Just because you have kids doesn’t mean your taste buds have to suffer. Plus, your budding foodies deserve better than processed chicken parts, hot dogs and no-better-than-Kraft mac and cheese. Herewith, our favorite family-friendly restaurants, where parents and their offspring can feed their stomachs and their souls.
Best Play Date Locale: Chicken Scratch
Play dates are more fun when you have huge yard, wholesome food and no clean-up duty. That's why we love Chicken Scratch. The brainchild of Tim Byres, Christopher Jeffers and Chris Zielke (from Smoke and Bolsa), Chicken Scratch is a place where the whole neighborhood can chill out, eat and play. A simple menu features skillet-fried or wood-fired chicken, fresh sides and salads, and Mexican-inspired fruit popsicles. Chicken Scratch shares its space with The Foundry, which stocks more craft beers than your fridge could ever hold. Bonus: live music on the weekends.
Best Start to the Day: Crossroads Diner
Former fine-dining chef Tom Fleming gives diners a gourmet start to their day at his ever-popular Crossroads Diner, which is open only for breakfast and lunch. Fleming, who sometimes writes recipes under Chef Dad, shuts down the restaurant at 2 pm to spend quality time with his two daughters, ages 11 and 7. Morning pancakes are fluffy and light, as are frittatas made with farm-fresh eggs tossed with ingredients such as local goat cheese and Texas chorizo. There’s freshly squeezed orange juice for the kids and Italian Illy coffee for moms and dads. Don’t forget to share a signature sticky cinnamon bun.
Best Place To Refuel After a Big Workout: Dough Pizzeria
Location perfection! Because Dough is just a few doors down from The Little Gym and Emler Swim School at Preston Road and Forest Lane, hungry munchkins can enjoy authentic Neapolitan-style pizza after a swim-and-gym day. Certified by Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN), this North Dallas pizzeria adheres to strict, pizza-making guidelines. Specified flour goes into the hand-kneaded dough; other ingredents are imported, preferably from Naples or Campania, such as San Marzano tomatoes, fior de latte (fresh mozzarella) and basil. Just 90 seconds in a 900-degree oven, and the family has a delizioso pizza in a flash.
Best Drive-thru: Start Restaurant
Why didn’t anyone do this before? At this fast slow-food restaurant with a drive-thru, busy families can pick up scratch-made breakfast sandwiches, such as organic egg and applewood-smoked bacon on a toasted wheat English muffin, or lunches like Mediterranean quinoa salad. The kids menu features breaded and baked or grilled chicken bites or a healthy snack pack with apples and carrots with peanut butter or sweet cream cheese dip. Start uses meats free of antibiotics, hormones or nitrates; organic eggs, milk, butter and sugar; and whole wheat flour in the baked goods. Mayonnaise and salad dressings are made in-house.
Best Cultural Dining Experience: Kirin Court
No Chinese required at this bustling restaurant famed for dim sum. “Dim sum,” which means “touch of the heart” in Chinese, traditionally is served during breakfast or brunch and eaten family-style. The best part is the ordering. Servers wheel around carts filled with dumplings and other delectables in little steamer baskets and small plates. Diners never know what each cart holds; you just pick your dishes at your leisure and savor the culinary surprise. We suggest reading Grace Lin’s Dim Sum for Everyone with your kids before the trip.
Best Excuse To Eat With Your Fingers: Lockhart Smokehouse
Your mama always said to use a fork. But those rules don't apply at Lockhart Smokehouse in the Bishop Arts District. A spin-off of Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, this baby smokehouse follows the tradition of no forks and no sauce. Order your barbecue ribs, brisket or pork chops by the pound, and have a carnivourous good time eating with your fingers. As an added treat, you can get the original Kreuz Market sausages on these premises.