There was a time when the sound and sight of a gaggle of children making their way into a restaurant meant scrambling to finish your meal, gulp down your drink, get the bill paid, and get out. Now they’re either your kids or your friend’s kids and it’s a necessary evil to bring them out if you want to retain some sense of your former self. Just because you gave up your ability to stay out after midnight doesn’t mean you have to give up sitting down for a decent meal without doubling down on the night’s expenses by getting a babysitter.
But you can’t just go anywhere - you need somewhere that’s used to serving kids so the servers aren’t constantly side-eyeing you, and that has food that will excite both normal-sized and mini humans. And, while order-at-the-counter spots can be a safe route, sometimes you don’t want something as casual. Here are 13 sit-down spots where you can safely bring the kids.
The rooftop of Six Feet Under is a good place to teach your children that fish sticks can be worlds better than the frozen kind you’ve been popping in the microwave when you only have 90 seconds to put dinner on the table. But, if your daughter recently won a goldfish at the carnival you didn’t want to go to in the first place and now won’t eat anything from the sea, this seafood spot serves a great burger too. Once you’ve got all the bases covered for the kids, start digging into baked parmesan oysters, king crab legs, or a basket of fried catfish.
It’s never easy getting the whole family to agree on a dinner spot, but with over 100 Thai and Chinese dishes on the menu, Little Bangkok is a good way to go. This family-style place has been around forever, is used to kids coming in, and can get you fed quickly and cheaply. You can also promise the kids some mango sticky rice for dessert as a bribe to get them to finish their beef and broccoli. Parking gets a little weird in their lot attached to a gas station, but there are spaces across the street after 5pm, so drop the family off at the door rather than having them join your game of Frogger while crossing Cheshire Bridge Rd.
Once you’re a parent, you start wondering why every restaurant doesn’t take a cue from Ronald McDonald and build a playspace attached to their dining room. Nine Mile Station, on the rooftop of Ponce City Market, gets pretty close. It’s strategically located next to Skyline Park, where there are rides, mini golf, and games. Plus, not only do the tables on the patio have a great view of the Atlanta skyline, they also give parents the perfect perch to sip a rum Old Fashioned and pick from a mixed grill board while ensuring little Timmy isn’t driving golf balls off the rooftop. Keep in mind, the rooftop is 21+ after 5pm on Friday through Sunday, so if you’re bringing the kids, make it a weekend brunch or weekday dinner.
One day you’re going to achieve black-belt-parent status by getting the kids out to a real farm to show them that eggs and milk aren’t made in the grocery store. Until then, take them to Avondale Estates’ restaurant, Rising Son. The fun light fixtures, colorful artwork, and stuffed coyote will provide more than enough distraction for you to enjoy the food made with ingredients from local farms. Breakfast is mostly a mix of biscuit sandwiches and grit bowls, lunch takes on a meat-and-three format, and “Supper” (Fridays and Saturdays only) is constantly changing to highlight seasonal produce.
If you’re tired of pretending a forkful of food is an airplane in order to get your kids to eat, you should consider taking them to Downwind to get the real thing. This burger spot overlooking Dekalb Airport serves all the pub classics and a large amount of wild-caught seafood. The biggest perk about coming here is that the younger members of your party will be distracted by airplanes taking off and landing long enough to give you some alone time with the spinach artichoke dip and a beer.
When you want to teach your kids the true meaning of a well-balanced breakfast, bring them to Home Grown and order the comfy biscuit: a fried chicken biscuit sandwich covered in sausage gravy that comes with a side of orange slices. When they get antsy, you can walk them through Sew Thrifty Five & Dime, an antique store in the back or, if the weather’s nice, take them out to the organic garden and show them where the green tomatoes grow prior to being deep fried and dropped on your table with some exceptional pimento cheese.
Instead of spending half the meal reminding your younger dining companions to use a fork and knife, get some Indian street food in Decatur at Chai Pani, where at least 80% of the menu is meant to be eaten with your hands. There’s also a lot of group ordering encouraged here, so everyone can work on their sharing skills while tasting garlic and ginger-spiked chicken pakoras or tomato and cheese uttapam - savory crepes made from rice and lentil batter.
With a massive menu that includes breakfast all day, this Jewish deli is a good place to feed kids who believe the entire food pyramid is just bread and eggs. There’s everything from bagels and matzo ball soup to challah french toast and deli sandwiches, like their massive po’boy with corned beef, pastrami, salami, turkey, swiss cheese, and kosher pickles. Sit at one of their booths, place your order, and don’t forget to teach your children the important lesson that a can of Dr. Browns black cherry soda pairs perfectly with everything at a deli.
When a place makes the claim that it’s the oldest bar in town, we usually picture the setting of a bar fight involving Groucho Marx or Abraham Lincoln. We certainly don’t expect to find the reading nook play area or kids menu with a $6 grilled flank steak that’s at Atkins Park. Their menu ranges from solid nachos and crispy calamari to Southern comfort food like boiled peanuts, deviled eggs, and cornbread-crusted trout. Just remember to check back on the play area to make sure your kid’s lack of sharing skills doesn’t spark the first ever toddler bar fight.
Sometimes being a parent requires you to grow a third arm in order to catch a leaping child while holding several bags of groceries. Another (less suspenseful) opportunity to be a hero is bringing the family to Savage Pizza, a comic book-themed pizza place in Little Five Points. The kids will be happy to eat their slice of choice while a massive Superman hovers over their heads and you’ll be your own personal hero for ordering the Southern Que - a pizza topped with Fox Bros. barbecue sauce, pulled pork, bacon, and Monterey Jack cheese.
If you’re planning to raise your children in Atlanta, they’ll need to start learning early where the bar should be set for a breakfast chicken biscuit. Buttermilk Kitchen’s sweet-tea-brined fried chicken makes it a pretty good contender. The staff at this North Buckhead spot is friendly and patient while serving up pimento omelets and buttermilk pancakes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to tempt the kids with banana pudding for dessert.
La Fonda is a good place to keep on standby for a casual weeknight dinner with the whole family. When you sit down and follow your usual urge to start with a bowl of queso and chips, make sure they leave out the fresh jalapenos - there’s a good chance your meal will end before your first sip of sangria if your kid gets a bite of one. Quesadillas or rice and beans with grilled chicken are safe bets for picky eaters, but the fish tacos may win them over too.
Teach your kids that the line between breakfast and dessert can be a blurred one with the fried chicken and sweet potato waffle at Folk Art. The walls of this Inman Park restaurant are covered in kitschy, nostalgic signs which will keep your picky eaters distracted until their food comes. Thankfully classic diner food works just as well for kids as it does for adults, so it’s easy to split a few things, like a truly special grilled cheese sandwich, eggs benedict, biscuit sandwiches, and a burger. They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which means this one should stay on the short list for an easy place to go to in a pinch.