Before having a kid, I never wanted kids in my presence. Restaurants were not places for kids. Ever. Can’t they just get a babysitter. Now that I have a whippersnapper, my perspective has softened a little. There better not be an anklebiter in sight when I visit somewhere quiet, fancy and expensive. Everywhere else, though, as long as kids aren’t in my face, they can do whatever they want (and really, there are plenty of grown ups as obnoxious as adults).
In determining whether a restaurant is good for kids, I consider:
1. What’s the noise level? You want the answer to be “loud.” Because kids are LOUD. If everyone else is loud too, it’s not too big of a deal.
2. What’s the menu like? They don’t absolutely need to have chicken fingers and fries, but taking your kid to a place that only offers oysters and filet is bound to result in tears from everyone.
3. Do the servers have experience with kids? There are little things that a server can do that can transform dining out with a child from tolerable to awesome. These things include: taking the order for the kids meal as quick as possible, bringing the kid’s food as fast as possible, removing all kinds of breakable and sharp things from the table, bringing extra napkins, serving the kid’s drink in a kid-friendly cup, and smiling.
With those qualities in mind, some of our favorite kid-friendly Pittsburgh restaurants are:
1. Piper’s Pub.
Piper’s is awesome for the whole family. With a focus on Scottish, English and Irish food, you can expect lots of meat, potatoes and cheese here. Who DOESN’T like that stuff? They have an awesome beer selection, including all kinds of great local and microbrews on tap. Yes, it’s basically a pub, but their staff is all around some of the friendliest and kindest restaurant staff in the City for dealing with kids. Also, if you’re a soccer fan, Piper’s is the place to be. They broadcast all kinds of games from all over the world.
2. Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal on McKnight Road does have a normal menu, but it’s best to visit on the nights they have a dinner buffet. You may think that Indian food might be a little exotic for American toddler palates, but look at the individual dishes: kids love rice. Pakora is deep fried veggies, and kids love everything deep fried. There are meats and veggies and puddings. Taj Mahal is a favorite destination for outings with the Orange Chair Blog family, and we put dishes of food out for our kids and haven’t had a problem. They do have a liquor license, but you can also BYOB with a small corkage fee. The place is always tightly packed with families, and the atmosphere is very welcoming to small kids.
3. Mad Mex
It’s always ear-blastingly loud in Mad Mex, and no one even noticed when we went there for my birthday dinner our first year with Baby Beez and she would NOT stop crying. Under most other circumstances we would have gotten the stink-eye and had to pack right up and head home, but at Mad Mex no one even noticed the noise. I was able to enjoy my Gobblerito and margarita while Mr. Beez walked around with the cranky litltle one. As Baby Beez has gotten bigger, Mad Mex has remained on our short list of favorites. They have some kids options, but we usually just get her an order of black beans and an order of rice, and she’s pleased.
Houghs is the only bar in Greenfield that doesn’t scare me. And it’s a pretty cool place in its own right. The seating is a free for all, so you do need to get there early to get a table. They have a kids menu, but their menu also focuses on typical bar food (lots of fried things), so there are plenty of kid-friendly options. Their beer selection is unbelievable, and the last time we were there, I had a grilled veggie sandwich that was just fantastic.
Max’s has been around for ages and doesn’t get a lot of buzz, but it’s fantastic. It’s in the Deutschtown section of the Northside, and it’s simultaneously got the laid-back feeling of a local bar, but a great belly-warming menu of German food. Sausage and potato pancakes are menu staples, so again, they’ve got a selection that is pleasing to the small people. Bonus- because it’s on a side street, it’s pretty much the easiest place to find on-street parking ever. They also have a great but totally random brunch. It’s like they think of everything in the kitchen and make it all. The last time we went (several years ago, admittedly), they had waffles, sausage & sauerkraut, lasagna, and breakfast pastries. Also, get the pretzels. They are the BEST.
6. Green Pepper
Green Pepper does not have the typical loud atmosphere that I would attribute to being “kid friendly.” However, every time we’ve been there, we’ve been dining early, and the place is pretty empty so we’re not disturbing anyone. Their food is awesome and their bar prices are very reasonable, and you can even BYOB for a small corkage fee. Their website and menu are kind of goofy with all kinds of strange disclaimers, but don’t let that deter you. Green Pepper is great, and we’ve been consistently happy with their food, service, and atmosphere. Although we’ve never taken part, they DO have karaoke in the back room. Baby Beez is a little young for this now, but when she gets a little bigger, dinner and a few songs would be a fun family outing.
What kid doesn’t like waffles? BOOM.
Their infamously long waits and refusal to take reservations makes this option a little dicey, but we’ve always gone to the Robinson location (usually as a special homecoming treat after returning home from the airport) and have not gotten stuck with a wait. This place has burgers, fries, and plenty o’ noise, so it’s a good pick for kids. Also, the shakes. Ohhh the shakes, so delicious.
With this being a cafe inside of a grocery store, it’s a more flexible atmosphere if your little one gets squirrely. They have breakfast and lunch options, all of which are fresh and tasty, and plenty of options that are recognizable to the young palate. Their coffee bar is, quite frankly, rockin. I love that I can get an expert brew, feed my kid, and pick up a pint of Jeni’s all in one fell swoop.
10. Eat N Park
Because what would this list BE without that Pittsburgh institution? Say what you will about EnP, but grilled stickies a la mode are amazing, and there’s just something great about reliably being able to go to a place where it’s totally OK if your kid is melting down, because someone else’s kid probably is too. The food is not haute cuisine, but there is plenty of stuff there that kids love, it’s cheap, it’s easy, there are smiley cookies, and the old lady servers always love to fawn over little kids. So yes. I do love you EnP.
Where do you like to take your kids to eat in the ‘burgh?