One can only take so many “McLunches” or 24-foot pizza buffets before dining out becomes a listless and unsatisfying experience. If you have kids, or dine with them frequently, then you know what I mean. Guess what? You don’t have to sacrifice any longer! With the help of my boys, I rounded up 15 restaurants where the food is delicious and the whole family is welcome. Better yet, these restaurants are not chains (although a few have multiple locations). They are all Georgia-based, with local owners who believe family-nights out deserve tasty food and a welcoming atmosphere.
Yeah! Burger – When we first ate at Yeah! Burger in Midtown, I had no idea what a great story they told – only that the burger was fabulous, grass-fed, and that there were plenty of gluten-free options for our family. Their commitment to using local ingredients and sustainable practices has made our family “regulars.” I love the Triple B bison burger with a kale salad. Kids can pick burgers, hot dogs, chicken and more with healthy organic sides.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room – Mary Mac’s has been serving “a meat and two sides” Southern style since 1945. The staff serves up genuine Southern hospitality and down-home cooking. Meatloaf, fried chicken, baked fish, and so much more, with over 30 different side choices mean you never have to eat the same thing twice. Grilled cheese, chicken legs, and other Southern staples round out the kids’ menu. Don’t forget to bring home a tin of cinnamon buns for breakfast.
Palookaville – Gourmet corndogs. You heard me! If the taste doesn’t tell you, then the retro toys and circus poster décor give it away: It’s circus food! Palookaville serves up corndogs, hotdogs and pork burgers using creative techniques you won’t find in other places. Try the Corndogolusa or the Midway – Italian sausage with grilled onions, peppers and garlic on French bread. Fries come cheesed, onioned, peppered, poutined, pastramied….or all of the above. While the kids are selecting dessert from the soda fountain (including 1890’s egg cream… mmmmm,) mom and dad can belly up to the bar for an “adult milkshake.”
The Fickle Pickle – Don’t let the charming Victorian house fool you – kids are welcome here. They can even eat free on select weekdays. Come for sandwiches at lunch or burgers I the evening. I’m a sucker for the Reuben, and my boys love the PB&J with oranges. Order your meal at the counter and then head to the patio. The large space with giant trees exudes a picnic atmosphere the kids will enjoy.
Blue Moon Pizza – Blue Moon Pizza is about quality pizza, a casual atmosphere and affordable prices. They pride themselves on an excellent dough and fresh ingredients. Aside from the classics, try the Jerk Chicken pizza with cayenne-candied bacon, or the Santa Fe with chicken, spicy ranch, avocado, black beans and red onions. Too tired to eat-in? Try any specialty pizza as “Take-n-Bake,” for cooking at home in the oven or grill. Kids can try pizza or chicken fingers and fries, and the meal comes with a drink and scoop of ice cream.
Dakota Blue – This neighborhood gem is unassuming from the outside. OK, I’ll be honest: It looks a little like a dive bar. But Dakota Blue is exactly the place I want to be on a Friday night with my hubby and the kids, and another family. The kiddos can play in the corner at the toy area, and the adults can unwind with a beer and fish tacos. This is a neighborhood pub that understands “neighborhoods” usually have kids. There is a full kids’ menu, and my boys devoured the burger and fries.
The Varsity – Is it cliche? Maybe. That doesn’t stop it from being delicious and kid-tastic. For 75 years, The Varsity has perfected burgers, hotdogs and fried pies. I always order the same thing: Chili-cheese-slaw dog, rings and an F.O. (that’s Varsity-speak for the Frosted Orange.) You’ll want your fried peach pie with ice cream; there are 16 flavors, all homemade. They might not see your little one over the tall counter, so be sure to tell them you need a cook’s hat. Somehow, these headpieces always made the fries taste better.
Chick a Biddy – In connection with Atlanta’s famous Bantam + Biddy, Chick-a-Biddy serves farm-fresh chicken and sides for families at Atlantic Station. There are chicken sandwiches, chicken and waffles, chicken burgers and more. Personally, I dig the Thai chili and peanut wings with sweet potato fries. Kids can nibble on hefty portions of chicken tenders, chicken sandwich, chicken quesadilla or veggie plate. Each comes with a side and organic juice or milk.
Osteria 832 Pasta and Pizza – Located in the heart of Virginia-Highlands, this neighborhood staple bustles with children during the early dinner hour. Fresh and made-to-order Italian specialties include pastas, parmigianas, pizzas and more. Kids’ options are only $4, which includes a drink. With selections like grilled cheese, spaghetti, or (the much beloved) mac & cheese, you can’t go wrong. Get a Karma card for kids-eat-free opportunities and to help spread the HomeGrown commitment to local neighborhoods.
Verde Taqueria – Hit this place before 7 p.m. and the plethora of strollers out front hints to the family atmosphere. There are salads and quesadillas, but one really comes here for the tacos (and a drink.) Try the pulled pork taco with homemade BBQ sauce or the buffalo shrimp taco with jalapeno ranch. For under $3, kids can try a quesadilla, fish or chicken with tater tots.
Doc Chey’s Noodle House – Doc Chey’s, another HomeGrown Restaurant, serves family-friendly Chinese that is healthy and delicious. Feel good knowing your little one is eating fresh veggies with no MSG. My little man inhaled his stir-fry with a fork in one hand and his kid-friendly chopsticks in the other. Don’t forget your Karma card for kids-eat-free opportunities, but at only $5 a plate for kids’ meals, eating here is always affordable.
Ammazza – Essential Italian imports plus local meat and produce amount to an amazing wood-fired pie in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. There is Margherita and Ammazzare with Italian sausage and three white pizzas, but the Inferno calls my name: spicy sopressata, mozzarella, Calabria peppers and basil. Mmmm. Glitter pizza (yes, I said glitter!) is on the kids’ menu, and while they are waiting, pick up an Etch-A-Sketch from the bucket up front.
Downwind Restaurant and Lounge – Dubbed “Best Kid Friendly Restaurant” in Atlanta by AOL City Guide for six years in a row, Downwind is the perfect place for families. Grab a bite and see the planes fly in and out of DeKalb Peachtree Airport through the large picture windows overlooking the runway. There are hot and cold sandwiches, dinner entrees like blackened chicken or country fried steak, and several Greek specialties. Friday evening after 7 p.m., the place becomes “adult-only,” but any other time you will find America’s future pilots daydreaming over French fries.
Atlanta Food Truck Park – Take three acres, which used to be an old hotel site, add about 15 food trucks at any given time, and a series of farm-fresh artisan vendors, and you’ve got an explosion of mouth-watering goodness. Pick BBQ or Mexican, Indian or Irish, and everything in between. The food trucks are serving street grub year-round, but we love to come in summer. Near the free parking area is a greenspace complete with a playground and plenty of picnic room, which matches perfectly with a treat from King of Pops. Come hungry!
Farm Burger –Grass-fed burgers from local farmers using human practices, and it comes through in every bite. The prices are easy to swallow, too, especially for locally raised, hormone-free beef. For lunch, pick a burger, fries and a drink for $8.50 (I fancy the Number 4 with smoked Gouda, sherry-date BBQ, and kale slaw.) Kids meals are $4, which includes a drink, and consist of chicken, grilled cheese, a burger, or mac & cheese. And since you were so good, why not indulge on a milkshake like the salted caramel or pumpkin pie?
Lesli Peterson is Georgia’s Destination Expert for Trekaroo and founder of 365 Atlanta Family. She is a homeschooling mom to 2 young boys and bonus mom to two teenagers. From her home base of Atlanta, Lesli spends her time life-learning with the kids one road-trip at a time, and sharing her experiences along the way.