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Where to eat with young kids? (sick of Chuy's!)

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eatingwithkids Dec 12, 2008 10:19 AM

We have two kids who are very well behaved at restaurants, but they are still kids, so we've long felt some restaurants are just for mom and dad nights. However, we are BORED with the restaurants we frequent. Our kids are pretty flexible eaters and most places tend to have a kids menu.

We like casual places, so we end up at Chuy's and Freddie's a lot even though we aren't huge fans of Freddie's food. I could eat Tex-Mex every day, but my husband feels quite sick of Tex Mex (creamy jalapeno sauce/dip is starting to get repetitive.) Atmosphere is important, as the kids are better behaved when the atmosphere is better. We prefer not to frequent chain restaurants, but we're desperate at this point. We love steaks, Asian, American, Italian, etc.

Any suggestions? We are starved for more variety (and better quality.) We've had repeated bad experiences with the food at Shady Grove (not to mention the waits) so that's out. We also like restaurants that are BUSY but have speedy service. Empty restaurants depress us. We'd rather wait 20 minutes for a table and have other diners around.

Any suggestions? How is NXNW for families with younger kids? (Youngest is 4, oldest is 7.)

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  1. amykragan Dec 12, 2008 11:10 AM

    Not sure which night of the week, but Texican Cafe does kid's eat free w/purchase of adult entree.

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      angusb Dec 12, 2008 12:12 PM

      Funny, I was just about to suggest Shady Grove. My brother has a clan of 5 kids, including one with autism who can be counted on to behave inappropriately during pretty much any meal. When they visit Austin, they usually go to the cafe at Central Market north, or to the Salt Lick or Shady Grove. Beyond that, if you're looking for a combination of "atmosphere" and kid appropriate, I'd say you have your work cut out for you. Maybe the other restaurant owned by the Chuy's/Shady Grove people, Hula Hut? I think Vivo could be OK on a less-busy night, or when the weather allows you to sit on the patio. Good luck in your search.

      1. citizen Able Dec 12, 2008 01:03 PM

        I haven't had tots to tow to dinner for a while but these suggestions used to work for me:

        EZ's is quick and they have a deck so the kids can have fun watching birds try to steal fries. They used to have a balloon-art clown Tuesdays or Wednesdays for kids-eat-free night.

        Central Market across the street has a kids menu and a huge deck (and a playscape and a couple of ponds, hills, trees, etc.).

        For Mexican-style food, Zu-Zu's is clean and fresh and kid-friendly with a kid's eat free with adult purchase, again on a Tuesday or Wednesday night.

        1 Reply
        1. re: citizen Able
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          shan Dec 12, 2008 03:55 PM

          Galaxy cafe... I don't have kids, but they seem to have a pretty good kids menu and its pretty flexible. Cannoli Joe's is probably a good bet for a buffet with kids. I personally don't like the place because I find the food bland, but they have a couple of options that are quite tasty (i like the mussels quite a bit). Buffet Palace would be fine for kids. Lots of options and pretty fresh too.

          County Line is pretty laid back and a good place to take kids.

        2. s
          sweetbasil Dec 13, 2008 02:05 PM

          We really enjoy Happy Hour at McCormick & Schmicks with our 3 children -- we sit outside on the patio and enjoy the weather. The food is pretty great, and cheap; for example, $1.99 will buy you an awesome hamburger and fries. I had king crab for $6 that was fresh and very well prepared. The sweet potato fries are excellent, BTW, truly the best I've had.

          There are tons of menu choices and it changes frequently. It's a common stop on our way to Costco. :)

          I just wanted to add that my children aren't as old as yours and we can go pretty much anywhere (except the swanky places) because, like yours, they're well behaved (and used to eating out). We typically go out for Indian, Chinese, Sushi, Korean, Thai, etc. We don't generally like chains, and avoid them.

          Oh another place you might like (if Chuy's chains are kind of your vibe) is Mimi's Cafe. Cheerful, very child-friendly, and solid food. Not "exciting" but good.

          1. y
            yum72 Dec 13, 2008 03:10 PM

            Phil's Ice House on Burnet right next to Amy's is fun and pretty tasty. Good burgers, dogs, fries and, of course, ice cream. Also, during good weather the play area and outdoor dining area are ideal!

            1 Reply
            1. re: yum72
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              Philip Speer Dec 15, 2008 08:37 PM

              with my nine year old and a baby, i would have to agree with some of these choices, purely on price, convenience and entertainment. phil's, central market central(tuesdays kids eat free and a huge play scape), southpark meadows has a playscape that is shared by several restaurants including; waterloo, mam fu's, amy's, wings and things and a few others. they also have a free xmas laser light show going on throughout the evening right now.

            2. c
              ccaustin Dec 13, 2008 05:42 PM

              I've eaten with my daughter (2 years old) several times at NXNW. I will say, we've always gone when the weather is nice and we could sit on the back patio. This way she can walk around a little bit, and it's not a huge big if she drops something. They have a standard kids menu, but she normally ends up sharing a pizza with us.

              1. bookgrrl72 Dec 13, 2008 05:56 PM

                We like Mandola's for our three-year-old son. They have small tables for the wee ones (and maybe even crayons?) and a kid-friendly section of the menu (our boy likes the spaghetti and meatball; we're fans of the antipasti). We just ate there the other night and almost every table in the back dining room had kids, and it wasn't the nightmare you'd expect. Quite the opposite, actually!

                We also go to Amaya's pretty regularly, and to Shanghai on the weekend for dim sum. All of these places are both quick (which we need with a 3-year-old's attention span) and well-populated. One place I wouldn't recommend for kids is Chez Zee -- the kids' menu is lame and the service is glacial all. the. time.

                We also take our son to

                1. c
                  caputoOO Dec 15, 2008 06:12 PM

                  In good weather you could dine at Mandola's and sit outside. Your kids can romp about if they feel the urge and not be too obtrusive.

                  1. GroovinGourmet Dec 15, 2008 06:30 PM

                    How about Kerby Lane? I very much enjoyed my first visit (newer location out north?) and saw plenty of families with kids. Menu is huge and intriguing. I plan on including it in the regular rotation when visiting Austin.

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