Relaxing on the patio with good food and drinks is something that, prior to kids, we used to love to do... and then we had kids and going out to eat became nothing short of a nightmare that quickly got nixed from our weekend plans. Where we once sat back and talked uninterrupted about our respective weeks, we now went through constant rounds of "don't touch that!" and, "honey, leave those nice people alone." All seemed lost, and we resigned ourselves to spending our evenings out at Chick-fil-A... until we found restaurants with play spaces for kids (we also spent an exhaustive amount of time eating near the green area at CityCentre).
Talk about a game changer - it's like these restaurants knew that us parents needed a space to unwind a bit with the kids in tow, and they delivered with patios that opened up to enclosed playgrounds, sand pits (ok, this one is a catch-22 because of sand everywhere), and toys.
A playground on the patio? Sign us up!/Photo courtesy of Jimmy Changas
Jimmy Changas - Around Houston
Multiple locations around Houston. Find one closest to you here.
For a fresh take on Tex-Mex, you'll want to check out Jimmy Changas. The chain is local to Houston, has a tasty margarita menu and boasts an enclosed playground for the kids (sans the sand, for all those who aren't keen on their kids leaving in need of a bath). Insider tip: while the wait can get lengthy, by downloading the nowait app you can get in line before you even get there.
Skip's Farm - Cypress
16702 House Hahl Road
Head northwest for a country restaurant equipped with an awesome playground. There are two play structures with slides, tires to climb on, and lots of grassy space to run and play. There is also a large sand pit. For the grown-ups, choose from more than 50 types of beer and wine and sit back and relax.
Lupe Tortilla - Around Houston
Multiple locations around Houston. Find one closest to you here.
This Mexican food favorite is known for two things: a patio for parents that overlooks a sandpit full of playground equipment and toys for the kids and outstanding beef fajitas. Just be sure to get there early for weekend dining, because this restaurant hotspot gets busy FAST come Friday at 5 p.m.
Swinging at The Shack/Photo courtesy of Rachael Cherry
The Shack Burger Resort - Cypress
16602 Cypress Rosehill Road
This is no ordinary burger joint; at The Shack you'll find unparalleled craft burgers, a wide selection of craft beer and an expansive outdoor play space for the kids, making this burger joint a must when it comes to family-friendly dining everyone will enjoy. Burgers and fries are ordered à la carte and offer unique combinations like The Bad Decision - a burger with grilled cheese sandwiches in place of the buns - and Southern Rock fries which are smothered in brisket and cheese.
Crisp - Heights
2220 Bevis St.
Crisp is a gastropub in the Heights with a great beer on tap, wine and comfort foods, and it also has a great outdoor space. There are games and a fountain that my kids always get a kick out of playing around.
Bellagreen - West Houston
801 Town & Country Blvd.
When it comes to healthy fare that is both delicious and made from premier local and organic ingredients, Bellagreen tops the list. Add in that the CityCentre location has a patio that opens up to the famed green space for kids, and you've hit the jackpot for family dining.
Taking advantage of the backyard at Frey's/Photo courtesy of Frey's Backyard Cafe
Frey's Backyard Cafe - Tomball
14441 FM 2920
Known for good food and outstanding service, this small-town cafe is a family favorite. The restaurant serves up home-cooked comfort food with a Texas twist, has a welcoming atmosphere that is both casual and professional and is known for its large backyard area for kids to run and play.
The Del - Uptown
6585 Del Monte Drive
This trendy Uptown spot serves brunch, lunch, and dinner featuring dressed up American classics and has a fabulous patio where you'll often find yard games.
Christian's Tailgate - West University Place
5114 Kirby Drive
This laid-back burger and beer joint has four other locations around Houston - downtown, Heights, Midtown, and the Energy Corridor, but the newest addition at West University features a cute little playground! There are also table games inside.
Texas Borders Bar & Grill 1093 - Richmond
26440 FM 1093 Road 400
With a blend of American fare and Tex-Mex favorites, an outdoor enclosed playground for the kiddos, daily specials and live music on the weekends, Texas Borders Bar & Grill 1093 is a preferred dining choice for Richmond and Katy locals. As if that weren't incentive enough, Kids Night! starts at 5PM and kids' meals cost only $1.99 with the purchase of an adult entree.
The playground is officially open at No Label Brewing Co. and ready for action/Photo courtesy of No Label Brewing Co.
No Label Brewing Company - Katy
5351 1st Street, Katy
Craft beer on tap, both indoor and outdoor picnic areas, a playground for the kids, an ever-changing selection of food trucks and a laid-back vibe that can't be beat - what more could you ask for when it comes to kicking back with friends and family on the weekends? Known for its unique location in an old rice silo, this brewery in Old Katy is a favorite destination for kids and adults alike. Love spending time at breweries? Check out our guide to the best family-friendly breweries Houston has to offer.
Little Matt's - West University Place
6203 Edloe St.
You'll find more than good food and a kid-friendly atmosphere at Little Matt's. There's an entire wall devoted to encouragement and support of children and families struggling with cancer. You can leave a wish and donate to charities Little Matt's supports.
Live Oak Grill - Sugar Land
12935 Dairy Ashford
There's not just one patio at Live Oak Grill, but two, allowing plenty of space for families to dine outside. The patio area is covered with fans (can I get an AMEN! for that one, especially for summer dining) and there's play equipment for the kids to stay occupied and entertained. You'll find a little bit of everything on the menu here, so dining out is easy for even the pickiest of eaters.
A patio with a view and green space for the kids can't be beat/Photo courtesy of Karbach Brewing Co.
Karbach Brewing Co. - Spring Branch
2032 Karbach Street
This brewery doesn't just boast amazing craft beer, but also has its own restaurant on site that's touted as having dynamic, world-class cuisine that pairs perfectly with the beer selection on tap. Combine this with a patio that allows space for the kids to be, well, kids and you have a weekend destination that can't be beat.
Punk's Simple Southern Food - Medical Center
5212 Morningside Drive
The name may say "Simple Southern Food," but the fare at Punk's is anything but. Enjoy classics like fried chicken, homemade biscuits and deviled eggs for a meal straight from grandma's kitchen, then let your kids run wild on the grassy area right off the patio. Having a birthday? Be sure to tell the staff so they can bring out a bowl of cotton candy complete with a sparkler on top to celebrate!
Last Concert Cafe - Downtown
1403 Nance St.
It's places like this that make Houston such a fun place to live. At Last Concert Cafe, you'll find casual Mexican fare and a constant line-up of live music performed on a massive patio. Check out their schedule before planning your visit.
Top photo: Playing at the Shack Burger Resort in Cypress/Photo courtesy Lisa Baird
This post originally published in June 2017.