My kids are pretty good at eating — if there was an extracurricular award for it, I’m sure we’d be putting it on future college applications. So I’ve tried a ton of restaurants with them from babyhood to the tween years. Here’s my mega-list.
Seattle Breakfast for Families
So, for breakfast, I really feel like Portland and Victoria count their eggs, hatch them, and then make them
The Crumpet Shop (Downtown Seattle). Right around the corner from Pike Place Market, this homey storefront serves organic crumpets with savory (pesto and cheese) and sweet toppings (like walnuts, honey and ricotta) . The scones are topped with lemon curd or raspberry preserves. Super delicious but a three-wet-wipe cleanup. Opens at 7 a.m.
Daily Dozen Doughnut Company (Pike Place Market). The “doughnut robot” makes an automatic process out of making mini doughnuts, whether you like them topped with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, brown sugar or just plain. Opens at 8:30 a.m.
Hi Life and other Chow Foods (Ballard). I’m not a huge fan of this chain for meals other than breakfast, but wow, they know how to serve up a kid-friendly Seattle breakfast. A children’s menu accompanies adult menus, with perfectly proportioned plates available, along with crayons (don’t eat those). Adult meals are filling and could be split with toddlers or preschoolers, if you can bear to share. Some outdoor seating, and all of the Chow Foods restaurants are kid friendly (highchairs, high tolerance for children, etc).
Honore (Ballard). Say oui to awesome French pastries, savory tarts and other breakfast goodies. Kids will go nuts for the brightly colored macarons that come in a dozen or so flavors, filled with a delicious creme. Other French options: Cafe Besalu (downtown Ballard) and Bakery Nouveau (West Seattle).
Original Pancake House (Ballard). The variety is worth a visit — pancakes, dutch babies, crepes and gluten-free ‘cakes make an appearance on the menu. Kids love this place and the all-sorts of toppings (nuts, cinnamon apples, berries, etc. etc.) that come with your flour extravaganza. I find the pancakes just OK, but lots of people do love them — and you might too. I do enjoy the fully wood-paneled appearance of the Ballard restaurant, a throwback to vintage-flavored Pacific Northwest (yes, I think there might be a maple syrup smell cooked into the walls, at this point).
Portage Bay Cafe (Ballard, University District, South Lake Union near Downtown). Really, kids love this place for The Breakfast Bar, where you can load-your-own pancake with a buffet-style layout of fruits, nuts, maple syrup and whipped cream.
Seattle Family Coffeehouses and Cafes
We’re in a friendly rivalry with Portland and Vancouver for coffeeshops-per-capita. Well, someone’s gotta stay awake to take care of the kids, right? Head to one of these places for a pick-me-up that kids can enjoy too.
Fresh Flours (Greenwood.) Japanese pastries and green-tea lattes near the so-wonderful Woodland Park Zoo. That is all.
Twirl Café (Queen Anne). A play area takes up half of this cafe, perfect for hungry kiddos under age 6. Head here for early morning breakfast and free play (7-9) before Seattle Center opens, or come for an open play session ($5/child) and a lunch or dinner sandwich featuring gourmet Northwest ingredients like Zoe meats, Tillamook cheese and Macrina bread.
Coffee to a Tea (West Seattle). Cupcakes, tea, coffee, muffins, scones… and a train table. Afternoon tea by reservation.
A few more cafes with toddler/preschooler play spaces that serve OK food: Firehouse Coffee (Ballard), Serendipity Cafe (Magnolia). Some coffee shops in Seattle also have petite areas dedicated to children (and amazing coffee), such as Espresso Vivace.
Seattle Desserts for Families
Seattle families love all kinds of desserts, from ultra-carby cupcakes to tangy custard ice cream to pie. Here are my favorite restaurants for dessert-time.
Bottega Italiana (Downtown/Pike Place Market). Creamy, classic gelato right next to Pike Place Market.
Beard Papa (International District). Puff pastries filled with heavenly amounts of vanilla cream (or chocolate cream). Each is filled fresh, right before your eyes. The Papa serves doughnuts too, but really, those cream puffs are particularly good.
Fuji Bakery (International District). East meets West at this tiny bakery, where you can pick up a salmon brioche, Japanese milk bread and other savory and sweet surprises.
Cupcake Royale (Ballard, Capitol Hill, West Seattle and more). Cupcakes were sort of a trend for a while, and now, maybe they’re not — kids don’t care. Kids love cupcakes.
Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream (Capitol Hill, Wallingford). Fancy flavors like maple walnut, honey lavender and salted caramel.
A La Mode (Greenwood). The best pie shop in Seattle. Giant slices can be shared between two kids, or one kid and an adult, or go one of the kid-sized “pie babies.” Near Woodland Park Zoo.
Peaks Frozen Custard (University District). The tarted-up version of gelato, IMO. Limited flavors (check the daily calendar for today’s recipes) but good stuff. Kid tables. Beware poor imitations…
Seattle Seafood for Families
Seattle’s waterfront neighborhoods often means the fish was literally caught right on the restaurant’s doorstep — or at least not hauled far. Here are some great seafood restaurants that offer children’s menus, or kid-friendly picks like fish and chips. Nom.
Ivar’s Acres of Clams (Pier 54; multiple locations). Okay, this place can have the reputation of a tourist destination, but it’s a solid choice when on the pier, if you want a quick bowl or fish ‘n’ chips (watch out for greedy seagulls who demand you share, share, share.) Go inside for the more carefully prepared meals, which are surprisingly good, fresh and locally focused. Yes, really.
Pike Place Chowder (Downtown Seattle/Pike Place Market). With flavorful broth and big chunks of seafood served in a bread bowl or regular bowl, this restaurant is an award-winner and kid-pleaser. One bread bowl is enough for two, if you’re looking for ways to save money while eating out with the kids. I like the smoked salmon chowder.
Chinook’s at Salmon Bay (Interbay, near Ballard and Ballard Locks). Half of the draw is the view — giant plate-glass windows look out over fishing vessels and Salmon Bay, a passageway between Puget Sound and Lake Union. The food is fine, too, with a children’s menu coloring placemat and seafood-centric options. A great place to go after a hike at Discovery Park.
Little Chinook’s (Interbay, near Ballard). The cheaper, to-go counter version of Chinook, with a focus on items like fish ‘n’ chips and salmon tacos. Kid-friendly booths for eating.
Ray’s Boathouse Cafe (Ballard). Sustainable seafood in a four-star location. The upstairs portion of the restaurant (the cafe) is often filled with families and highchairs, and where I would recommend eating. Make a reservation in summer, and cross your fingers you’ll get an outside table, which overlooks a sparkling blue bay, crisp white boats and active sealife. One of my very favorite Seattle seafood restaurants to take kids.
Kid-friendly Seattle Restaurants
Piroshky Piroshky (Pike Place Market). Russian. Piroshky is a thick, fist-sized pocket of dough wrapped around an infinite variety of fillings (but usually involving meat, potatoes, cheese and maybe broccoli). Kids like the familiar flavors; parents like the easy-to-eat aspect.
Tutta Bella (Multiple Locations; Westlake is near downtown Seattle in South Lake Union). Pizza. Fancy thin-crust Italian pizza where waiters may also give you balls of dough or wikistix for the kids to play with, if you ask nicely. Tip: Sign up for the restaurant’s e-mail notices — they send great coupons.
Wild Ginger (Downtown Seattle) Thai. Upscale pan-Asian restaurant where kids are welcomed with their own children’s menu, which offers dishes like skewered chicken ($3.50) or fried rice and chicken. It’s fancy enough to feel special, but not so fancy as to exclude kids.
Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant(ID/Chinatown and Belltown). Vietnamese. A tiny two-story restaurant that will give you children’s plastic plates and cups and serves well-flavored fresh veggies, noodles and meat dishes. Try to ask for upstairs seating at the International District location, where you dine on unusual wooden benches with wheels on each side (like a wagon bench).
Pagliacci Pizza (Multiple locations). Pizza. We have a lot of pizza restaurant chains in Seattle. This is one of them. Thin-crust, zesty toppings with Northwest ingredients, and kids like the make-your-own-pop touch-screen machine at the Queen Anne location, which allows them to make perfectly disgusting drinks that never existed…until now.
McMenamins (Queen Anne/Near Seattle Center). Sit-down restaurants that welcome families aren’t so common Lower Queen Anne (near Seattle Center). It’s more of an upscale or nightlife destination. I like McMenamin’s for the dependable food and children’s menu (with vegetarian options for kids), and because honestly, I really like the Ruby Red ale.
Armory (Seattle Center). Multiple options at this food court for families, including Skillet (think fried chicken and burgers), Kabab (vegetarian and meat-eating mideastern fare) Bean Sprouts Cafe (kid size portions and fun), and MOD Pizza (my favorite), with $3.88 personal pizzas.
Central/South Seattle Restaurants
Cafe Flora (Madison Valley). Vegetarian. A long-time Seattle institution, this vegetarian restaurant welcomes children with a super-healthy (but delicious) children’s menu, books and toys. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free kids items available. Near the Seattle Arboretum.
Louisa’s Cafe & Bakery (Eastlake). Bistro. Half off the kids’ menu on Wednesdays, cozy bistro food seven days a week, although the location may be a bit out-of-the way. Nearish to South Lake Union if you’re driving.
Vios (Capitol Hill and Ravenna). Greek. Two locations, two kid-friendly play areas inside the restaurants, one great Greek restaurant. Head to the Ravenna location if you’d like to combine bookstore shopping with your dinner; to Capitol Hill if you want an after-downtown dinner or Sunday morning brunch with kids. The play area can get a little noisy.
Randy’s Restaurant, is what would happen if a Boeing jet flew into a 1970s-era Denny’s and made itself comfortable. For your transportation-obsessed toddler, this restaurant puts vintage plane paraphernalia on the walls, grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu, and retired Boeing engineers in the seats. Very close to the Museum of Flight.
La Carta De Oaxaca (Ballard). Mexican. Authentic Mexican fare in an informal environment. You won’t find cheese-smothered enchiladas on the menu, but kid pleasers like homemade corn chips, quesadilla fritas and tostadas are all well represented.
Uneeda Burger (Fremont). Yummy grass-fed burgers that come dressed in a variety of ways — or plain, or with veggie patties. A wonderful outdoor dining space (on picnic tables, no less) welcomes families in summer. Young kids may not like the spicy house sauce. Near the Woodland Park Zoo, and a great post-zoo stop.
PCC Natural Markets (Multiple locations, but the Fremont, Green Lake and West Seattle locations are most convenient for kid activities). It’s a grocery store, but PCC’s deli demands a stop if you’re in a hurry. Pick up a quick sandwich, salad, burger or dessert and take it to any one of Seattle’s parks for a picnic. Throughout the store, the “Kid Picks” logo indicates child-approved foods (yes, the store really tests the items!).
Pho Than Brothers (Multiple Locations). Vietnamese. Let’s face it, kids really just want to come here for the cream puffs, one per customer, served for some reason at the beginning of the meal. Getting some inexpensive pho in them is an extra. YMMV.
The Yard (Greenwood). Mexican. It’s a bar, it’s a Mexican restaurant, it’s super yummy and it lets you bring kids in. There’s even a large outdoor seating area with heaters. What’s not to love?
U District/North Seattle
Agua Verde Cafe (University District). Mexican. Amazing Mexican food — my son tends to take over the guacamole and chips and make it his meal. Some children may find certain selections too spicy, so ask waitstaff which options are literally not-so-hot (the mango quesadillas w/o the chiles are a good pick). The best part about dining here is the outdoor patio, which is heated in winter and open-air in summer. However, there can be a loooong wait for an Agua Verde table in summer, so you might need to order from the to-go window and sit outside at a picnic table.
Taste of India (University District). Indian. Other than a near-intrusive institutional need to constantly refill everyone’s water glass, this restaurant is a great place to take the kids for first-time Indian food. A pages-long menu creates infinite variations on traditional Indian staples, and the chefs will make your kids’ korma as mild as necessary. Lots of seating.
Chaco Canyon Cafe (West Seattle, U District). West Coast. Organic, gluten-free and often raw. Yet, the smoothies and sandwiches are pretty darn good. The West Seattle location offers a small play area for kids, and a healthy menu for children.
Blue C Sushi (Multiple Locations, including Fremont, Downtown Seattle, University District). Japanese. Although I’ve found the choices to be inconsistent lately, the novelty of picking your own avocado roll off of a conveyor belt makes kids happy — three cheers for instant gratification.
Old Village Korean BBQ (North Seattle). Korean. In-table charcoal burners allow you to grill your own beef or pork, which you’ll eat with white rice and an assortment of sides, including kim chee, green beans…(and potato salad?!). Because of the in-table burners, this might be a better choice for well-behaved kids or older kids — but what fun it is. Also available: hot pot (cook your own food in a pot of boiling soup).
Mayuri Restaurant (Bellevue). Indian. If you’re ready to stray beyond the typical Indian menu, this restaurant dishes up dosas (flat, pancake-like wraps stuffed with savory fillings) and other North and South Indian dishes. Worth a drive over or if you’re headed home from the Cascade Mountains.
Facing East Restaurant (Bellevue).This Taiwanese restaurant serves dishes similar to Chinese cuisine, so most children will feel comfortable — but different enough to interest adults tired of American-style Chinese food. Delicious, fresh buns stuffed with pork, sweet potato pancakes, and a truly impressive sweets menu (kids will like the Everything Shaved Ice, although they might not be able to recognize all the ingredients).
Hey readers, what are your favorite kid-friendly Seattle restaurants suitable for families and why do you like them?