Best restaurant chains for families

by SheKnows
Jun 1, 2012 at 9:22 a.m. ET

Little conveniences add up when choosing a family-friendly restaurant. Let's count down some great options!

Whether you're just stopping for a quick bite to eat while running errands with the kids in tow, or planning a casual night out away from the routine of planning and preparing dinner, it's good to have healthy choices at restaurants that are family-friendly! You'll appreciate options that are budget-wise and still offer nutritious food with quality ingredients, as well as the convenient amenities that make the outing easy: high chairs and booster seats for the little ones, plus crayons and games to keep children occupied until the food is served. Luckily, there are great chain restaurants that specialize in serving families with kids.

Red Lobster

What's not to like about a restaurant that encourages kids to eat fish? Four of the seven dishes on the special Kids' Menu are seafood. These meals come with steamed veggies or fruit slices, and with the addition of juice or low-fat milk, they have just 12 grams of fat in under 350 calories. For kids who turn up their noses at fish, there's also a grilled chicken option. Red Lobster operates 693 locations spread over 44 states.

Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes

Known as Souplantation in California and Sweet Tomatoes in other states, this chain is located mostly in western and southern states with 121 locations. Their centerpiece is the long salad bar with over 30 ingredients to choose from, and they also have eight made-from-scratch soups and three pasta choices on the daily menu, as well as low-fat muffins, frozen yogurt and plenty of fresh fruit choices. A family of four with small children can eat a filling, nutritious dinner here for around $25. The kids will especially enjoy "Kids' Night" featuring clowns, balloon artists and pint-sized entertainment.

Mimi's Cafe

In 24 states with over 145 locations, Mimi's gives bibs and hand-wipes to every family with young kids, and the restrooms have convenient changing tables. Children get a free "appetizer" plate loaded with things like crackers, Cheerios and oranges to keep them busy and satisfied until the entrees arrive. The restaurant has a big selection of beverages for kids, including whole, reduced-fat or fat-free milk in either plain or chocolate. The variety on the Children's Menu pleases even picky eaters, with choices like a turkey dinner or spaghetti, served with sides including fresh veggies, fruit, applesauce and mashed potatoes.


A popular item on Chipotle's new Kids' Menu is the Taco Kit: kids choose three ingredients to take back to their table and fill their own tortillas. The food quality is excellent -- all dairy products are hormone-free, and most of the meat is antibiotic-free. Chipotle makes the effort to reduce salt content in their meals, and their crispy taco shells have just 10 milligrams of sodium. It's a safe place for kids with common food allergies, since every restaurant is completely peanut and tree-nut free. Part of the Chipotle commitment to the local community is that each restaurant locally sources at least 50 percent of one produce item. There are 1,050 locations in 35 states.

Red Robin

For pure fun, children love the wacky antics at Red Robin: balloons, a birthday club and frequent appearances by the Red Robin mascot. Parents like the improved Children's Menu with healthier choices: grilled chicken, veggie burgers and imaginative side dishes kids really like, including carrots with dip and icy cantaloupe wedges. If your child has food allergies, Red Robin has a detailed (but easy to understand) ingredient guide to help you make choices. Red Robin restaurants are in 40 states with 451 locations.

More tips for eating with kids

Family-friendly Seattle restaurants

Great ice cream and dessert places in Ohio

Florida kids-eat-free specials

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