm.