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October 21, 2008

Top 10 Child-Friendly Places That Aren't National Chains

kidfriendlyplaces.jpgI mostly have to credit readers with these suggestions because you have to be eating with your infant or toddler to really know how restaurants are going to treat you.

The one restaurant that was mentioned numerous times but isn't included is Amer's Cafe in Fullerton. The Web site has disappeared and the phone number rings and rings without an answering machine picking up (but that may be because I was calling on a Monday), so I couldn't verify that it's still open. I even tried to call the theater next door. If you've been recently, please let us know.

Anyway, here's my list. Other suggestions are welcome, but please tell us why you're recommending the restaurant. ...

* Alexander's Tavern in Fells Point has a kids' menu, crayons and four Leapsters for children to play with while they wait for their orders.

* Amicci's in Little Italy has a children's menu and high chairs. Probably the best choice for small kids in the popular tourist destination.

* Clementine in Hamilton expanded and put in a lounge for adults after it opened with a play area for children.

* Friendly Farm in Upperco. The archetypal child-friendly restaurant in the area, with family-style dining.

* Golden West Cafe in Hampden probably got the most votes from readers for toys and a children's menu, and (for once it's a plus) noise, so no one notices if your kid is loud.

* Iggies in Mount Vernon. People who love their dogs so much they name their gourmet pizza parlor after them are probably going to welcome kids as well.

* Koco's Pub in Lauraville has a "children's corner," a kids' menu with a popsicle for dessert, and what some consider the best crab cake in town.

* Lebanese Taverna in Harbor East. Who knew a restaurant in such a trendy neighborhood catering to young professionals would be welcoming to kids?

* Sushi Hana in Towson has a koi pond and, unlike the new location, isn't crowded. MariaB suggested chicken on a stick and rice for little ones. She mentioned the staff is "kind and efficient."

* Zen West in Govans. It's family friendly with a children's menu and a lively decor that appeals to youngsters.

(David Hobby/Sun photographer)


Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:56 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays


Thanks for the warnings of where not to go when I'm already stressed.

*Sushi Hana in Towson has a koi pond and, unlike the new location, isn't crowded. MariaB suggested chicken on a stick and rice for little ones. She mentioned the staff is "kind and efficient."

Take some string, remove the chicken from the stick, tie the string to the stick and the chicken to the other end of the string and the kids can fish for koi in the pond while you eat dinner.


Red Canoe on Harford Road in Lauraville should have been Number One!

They're in alphabetical order, so no No. 1. (I get your point; just fyi.) EL

Stone Mill Bakery is fabulous for kids, not only because of the kid-friendly and healthy food, but also because of the outdoor seating and sculpture garden. Petit Louis is always a good choice - it's so noisy in there anyway that a few squawking kids won't measurably add to the din; there are also crayons, kid-friendly selections and the general French positive attitude toward children.

Usually I think these Top 10 lists are very inclusive and mention places that first come to my mind, so I was surprised the restaurant I thought should be near the top wasn't even included. One of the best place to bring kids in Baltimore that I know of is Tamber's (formerly the Nifty Fifties Diner) in Charles Village.

Yes, that's a good one. However, there is no top. The list is in alphabetical order. EL

You guys are sick. Kids ina sushi joint? That's just weird. Chicken on a stick? I see eyes being poked out by the short bussers. I see sword fights and stabbings by the spirited ones and I see fish being speared by the more industrious. (Aren't those nasty koi fish full of diseases???) Plus sushi is disgusting for kids right? What the hell? Unless your kids are Chinese.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't there alse used to be a Frendly Farm restaurant in Westminster on Route 140?

Usually I think these Top 10 lists are very inclusive

Inclusive? Good grasp of integers.

Mother's in Federal Hill is great with kids-at least in the older, front restaurant area. They have a great kids menu and terrific home made ice-cream for dessert.

Clementines doesn't have a children's menu unless it's changed recently. I couldn't find anything for lunch to make my picky eaters happy. Nothing works like plain old chicken tenders for children.

Wow- Some of you don't give kids much credit...I take my 2 1/2 year old for sushi all the time. She loves avocado rolls and miso soup. So what if she thinks the tofu cubes at the bottom of the bowl are pieces of cheese? :)

Unless your kids are Chinese.

Uh, wouldn't that be Japanese?

Get CupofJoe's comment to your editor, STAT.

Rocky Run has always been a good place for kids. The one in Columbia is unfortunately closed now, but there is one in Baltimore on St. Paul St. and one at the Marley Station Mall.

The Rocky Run on St. Paul has morphed into a college sports bar - not kid friendly any more.

Golden West isn't so great for kids in my opinion: the no alterations/no substitutions thing doesn't work well for picky eaters, and the wait staff strikes me as a childless demographic.

My kids love the sushi and miso soup at the Orient in Towson. Great waitstaff who don't mind at all when you order chicken lo mein, no veggies no chicken (a.k. noodles) or anything else.

Gertrudes at the BMA is wonderful for brunches, especially when it is warm and the kids can roam in the sculpture garden, and they have a very good kid's menu.

Tamber's, Double T, Towson Diner, Nautilus Diner...all good for kids.

Cafe Hon uis the only place I have ever seen the "Toddler Combo" - slice of bread, piece of cheese, some cucumber slices, etc. You know, the things that toddlers actually eat.

Crepe du Jour in Mount Washington is a favorite of my kids, especially when we sit on the back deck.

Ryan's Daughter is always full of families.

thankx drew

Yes, Donny B., there was a Friendly Farm location on 140, between Reisterstown and Westminster, but I think it has been more than 20 yrs ago.

Adrienne - that's good to hear. I'm going to have to try avocado rolls on my 2 year old.

But I think I could keep him occupied, anyway, with a big plate full of edamame. Kids in Japan really aren't any different from kids here - it's just their parents' expectations of what kids will eat that make kids' palates seem different.

I would not recommend Zen West. Had a bad food experience there. Nothing to do with children.

How about Sarah & Desmond's Bakery Cafe in old Ellicott City? They have a Star Wars table...

Freddies in Bel Air is hands down the best place I've ever taken my 8 year old. A HUGE playground shaped like a pirate ship is big enough for kids of all ages and sizes. Kid friendly menu is above average as well.

EL, Caesar's Den in Little Italy also has high chairs and a children's menu. They are great for kids.

My sister frequently takes my little niece for nice restaurant outings during the day. After the lunch rush and before the dinner rush. Most restaurants tend to be very patient and attentive to young ones during down time. Actually, I like to be able to go during those times too because the staff is usually much more attentive and well, nice.

Iggies is one of my absolute favorites. When I was there a couple of months ago, there were no booster seats or high chairs, so be sure to bring your own. Other than that it is totally kid-friendly. We love the BYOB.

The Captain Harvey's Submarines that is on Merritt Boulevard gives every child a free piggy bank. My two daughters have gotten about 8 of them, and sometimes depending on who is working there when you go in, they give the kids brownies and cookies. I think that makes them child-friendly.I am going to check out a couple of your recommendations in your article too.

Our go-to place in Harford County (where we live) is Mamie's Cafe in Aberdeen. I believe it used to be in Hampden. It's a family-oriented place and pretty kid-friendly. We've been going there with our daughter since she was a few months old. The food is homey and the prices reasonable. Plus, you get a free dessert with every meal. And one time an elderly gentleman gave my kid a five dollar bill because she smiled at him!

A favorite for us is Papermoon Diner. I'm not sure how it could have been left off this list! With art, toys & Pez dispensers on the wall & an equally as decorated waitstaff who seem to adore children, we always have a good time there. The food is as great as the atmosphere!

And nothing is better for kids than making their own food, so you gotta consider Amer's Cafe for making your own pizza. The belly dancer keeps the kids pretty entertained, too!

We just got back from Clementine. I hope it was an anomaly, but 65 minutes from being seated to receiving entrees does not a child-friendly restaurant make. Ever. We had to take our meals to go before our kids went on a rampage. They were full of energy, as their Mac'n'cheese was out within 10 minutes of ordering. The adult food was excellent, if a little cool, when we got it back to Canton; it would have been nice to have been able to eat it at the restaurant.

Here's my list of places:

Ones we have enjoyed:
 Café Hon – Located in Hampden, it is a great place to go for breakfast and a wander. Lots of cool kitchy stores are a bonus after a nice breakfast under the pink flamingo.
 Chevy’s Fresh Mex – Had a couple of friends tell me that this place is the real deal for kid-friendly meals, and they are right. Lots of choices (taco, burrito, quesadilla, flauta, chicken tenders, burger), and includes fresh fruit and an ice cream cone. We like the one in Arundel Mills Mall because you can visit the Lego store and then have dinner here.
 Desert Café – Located in Mt. Washington Village, owners Blake and Lauri are very very kid friendly, have a great kids menu (with a spanakopita that Our daughter loves and a pita grilled cheese that is a hit with every kid I have seen try it). The deserts rock too (check out, )
 Donna’s Café – Donna’s treats kids right – crayons, a menu to color on, and great tasting choices like PB&J, Mac and Cheese, Chicken Tenders, Quesadilla, and very tasty fries.
 First Watch - Located at the corner of Reisterstown Rd. and Old Court Rd. near the Gucci Giant. Good pancakes, waffles, and omelettes, and an assortment of healthy choices. Highly recommended!
 Fuddruckers – Kids love the place… games and little toy trinket vending machines… kid friendly meals like chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, relatively better for you choices for adults like turkey or buffalo burgers. And the best soft drink on the planet (which I can’t find anywhere else) – Diet Lipton Brisk Peach Iced Tea.
 Gertrude's at the BMA - Great for brunch, offers the fountains and sculpture garden for restless kids, and great food for the grown ups.
 Golden West Cafe in Hampden. Good food, and the Baltimore Sun says it probably got the most votes from readers for toys and a children's menu. And given how noisy it is, no one notices if your kid is loud.
 IKEA – Not too many places you can feed a family of 4 for $20 and get heavy-duty playtime and affordable shopping in too. And the food is downright decent.
 Kenilworth Mall Food Court – Located in Towson, it has pizza for the kids, Atwater’s for the grownups, miniature trains for the kids during the holidays. Excellent!
 Miss Shirley’s – Great breakfast kids love. Would be more enthusiastic about it if it didn’t always have a really long wait.
 Noodles and Company – Great kids menu, easy to dine in or take out. There are at least 4 or 5 adult dinner choices that my kids will eat. Introduces them to the concept of parsley in a delicious non-threatening way
 Paper Moon Diner – Love the décor (though the headless barbies did freak my daughter out), 24 hour breakfast (most kids like that), and (usually) laid back attitude. Go during the non-busy times, as service can be a little slow.
 Red Robin – Kids love the crayons, balloons, kid friendly meals and great fries. The place is so packed with kids that you don’t notice how bad yours are behaving. Don’t give away the secret to your offspring, though. We go to the one in Towson.
 Stone Mill Bakery Lutherville – Great sandwiches and food, great kids menu, nice outdoor dining area in the summer. Only downside is that it is pricey.
 Tamber’s Nifty Fifty’s Diner – Located in Charles Village, this place has good breakfast food and… Indian food. Weird combination, but it works.

Ones I’d like to try (based on recommendations or other reviews):
 Alexander's Tavern in Fells Point - has a kids' menu, crayons and four Leapsters for children to play with while they wait for their orders.
 Amer’s Café – Has been voted kid friendly for 8 years in a row. Kids can make their own pizza before it is cooked in Amer’s brick oven.
 Amicci's in Little Italy - has a children's menu and high chairs. Probably the best choice for small kids in the popular tourist destination.
 Clementine’s – Located on Harford Road in Lauraville, a little off the beaten path. We have only eaten there for dinner without kids, and it is fantastic. But it has an oversized rug in the entryway, lots of toys, and pitches itself as very kid friendly. This is confirmed by several different reviews.
 Freddie’s Belair – Intriguing sounding place with a kid’s pirate ship in the back??? Have to try it sometime.
 Iggie’s Pizza – Located in Mt. Verson, their pizza has a good reputation and they pitch themselves as kid friendly
 Koco's Pub – Located in Lauraville, it has a "children's corner," a kids' menu with a popsicle for dessert, and what some consider the best crab cake in town.
 Red Canoe – Located in Lauraville, this kid friendly bookstore/coffee and sandwich shop is uber-kid friendly and lots of fun for lunch.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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