In 2016, Yelp named Denver one of the top three food cities in the United States. But where can you experience great food and take the kids along? We’ve compiled this list of 15 parent-recommended options to enjoy the Denver food scene as a family, with a couple bonus spots in the “burbs.
Vegan, vegetarian, and even the most carnivorous families will be delighted at this fast-casual concept restaurant. Owner and chef Justin Cucci (Ophelia’s, Linger, El Five, and Root Down) has a way with vegetables, turning coconut meat into an almost tastier version of “bacon”. The kids” menu ($6) gives options like a beet slider with aged cheddar, cheese quesadilla with avocado, or an almond butter and jelly sandwich, all served with sweet potato fries or veggie chips. Kids can enjoy outdoor tables adorned with plastic bugs or classic toys (Slinky, Etch-A-Sketch, plastic dinosaurs, and crayons) while they wait. 3915 Tennyson St., Denver.
Instead of the standard Chinese take out, Ace Eat Serve offers dishes elevated just enough for even the pickiest eaters. Their kids” menu offers kid-friendly versions of Asian cuisine favorites like their bao buns, wok tossed rice noodles, or dim sum. Each $7 kids meal comes with complimentary shaved ice. But what really makes this space great are the 12 ping-pong tables, including several on the heated patio. Families can brush up on their paddle skills during happy hour for $10 an hour per table. 501 E. 17th Ave., Denver.
This almost two-year-old spot is a LoHi favorite and for good reason. The two-story, open concept restaurant with several dining options, spacious seating, and two massive bars, leaves little to desire. From burgers, fries, and shakes to sushi and wood fired pizza, Avanti caters to each family member’s cravings. Kids can enjoy coloring and parents can enjoy a relaxed happy hour space in which their little ones can move around (without the judging stares). 3200 Pecos St., Denver.
With spacious outdoor seating, a fire pit, board games, and several kid-conscious menu items (tater tots, macaroni and cheese, and sliders, ranging from $3.50 to $15), this spot is the ideal place to kick back during the warmer months for a bite, a brew, and a safe, no-judgement afternoon. 2715 17th St., Denver.
A Union Station staple, Mercantile boasts an inspired menu not only for the adult patrons but for the kids” menu, as well, including braised short rib, housemade spaghetti, and grilled chicken tenders with roasted potatoes. This downtown location provides coloring pages and crayons for youngsters while they wait, but also is set in a spacious open area with a large patio for plenty of kid-friendly exploration. Families can also enjoy “family style” dinners that can feed anywhere from three to four. 1701 Wynkoop St., Denver.
Biker Jim’s serves up many creative takes on the classic hot dog, including a rattlesnake dog and reindeer—what kid wouldn’t love that? But if that’s not their thing, the menu offers a $3.25 kids dog. The location makes it the perfect pit stop for a quick and affordable bite before or after a Rockies game. Fun fact: owner Jim is in fact a biker. 2148 Larimer St., Denver.
If happy hour is the name of the game, this Denver restaurant takes the cake. Seven hours long and starting at 11 a.m., Rhein Haus is a great place to meet some friends and bring the entire crew. The kids” menu boasts house-made sausages, crispy spätzle and cheese, and fan favorites like mac and cheese all ranging from $5 to $9. While the adults enjoy a $4 brew, the kids can get down with some bocce ball on one of their many courts. 1415 Market St., Denver.
Summer 2016, top chef judge Hugh Acheson partnered up with Punch Bowl Social in revamping their menu with seasonally inspired, scratch kitchen dishes. So, while parents nosh on celebrity-chef-created bites, kids can explore table games, arcade games, and bowling. The kids” menu ranges from $5 to $8, and parents can enjoy cocktails mixed by some of the finest bartenders. 65 Broadway, Denver.
There should always be a welcoming upscale option for the more ambitious kid palates. This LoHi favorite boasts an accommodating and patient longtime staff. The owners are parents themselves and cater to a neighborhood flourishing with young families craving great food. Although there is no kids menu, Duo is no stranger to the younger patrons” dietary needs and is happy to whip something up. They also keep Wikki Stix in supply to entertain young diners. 2413 W. 32nd ave., Denver.
This one doesn’t provide a kids” menu, but the location is ideal for a summer family outing. While parents sit patio-side, their kids can happily play in Union Station’s water fountains, and there are plenty of kid-friendly menu options to choose from. 1701 Wynkoop St., Denver.
Biju’s made the list because of their healthy options and bright flavors. Not only is it accommodating to the needs of kids, but also it’s quick and casual. Plus, the Tennyson location is convenient to nearby Caesar Chavez park. 4279 Tennyson St., Denver.
If you’re in search of a kid-friendly brewery, Prost Brewing seems like the ideal location. German beers are on tap and a rotating food truck is parked in the lot. Stacks of board games line the back wall with giant Jenga coaxing family participation. For the fidgety, there is a park next door. 2540 19th St., Denver.
There has been a lot of chatter about Work & Class since opening in March 2016, and for good reason. The menu features authentic Latin American fare with a menu the kids will be excited about. Happy hour seems to be the best option for families. Get there early to avoid a wait. The kids menu sports three steps—the main course (empanadas, meatballs, or roasted chicken), a side (mac and cheese, rice and beans, or French fries), and dessert (vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce), for $8. 2500 Larimer St., Denver.
Tips for Dining Out With Kids
No parent enjoys being the one whose child is causing a restaurant ruckus, but it happens. Megan Barber, mother of two and freelance journalist for several national food and travel publications, has been dining out frequently and traveling with her children since they were infants. Here are her tried-and-true tips for making dining out with kids a more pleasant experience.
- Start young and go frequently. The goal is to teach your children through experience to be great dining companions. Like all things we learn, it takes time, patience, and practice.
- Plan ahead. Pack activities that will entertain your children in 5-10 minute increments: coloring, a little book, a light-up toy, play dough. Immediately after you are seated, give them one of the activities.
- Avoid pushing screen time too early. Instead, engage your child in conversation and save screen time for when their food has been eaten and yours has arrived.
- Engage your child. We often get wrapped up in adult conversation but in order to keep fussiness at a low try asking your kids questions: What are you thankful for? What are you most looking forward to this weekend
- Catch a meltdown in its early stages. Take a walk around the block or if it’s not ideal outside, wander around the restaurant pointing out different details of the space.
- Never go to a restaurant with long wait times. Reserve a table beforehand if you can and always make sure you count your kids in that final number: four for dinner instead of two adults and two children. This may mean a more spacious table and more room for everything that comes with kids.
- Always go on the earlier side. Restaurants that you may not think are kid-friendly are generally more welcoming to families around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. as opposed to the busiest dining times.
- Find a restaurant near a park. Send one adult to the park with the kids before the meal arrives. Getting out some of the excess energy before the food arrives can lead to a more relaxing meal together.
- Be explicit about your expectations. Explain to kids (even as young as 18 months) exactly what you will be doing. For example, “We”re going to walk into the restaurant. We”re going to sit down. A waitress is going to come and take our order.”
- Don’t be afraid to use a little bribery. If all goes well, kids can enjoy a little dessert.
- Don’t give up. Remember it might not work sometimes, but don’t throw in the towel. Kids only learn by trying and trying again.