10 Kid-Friendly East Valley Restaurants That Parents Won’t Hate

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kid-friendly restaurantOne of things my husband and I miss most about pre-kid life is nice dinners over
delicious food that you actually enjoy with engaging conversation. Sounds like a pipe
dream with kids right?! Actually not; it is possible!

I’ve made it my motherhood mission to crack the code on getting my toddler to decently dine out, and here’s my best tips for getting back to enjoying restaurant dining with your kids.

XO,

Emily

MY FAVORITE RESTAURANTS

The recipe for dining success begins with where you go and/or where you sit.

The best spots are those with room for the kids to move around. Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert is, hands down, the best place to take a toddler. The outdoor seating is adjacent to a
grassy, enclosed area for kids to run around.

Here’s our quick list of our favorite toddler-friendly local restaurants:

  1. The Perch | This Chandler brewery boasts a collection of rescue birds on the patio, making for great entertainment for kids.
  2. Uncle Bear’s Brewery | Dog-friendly + patio dining= best toddler experience 
  3. Postino Gilbert | Great outdoor space and the kids meals are on par with Pita Jungle’s
  4. Culinary Dropout | Yard games and a kid-friendly outdoor seating spaces
  5. OHSO Gilbert | Space for kids to run, huge booths for kids to spread out, and there’s usually a few dogs on the patio
  6. Flights | Disclaimer: they don’t have a full dinner menu, but they’ve got toddler-pleasing apps and huge windows to watch planes takeoff and land off Falcon Field’s runway 
  7. Oregano’s | Italians are loud, kids are loud, and toddlers love pasta. 
  8. Bergie’s Coffee | More garden than outdoor seating, this is our favorite coffee shop with kids because they can be free-range to their heart’s content
  9. Red, White & Brew | This family-owned restaurant in East Mesa has the most patient staff, they have great kids entertainment and the food is 10/10
  10. Isabel’s Amor | This is the cooler, big sister restaurant to SomeBurro’s and they have live music frequently, which is great entertainment for toddlers.

If you can’t make it to a spot with extra space, then be picky about the table you get in
the restaurant.

Choose a corner if you can, at the very least, request a booth and pin your toddler between adults. Or opt for outdoor seating. I feel like any outdoor space lends itself more to movement than any indoor space.

WHEN

Go early. You don’t want to have to wait for a table.

Those are crucial “calm” minutes burning away. You want to walk right in, sit and order.

You also don’t want to push it too close to bedtime and have a meltdown. We aim to be home by 6:30 or 7 p.m. at the latest, so we are starting around 4:30 p.m. (after a good afternoon nap followed by a snack so they aren’t hangry or tired at the restaurant) and getting the check by 6pm.

HACKS FOR AT THE TABLE

Food & Drinks: The key to calm with kids is food. we like to order our little guy’s food when we order our drinks. Sometimes this looks like appetizers that we consider part (or all) of our kid’s meal. And sometimes we order him a special separate kids meal.

Either way, order them something (that they will eat!) so they have food in front of them ASAP.

Then, while you are getting your meal (after the appropriate appetizer lounging time), you order them dessert.

Activities: Our “restaurant bag” is a constantly evolving bag based on my son’s
interests and attentions that week. There are SO many ideas out there, but these are
are top four categories of what works for us (my son is 2.5 years old):

Sticker Books: I like the kind that are guided, in the sense that there are stickers that
have specific placements. I don’t get as much time out of those that are just pages
of random stickers.

Scratch Art: We get the most time out of scratch art pads. Melissa and Doug make
some great ones with hidden pictures that are better for tots.

Hand Play: Keep the hands busy! Play doh is a super easy restaurant pack. Get
small containers for portability. I also love Squiz for the stick-to-table factor.

Cars: my son is obsessed with cars. I always have a least a couple with me. They
can usually save the day. Recently, I’ve also been bringing water colors and
unfinished cars he can paint himself.

Attention: My experience is that my toddler acts out more when he does not get his
attention cup filled. So, fill that first. We spend the first 10-15 minutes really engaged with
them, getting them settled, starting their meal so they’ll feel content to move on to
something independently.

WHY

And don’t forget the WHY: This is good for your sanity. A good meal out in a nice restaurant with a calm toddler does wonders for seeing the light at the end of the dark tunnel that is toddlerhood. 

KID’S EAT FREE: If you’re looking for our favorite kids eat free nights, here’s our list!

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Emily relocated from Los Angeles in 2019 and now lives in Tempe with her husband and her two boys, Oskar & Dominik. Although it’s taken some time, Emily has finally found her village and is happy to be a permanent East Valley Mom! Emily is a laid-back, crunchy, boy-mom who loves to gather with girlfriends to drink wine and chat it up. As a yoga teacher, doula and most recently, Beautycounter consultant, she’s into all things clean and sustainable living, alternative lifestyle and health and happiness. She loves to read books, visit the spa and spend time cuddling with her furry and human babies. Although mostly a stay-at-home mom, Emily still works with a small number of clients as a prenatal yoga teacher, birth doula and most recently expanded her business as Clean Beauty Consultant with Beauty Counter in anticipation of her second son's arrival, adjusting her work to fit more with motherhood. She is passionate about clean, healthy living and supporting women in having happy and empowering lives. Emily loves to relax and steal moments of self-care after bedtime by reading good books, enjoying a great show or turning her bathroom into a spa for the night. You can almost always catch her out a park pre and post nap-time chasing after her very active toddler.

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