Before having children, you know we all cringed when we heard a misbehaving child at a restaurant. The screaming, food-chucking and tantrum-throwing isn’t pretty and certainly isn’t conducive to a fine dining experience. The poor parents look frazzled and are inhaling their meal so they can get out of that uncomfortable situation as soon as possible. It happens to the best of us, but some places make it slightly easier on us parents who like to eat out on occasion with our wee ones while also having a nice meal and feeling almost like contributing members of society.
I realize that there is one place missing from this list that could be the most kid-friendly restaurant of all time: Chik-fil-A. I’m not including fast food places on this list simply because it’s a cop out. When you want a list of kid-friendly restaurants in the Chattanooga area, you don’t need me to tell you that Chik-fil-A actually supplies books (instead of toys) with the kids meals or that Zaxby’s can be a fast and easy child-pleasing meal where you don’t have to worry if your kid is screaming because, hey, it’s Zaxby’s.
You want real restaurants where you can go as a family that don’t make you feel like having a child is the WORST THING YOU COULD EVER DO IN LIFE and that brining them to a restaurant is ranked down there with taking a 2-year-old to the latest Marvel movie.
So, here it is (in no particular order)– my list of kid-friendly restaurants in Chattanooga to take your small humans to:
Smokey Bones BBQ (American/BBQ) $$
If your child enjoys pulled pork BBQ, sweet potato fries and corn as much as mine does, this is the place for you and your family! Rarely busy and always tasty, Smokey Bones is a great family spot as they have a varied kid’s menu, but will also do “sides” of their items not listed (the pulled pork, for example). It’s a bit loud there already, so “kid noises” will blend right in. There are a lot of TVs (what restaurant isn’t full of TVs these days, though?), which is a bit of a drawback, but the speedy service and the fact that you can usually get a table without a wait on a Friday or Saturday night, makes this one of my family’s go-to spots.
Lupi’s Pizza Pies (Pizza) $$
It’s pizza. Local pizza. Delicious, cheesy pizza. Need I say more? With five locations throughout the Chattanooga area, it’s a great and convenient place to grab a pie in the restaurant or to-go. They even offer take and bake and gluten free options!
Fresh to Order (Sandwiches & Salads) $$
If you’ve ever gone to Panera Bread and wished that the food was a little fresher and they cooked the meat to order, you should give Fresh to Order a try. Not only do they have delicious paninis and salads, they also offer burgers and more hearty main courses as well as unique side dishes such as their roasted corn and peanut salad. I would be remiss not to mention their unusual and always-changing beverage selection of flavored waters, teas and lemonades which are a highlight each time we go. The dining room is casual and kid-friendly and they have a nice outdoor seating area for when the weather is warm. They also offer a varied kid’s menu with seared salmon and rice, grilled chicken with wheat berry rice and, the less exotic but always popular macaroni and cheese.
Molcajete (Sit-Down Mexican) $$
Technically, my family and I don’t frequent here as much as we like because our child binges on chips and queso and will eat almost nothing else. (What kid doesn’t like a quesadilla? Mine, that’s who.) But, if we pretended for a moment that my child would eat a quesadilla or some other delicious Mexican dish, this would be the place we would take her. They have delicious food and the service is always great. Plus, Mama needs a Margarita from time to time… am I right?
Lee’s Armandos (Home Cookin’/Burgers) $$
If you are craving home cookin’ (no “ing” required) at a quick, local spot, check out Armandos. They have a kid’s menu with the usual items on there and the adult fare is always tasty and made to order. My personal favorite is the bison burger with tater tots. Mmmm…
Chao’s Mongolian Grill (Asian) $$
There’s something to be said about being able to choose exactly what you want, especially with kids (the pickiest amongst us) and at Chao’s you can do just that. Pick out which raw meat(s) you want, toss in some tasty veggies, the sauce of your choice, and choose your starch (steamed white rice, fried rice, noodles, etc.). The kiddos will love being able to see the transformation from raw to cooked, and it tastes great too!
Big River Grille & Brewing Works (American/Brewery) $$
Chattanooga is a beer town for sure and the Big River Grille is probably the most kid-friendly brewery in town. They have great American fare that the whole family can enjoy as well as an onsite brewery boasting some tasty adult beverages that Mom and Dad can enjoy.
Mojo Burrito (Quick Mexican) $
Love Moe’s and Salsarita’s but not a big fan of chain restaurants where it feels more like Subway than Tex-Mex? Mojo Burrito is exactly what your family needs. Their quesadillas are tasty and their pineapple salsa is mouthwatering. Plus, each time we go, there are families with kids there, so you will always be in good company.
Brewhaus (German/Bar) $$
Beer and sausage and spaetzle, oh YEAH! Located on the perimeter of Coolidge Park (a very kid-friendly destination), Brewhaus is a small and surprising kid-friendly German “gastro pub.” I never would have thought my daughter would like spaetzle, but it’s basically German mac & cheese, so I guess I shouldn’t have been so shocked. We’ve taken our daughter along with other kids there and haven’t ever felt out of place, even though it’s a bar. You can even eat outside!
Public House (Fine-ish Dining) $$$
If you’re in the mood to get a little fancy and you couldn’t get a sitter or you just want to dine with your offspring, take your family to Public House at Warehouse Row. They offer delicious, local and seasonal cuisine as well as some exciting cocktails. There is a great outdoor seating area that’s perfect for family dining as well as a nice interior (but not so nice that you feel weird taking your kids) with exposed brick. Because exposed brick will up your parental “cool factor” a lot more than coloring pages and crayons. Just saying.
Urban Stack (Burgers & Cocktails) $$
Each time my family and I have visited Urban Stack there have been TONS of kids there. They offer burgers, fries and milkshakes, so I guess that should have been a “duh.” The burger selection is pretty stellar and ranges from a beef burger with salami and provolone to a vegan mushroom patty with roasted red peppers and balsamic onions. If that doesn’t get your mouth watering, I don’t know what will!
Blue Plate (Breakfast/Local) $$
Any place that serves breakfast (namely, pancakes) all day is a hit with my child, and if they use local ingredients and are on the river downtown, that’s an added bonus! Harkening back to the days of diners and the “blue plate special,” Blue Plate serves locally sourced dishes made from scratch at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Champy’s (Fried Chicken) $$
Ask any Chattanoogan where to get the best fried chicken in town and they are likely to say Champy’s. Though it’s technically a chain, it certainly doesn’t feel like one. Their chicken is fried to order (so prepare for a wait) and comes from a 40-year-old family recipe that is sure to please even a picky palate. Don’t worry about that wait, though, as there is plenty to look at on the walls inside!
Taco Mamacita (Hipster Mexican) $$
Brought to you by the creators of Urban Stack, Taco Mamacita is Mexican with a little hipster flare added in. Don’t come here if you just want an enchilada with rice and beans. But, do come here if you want a Korean BBQ taco with roasted Mexican street corn. There are always plenty of kiddos there and they have a varied kids menu as well.