Our Five Faves

Best Children's Menus

Posted July 23, 2012
Updated October 1, 2012

In my perfect world, a restaurant’s kids menu would be just a smaller portioned version of the regular menu.

If chicken nuggets and French fries were on the regular menu, they’d be on the kids menu too – just smaller portions. If grilled mahi mahi and roasted vegetables were on the regular menu, they’d be on the kids menu too - just smaller servings. You get the picture.

As a mom of two solid eaters who devour vegetables and love trying new foods, it’s not easy to find that ideal menu all the time.

But there are some locally owned restaurants who are making great strides, serving up healthy and varied fare for kids. I have some favorites, and I knew my readers over at Go Ask Mom did too when I asked them about it a couple of weeks ago.

So with the help of my readers, here are five favorite kids menus at locally owned restaurants.

UPDATE: Pronto Pasta is closed. Pronto Pasta (Raleigh) - Full disclosure, the owners of this Raleigh restaurant live in my neighborhood. But I have to give them credit where it’s due: The couple, parents of three children, get it. This restaurants serves up pasta dishes with delicious homemade sauces. The restaurant’s kids menu, for ages 10 and under, features traditional kids favorites - buttered noodles, chicken tenders, pepperoni pizza bread, penne marinara or Alfredo sauce and macaroni and cheese (homemade, of course). But you’ll also find quinoa with marinara sauce. Entrees come with a choice of side, including healthy options like fresh fruit, steamed broccoli with our without cheese and (my kids favorite) fresh snap peas. The prices are family-friendly at between $3.99 and $4.89 and it’s a huge portion. We always bring some of my kids’ meals home. A box of organic white or chocolate milk is 99 cents. And on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., get one free kids meal with the purchase of an adult entree.

Tribeca Tavern (Raleigh, Cary) -  This restaurant with locations in Raleigh and Cary got a lot of votes from Go Ask Mom readers. Tribeca Tavern, known for its gourmet hamburgers, offers a kids menu for ages 10 and under. Sure, you’ll find cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese and pepperoni pizza. It is a burger place, after all. But you’ll also find steamed (or fried) shrimp, grilled chicken breast with vegetables, grilled salmon and steak (“I always steal some of my daughters steak!” wrote one mom on our Facebook page). Every meal on the kids menu is just $5 and includes the entree, drink (choices include milk) and dessert (choices include fruit salad). Tribeca Tavern is owned by Rocky Top Hospitality and some of the company’s other restaurants also received top marks from Go Ask Mom readers including Twisted Fork at Triangle Town Center, Rockwell’s in Cary and the new Daily Planet Cafe at the Nature Research Center.

Casa Carbone (Raleigh) - This Raleigh institution, which opened in its first incarnation back in 1958, serves up traditional Italian American food and, I’ll admit, was my home away from home when I first moved here more than a decade ago. It (and its yummy baked manicotti) reminded me of the Italian restaurants of my youth in upstate New York. But not until I had kids did I realize what a gem this place really is. Casa Carbone will half any order of its pasta, casseroles or entrees for kids for a little over half the price of the full entree. That means my 7-year-old can sup on one of her very favorite meals - linguini with white clam sauce - or choose from any number of other options. There must be other restaurants out there that do this. Please share if you know of one!

Mad Hatter Bakeshop & Cafe (Durham) - This Durham spot is a favorite for parents and I featured it on Go Ask Mom a couple of year’s ago. Kids choose from an organic beef hot dog, a cheese pizza made on fresh pita bread, homemade chicken fingers and grilled cheese on five grain bread. It comes with fresh fruit, a drink and … a build-your-own cupcake kit. All that for just $3.95. I’ll admit that the cupcake part probably isn’t the healthiest option, but all things in moderation.

Fish Tacos at Market

Market (Raleigh) - This downtown Raleigh restaurant serves up some fresh, local and delicious foods for adults and kids. The kids menu, which changes from time to time, includes homemade macaroni and cheese; cheese quesadillas with house-made tortillas; a kids fish taco with whatever fish is the restaurant’s fresh catch for the day; and grilled shrimp. Each come with a side of French fries, fresh fruit or vegetables. The fruit and veggies change depending on what’s available and what’s in season. Kids (there’s no age limit here, though the kids entrees are small portions) get all that for $5.

Readers also recommend Nantucket Grill (multiple locations), Thai Spices and Sushi in Cary, Rudy’s Pub & Grill in Apex, Chow in north Raleigh, Lynnwood Grill in Raleigh, Bull City Burger in Durham, Clubhouse 4042, Gatehouse Tavern in Wake Forest and Milton’s Pizza and Pasta in Wake Forest and north Raleigh.

What are your favorite kids menus at locally owned restaurants?


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  • tnjed Oct 3, 2012

    DRAFT probably has the best kid's menu in downtown Raleigh IMO since you can get grilled chicken or salmon with vege side. They also offer the traditional chicken fingers and burger too.

  • CricketGayle Jul 25, 2012

    I really do wish that more restaurants would offer a ½ size portion at a reduced price for kids or even adults who find a regular portion to be too large.

    My son is getting to the point where he is wanting items off of the regular menu, but I know he won't eat the large portion. I'm not opposed to boxing up the leftovers for another meal, but some foods just don't reheat well in the microwave (my only option at work), so the leftovers just get tossed in the trash.

  • marybethlopez Jul 24, 2012

    Glad to hear a restaurant will make a 1/2 order for a kids item. I tried to do that one time and they refused. If we hadn't been with other people I probably would have left because my daughter didn't like the kids menu items and the adult portions were huge!