School is back in session and the lethargy-inducing dog days of summer are still in high gear, which means Austin families are eager to treat themselves to an easy meal outside of the house. Dining with small humans is often a chore, but these local restaurants welcome the whole family while still ensuring the big humans picking up the tab have plenty of quality options. – Jessi Cape
When Ramen Tatsu-ya opened their shop in Austin, it signaled big-time ramen had arrived in town. Centered around a tonkotsu pork broth that cooks for over two days, even those unfamiliar with ramen that doesn't come in brick form are quickly won over by this most comfortable of comfort foods. Along the way, they added a kids' ramen, a smaller bowl with just broth and noodles. While the full deal with egg, mushrooms, and scallions might be a lot for young eaters to deal with, this simple alternative is the gateway to greater things. Little ones can slurp and scoop to their hearts' delight, and if the noodles disappear too quickly, just ask for kae-damama, an extra portion of noodles. The gyoza and sweet and sour yodas (brussels sprouts) are great warm-ups that can be shared by the table. With hip-hop often playing overhead and the bustling atmosphere of a busy operation, Ramen Tatsu-ya is an exciting way to get out of the house and taste a little bit of Japan. – Rod Machen
The Sunday Dinner at Olive & June is a family-friendly miracle. The meal itself is great: three courses, chosen for the diner, often experimenting with dishes the kitchen might want to add to the main menu. Think of it like the staff meal offered to the public. But where the real magic happens is when kiddos come along. Each adult pays $39, but younger patrons eat free with full portions. Maybe this ends up going home for leftovers, maybe a parent steals a bit of uneaten goodness. Regardless, having a Shawn Cirkiel restaurant offer children the same meal as adults creates a training ground for future foodies. What could be better? – R.M.
Contigo has been a Mueller-area mainstay for families since it opened in 2011, and the 2018 renovations made it more parent-friendly than ever. Folks can gather in the enclosed dining area for a more temperate experience during the scorching summer, or enjoy the beer garden's block-party feel with their dogs and younglings. Updates also include a fenced play yard off the deck bar, while kids (and adults) can play cornhole and washers.
The farm-to-table menu has been overhauled, too. Gone are the classic pigs-in-blankets and rabbit and dumplings; in their place are more veg-forward offerings like grilled avocado and a delicious kale salad. Kids will dig in to french fries, burgers, and tempura green beans (well, your kids, maybe) and the Sunday brunch pastries like the churro croissant and apple pie cinnamon roll. There's a kids' menu available upon request.
Contigo has always had a strong beverage game, with a sophisticated wine list and deeply local beer selection. Don't miss their expertly prepared Old Fashioned and the peppy, refreshing Moscow Mueller, and be careful with that secretly sneaky frozen margarita. – Melanie Haupt
The second location of Easy Tiger opened in late 2018 at the Linc shopping center, and we immediately wanted to build a German-style biergarten exactly like it in our backyard. It's got everything: giant Jenga, pingpong, large communal picnic tables for the family that allow space for teens who wouldn't dare be seen with their parents in public while they eat face-sized soft Bavarian pretzels and watch YouTube on their phones. It truly is the perfect arrangement for families.
The menu caters to just about everyone, from the pastry case (we're fans of the apple turnover, cinnamon twist, and Bengal spice cookie) to the assortment of sausages (including a pleasant vegetarian option) and sandwiches, hot and cold. Kids will enjoy house-made chips and the elegant baguette with butter, if meat and cheese aren't their jam. Brunch includes french toast bites and croque madame and shrimp & grits for more mature tastes. Occasional kid-friendly bluegrass brunch performances sweeten the pot. And then there are the potent potables: dozens of local and domestic craft and boutique beers on draft, inventive cocktails, and a robust coffee program. Weekday happy hours offer discounted beers and cocktails, as well as sausages and pretzels on those nights that parentals just can't be bothered to cook. – M.H.
Kolaches are never not a crowd-pleaser, no matter the time of day. Batch offers a diverse array of Czech goodies and new pastry chef Madison Reis has launched a revamped menu of kolaches, including kid-pleasing peanut butter and chocolate and parent-pleasing Micklethwait Craft Meats brisket and barbecue sauce. The vegetarian-pleasing veggie sausage and cheese kolaches remain, and there are also snacks for those non-kolache-eating weirdos.
Batch has also sealed its reputation as a craft-beer haven, and they're about to launch a brewery, which means even more hops on offer. There's also a full espresso program, and a variety of sparkling waters, local juices, and kombucha. Head out to the sprawling backyard for relaxation and play, including nightly entertainment from trivia to community chamber music performances where all ages are welcome to join in. Even more parent-friendly? Batch will soon launch breakfast hours (and breakfast kolaches), so folks can get their early-rising tots out of the house and into the backyard even sooner. – M.H.
The bakery case at Odd Duck's younger, more casual sibling is a carb lover's dream, with kougin-amann, croissants, bostock, kolaches sweet and savory, and a coffee program that rivals anything you'd find in Seattle. The simple but innovative menu includes a semi-accessible kids' menu (looking at you, fried green beans), as well as tater tots, fried chicken, a burger, and a small selection of dinner plates after 5pm. Brunch features pancakes and egg sandwiches for the kiddos and avocado toast and goat chorizo hash for the parentals.
Sour Duck has a cozy little outdoor seating area with a few picnic tables and a small trailer where kids can gambol around while parents indulge in the stunning array of beers, wines, and cocktails on draft. Don't sleep on the turmeric mule or the Daily Detox, a whiskey concoction studded with yaupon, lemonade, and peach shrub. Perhaps the ultimate in parent-friendliness is that folks can buy loaves of bread – sliced, even! – to take home for sack-lunch sandwiches or grilled-cheese dinners. – M.H.
The foundation of Joel and Joanna Fried's Mexican-inspired comfort food establishment is family and community, making parent-friendliness the restaurant's starting point. There's usually a wait, anywhere from 15 to 75 minutes, but there's a waiting area with toys and books and coloring sheets, not far from the bar where you can order a strong margarita, chips and Salsa X, or creamy Eldorado queso to hold everyone over.
The creative menu accommodates just about every dietary need, from vegan to gluten-free to "I only eat carbs and cheese." The kids' menu eschews chicken fingers for grilled chicken, and an assortment of Tex-Mex finger foods like tacos and quesadillas (older kids enjoy the nachos compuestos). The enchilada plates are generous (upgrade to the CheezNRice), and the seasonal specials menus reference iconic Austin restaurants and dishes of bygone days. And let's not forget breakfast, with customizable breakfast tacos, gooey migas, or a super healthy a bowl of yogurt and a fruit salad. No mealy melon here, no siree. We're talking chunks of pineapple, seasonal berries, and fresh watermelon. Oh, and gigantic, fluffy homemade biscuits that kids can slather with butter and drench with honey.
Eldorado Cafe also actively supports nearby public schools (including Brentwood Elementary, Lamar Middle, and McCallum High) and displays children's art from local classrooms in their windows. They occasionally host dog adoption events, and what kid doesn't love to pet a friendly doggo before or after Sunday brunch? – M.H.
Callie Speer has made a name for herself through innovative and delicious dishes, and her young daughter anchors children as first class citizens at her downtown eatery, Holy Roller. Tucked amidst the snootier bars of West Sixth, Holy Roller is pure rock and roll, appearing as a physical manifestation of Speer's punk aesthetic, and the food will appeal to diners of all ages. The kid selection might be off-menu, but it's on target, including the restaurant's sublime fried chicken breast. There is a dinner menu – don't sleep on the pot pie – but the main fare is brunchy. The best example of the culinary attitude here is the Casbah, featuring that amazing chicken on a biscuit with a fried egg, comeback sauce, and syrup. Or follow the Beef Council's advice and go with the Local featuring Stiles Switch brisket on a biscuit. A trip to Holy Roller means chef-driven food with a more-than-casual atmosphere. Families welcome. – R.M.
When it comes to taking the entire family out to dinner, Home Slice is a no-brainer. The choice to eat pizza is a good start – every group from toddlers to octogenarians are game for a good pie – and everything about a standard pizza parlor is taken to a new level here. The pizza is arguably the best New York-style in town, and the littles will enjoy balls of dough brought to the table to knead and stretch. The new North Loop location features a small play area of Brady Bunch-style artificial grass, but also boasts hot and crispy wings and their thicker Sicilian-style pizza (only available at select times on South Congress). While the wait can be long, a visit to Home Slice is an essential Austin experience. – R.M.
Austin boasts plenty of family-friendly places to break the fast, but you can't go wrong with one of the Holy Trinity: Kerbey Lane, Magnolia Cafe, and the Omelettry. These three all have intertwining histories and menus, but the bottom line is the food is good and families are treated well. Kerbey Lane has a kids-eat-free special on Tuesdays, but diners of every age can appreciate those famous pancakes, whether from the standard list or a special concoction. Magnolia Cafe doesn't have as many locations, but it pulls off the same breakfast magic, including migas and French toast. The Omelettry has survived a gentrification-induced move to thrive on Airport Boulevard. While the omelettes obviously stand out, their buttermilk pancakes (especially with blueberries) might be the best in the city. Pair with sausage, and live High on the Hog. All three restaurants serve plenty of non-breakfast items as well (though the Omelettry closes at 5pm), but no matter the time of day, that morning meal just hits the spot. – R.M.
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