View Full Version : Best kids' meals at chain restaurants

06-10-2004, 06:23 PM
Today for $3.99 at Macaroni Grill I got James a kids' meal with grilled chicken breast, steamed broccoli, spaghetti with tomato sauce, a kid's cup of milk (free refills), and a good-sized bowl of fresh strawberries. Honestly, it was a much better and more balanced meal than I usually provide!

I thought it would be helpful to know which other chains offer reasonably healthful, reasonably priced children's selections. Favorites?

Elizabeth, Mom to James, 9-20-02
EDD #2, 10-30-04

06-11-2004, 02:13 AM
Chili's recently added a chicken breast kids meal to their menu, too. It's about time!

Mimi's seems to have a decent selection of stuff. My DS usually goes for the "breakfast" meal.

06-11-2004, 10:38 AM
This doesn't rival the meal that Elizabeth got, but Ruby Tuesdays has added a quesadilla with a fruit plate to the menu. One of the nice things about it (besides the fact that it didn't come with fries!) was the fact that the quesadilla was really just lightly grilled- not slathered in grease like many of the grilled cheese items we've gotten.

06-11-2004, 02:12 PM
Not sure how widespread this chain is, but we really like Chicken Out Rotisserie chicken. For $3.99 you get milk, an entree, and 2 sides. I could eat the kids meal as my meal!

Nordstrom Cafe has a pretty nice kids meal too for $3.99 and includes drink. My default they put chips on the side but you can ask for fruit instead.

Our favorite though is Baja Fresh. She gets the "mini quesa-dita meal: which is half a quesadilla, black beans and rice. She LOVES it! It is $3.49, but you do have to buy a milk separately.

And am I the only one who doesn't mind that kids meals come with fries, lol???? We NEVER eat stuff like that at home, so when we go out to eat I consider the fries an occasional treat for her and they certainly keep her occupied!!!

06-11-2004, 03:25 PM
Legal Seafood has a great kids menu - quite extensive - for little kids to big ones. Bella's mac and cheese came with corn on the cob and grapes. I was very impressed and not expensive. Child magazine had an article listing great kids menu. They talked with the owners of Legals which was number one I think. The owners talked about how they particpated in a study and realized how AWFUL the kids meals were so now have revamped them completly. I can't remember what other chains were listed.
mommy to Isabella
baby x EDD 1/11/05

06-11-2004, 11:11 PM
Chilis is the only chain food store we have here other than fast food. They will substitute veggies for the fries on request.

Jen in Okinawa
Mom to Noelle (2 1/2)

P.S. If we only ate out once a week I would probably let her get fries, but it tends to be more often than that...

06-11-2004, 11:36 PM
Those are our favorites as well. Actually for lunch today we ate at Nordstroms and went to Baja Fresh for dinner.

August Mom
06-13-2004, 11:06 PM
For variety, Bob Evans has a nice selection of kids' meals. They are reasonably priced too. I'm not particularly a big fan of Bob Evans, but it is very kid friendly. And, you can get breakfast at anytime if your child is into breakfast foods.

Champps has the best kids cups IMO. They have thick plastic, reusable straws and are a reusuable plastic with lids. DS loves the spaghetti there, but it doesn't come with any sides. BTW, DS loves to go here because of all the TVs with sports playing.

California Pizza Kitchen is kind of expensive for kids' meals compared to other places, but there is variety and some healthy alternatives (i.e. salad). Of course, pizza also is available, including a chicken breast and tomato pizza option.

This is not particularly healthy, but if your child is into chicken fingers, O'Charley's has really good ones and they have lots of sides to choose from. However, the kiddie cup is the worst - styrofoam with a takeout lid and regular straw.

FWIW, if you don't want fries, you can substitute any other side at every chain I've been to. I was totally against fries originally so I always substituted a vegetable or occasionally rice (when DS was in a rice phase). Some places will let you do a fruit cup instead. Bob Evans is a place with a fruit cup. Now, I've relaxed a little on the fries issue. It just depends now. We never have fries at home, but at the same time I don't want him to get addicted to them. But, occasionally I'll let him have some.

In general, I agree that most children's menus are terrible and unhealthy and provide the same handful of options (hamburger, mac & cheese, chicken fingers).

06-14-2004, 12:15 PM
Great deal and we're just getting one of those restaurants, too!

I cannot stand it when you go to a ncier restaurant with a good menu and then kids' menu is hot dogs, pizza, grilled cheese, hamburger, quesadilla, pizza or chicken nuggets. BLECH! It's either junk (IMHO) or lots of cheese which Ds can't eat.

Great thread. Anyway, we like Daphne's Greek b/c the children's menu has mini offerings of the adult menu. We get the grilled chicken strips with salad. It also comes with a soda (OF COURSE) which the hubby and I share. =)

There's a local restaurant where we live that has nice barbeque food, and the children's menu is similiar, but everything comes with french fries, if I want to get Ds steamed vegetables like OUR food comes with, it costs more.

06-14-2004, 03:30 PM
If anyone is in the Southeastern US and looking for a decent fast food chain-I'd recommend Chick-Fil-A. The kids menu only has chicken nuggets but its real chicken and you can peel off the breading. You can sub a fruit cup for the fries and it comes with a drink and paperbook children's book. We were just in Sarasota and the one we went to had a nice indoor playground in front that was extremely clean! I'd recommend the salads or wraps for the adults as you can get lo-cal or fat free dressing with it!

06-24-2004, 01:23 PM
I second Chick Fil A BUT...you need to know that they use peanut oil to fry in.

That's important to many younger kiddos who haven't had peanuts yet OR are already allergic.


06-24-2004, 07:55 PM
Someone told me that many people who are sensitive to peanuts can still have peanut oil. I don't know that for a fact, but it did make me feel better about having given James their food many times!

Elizabeth, Mom to James, 9-20-02
EDD #2, 10-30-04

August Mom
06-24-2004, 11:35 PM
I think it really depends on the person. My college BF was very allergic to peanuts in all forms, including peanut oil. Here's info from Chick-Fil-A about peanut oil and other potential allergens: http://www.chick-fil-a.com/allergen.asp

August Mom
06-24-2004, 11:41 PM
We just went to Bravo today and the children's menu is really extensive. There are regular kids meals and then meals for small adults. The regular meals are chicken fingers, spaghetti, ravoli, lasagna, cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, mac & cheese, pasta with alfredo sauce and others I'm probably missing. The meals for small adults are things like a grilled chicken breast, pork chop and various other such menu items. There were various sides, including salads and fruit. On the downside, the meals were rather pricey, with most of the regular kids meals being $4.50 - $5.00. We got the spaghetti and it was essentially an adult-sized portion for half the adult price and included a drink in a nice take-home cup. The small adult meals were $7-$9. There also was a make-your-own pizza option for $6. The food quality was excellent.

06-25-2004, 07:37 PM
We went to Bennigan's recently and they seemed to have a pretty decent selection for kids. Some standard, but some better. We got Kraft Mac & Cheese because we knew DS would eat it! So having a better menu doesn't always help us! They also offered a wide variety of sides.

mom to Jacob 9/27/02

06-29-2004, 04:14 PM
I had to let y'all know about the special $.99 kids meals (when purchasing an adult meal) at Boston Market. I'm not sure how long the special will last...apparently it's been going on for 2 months or so already though I only just discovered it. The mains are pretty similar to (though maybe a bit nicer than) the usual suspects: mac-n-cheese, roasted chicken drumstick, carved turkey breast, or meatloaf. Milk (our choice) or softdrink and then cornbread and one side of your choice. Or you can have 2 sides & skip the cornbread -- which is what we did. I was able to get DD some corn & veggies to go with her meatloaf. We also got a coloring activity book with crayons, a nice take-home lidded strawcup (just add a regular straw). For a meal that's less than a dollar, healthy sides, and activities to keep her busy so I could finish my own meal -- I'm SOLD!!! :D

August Mom
06-29-2004, 04:23 PM
Thanks for letting us know. That is a great deal. And, I think Boston Market provides some pretty healthy alternatives for fast food and lots of choices. However, my DS loves their cornbread of all things. We never have it at home. I have no idea how he even knew what it was or that he would like it. But, when I asked which items he wanted in the huge case of side dishes, all he pointed to was the cornbread and he devoured it like there was no tomorrow. Everytime we go there, he has to have his cornbread. (Which by the way is very messy - crumbs everywhere).

06-30-2004, 02:41 PM
We went to the Cheesecake Factory for dessert. Elizabeth didn't eat a lot for dinner at home that evening. When we sat down they brought a little plate decorated with slices of bread and banana! She ate all of it. I was so happy she got to eat something more than my sweet dessert!


06-30-2004, 02:45 PM
Oh, and I have to put a plug in for a local chain here in Austin... Chuy's. It is Elizabeth's favorite place to eat! Their kids menu has pictures with the description and she always points to the cheese enchilada. She gets a cheese enchilada, rice and beans and milk or oj. They also give a free sherbert pushup after dinner if you request it. I think it is $2.99 but might be $3.99.

dd Elizabeth 3.15.02

07-02-2004, 04:18 PM
Something else to consider...Even when we go to our fav Mexican restaurant, where the kids meals are enormous and not cheap, we just order DS a chicken soft taco off of the ala cart menu. We do the same when going to someplace like Taco Bell too. It's cheaper since DS is not eating the extras (chips, pop, etc).

07-02-2004, 08:58 PM
Just a note about Cheesecake Factory... they do NOT have kids meals! They will usually bring kids the banana/bread plate, but other than that, they are not the kid friendliest place in town. If you want a "kid meal", go somewhere else.

07-06-2004, 10:14 PM
We learned that on vacation last week. But Colin was pretty content nibbling on DH's cheeseburger and fries, and behaved better than I expected at a kid-unfriendly restaurant!

07-06-2004, 10:19 PM
Colin really enjoyed Cracker Barrel a couple of weeks ago. He loved playing the little golf tee game, and there was lots to look at. There were 10-12 choices on the children's menu, and you can pick any side (including baby carrots, green beans, corn, etc). Colin got a grilled cheese sandwich, which he didn't touch, but he devoured the mac & cheese side on my plate. For beverages, they had quite a few choices, including whole milk and several kinds of juice. Since Colin is lactose intolerant, we got him apple cider which he looooved (he doesn't get juice at home). The juice came in a sturdy, covered plastic straw cup. The meals were $3.99-4.99, average to a little high priced.

I find Cracker Barrel to be so-so and a little expensive, but will take that in exchange for a leisurely paced meal with a toddler!

Our favorite place for Colin is a local joint that has an extensive breakfast menu all day. Colin got a big pile of silver dollar pancakes with sliced bananas (though he ate a lot of my strawberries, too) for $4 off of the adult menu. They also have a $2 fruit cup, which he has enjoyed in the past. There are quite a few options in the $3-4 range that give Colin plenty of food. Beverages are extra, but we usually carry our own milk because of his lactose intolerance.

07-06-2004, 10:31 PM
Ugh. yes, that somehow escaped me since I was so excited about the 'baby plate.' they really should have kid-sized portions, but at least they don't charge a splitting fee, so I just have to order something we both like.

07-08-2004, 02:30 PM
D doesn't really eat much table food but he loves rice. We got him the Terriyaki chicken with fried rice. I think they made it with brown rice b/c I know that is an option. D loves the rice....which included veggies and the portion was huge! I think it was under 4.00. I don't believe a drink was included but they might have forgotten ours since we did takeout.

01-13-2005, 08:04 PM
They have quite an extensive menu for children and it is very reasonable.
Most of the places that I love are restaurants that are only here in the suburbs of Chicago! There are so many here.

ETA: also like CPK and Cheesecake Factory as well

01-13-2005, 08:24 PM
I can't remember, it was limited but it included a small burrito which is what we used to have to beg them to make (at full price of course).

01-13-2005, 09:03 PM
Sarah has always loved Baja Fresh. I am actually a little ticked at their new kids menu. She doesn't like tacos or burritos. She USED to get the "Mini Quesa-dita" which had a small quesadilla (which she likes), beans and rice, all of which she loved. My only peeve was I had to buy a milk separately.

The new kid quesadilla meal does not come with black beans. They have been willing to let me substitute for it, but then I have to give up something else.

So now I order her the beans and rice plate and a milk. Its actually cheaper and I usually get 2-3 meals out of it (with the leftovers).

(Ummm, yes we eat at Baja Fresh A LOT! :) )

01-13-2005, 09:18 PM
Did they discontinue the mini-quesadita? That is what they always suggested we get for him, before the kids menu. We never got it...mass quantities of rice & cheese aren't good for Ds.

01-14-2005, 05:09 PM
Yes, the "mini quesa-dita" is discontinued. Sarah would usually eat all the black beans (one of her absolute fav foods, and yes it is NOT pretty the next day...) and rice and maybe one section of the quesadilla.

01-20-2005, 12:12 PM
last year at some point child magazine ran an article about the 10 best restaurants for families - read the article here: http://www.child.com/kids/health_nutrition/best_restaurants.jsp

several of the ones listed by PP's are on their list!

proud momma to DS
and cutie #2 due 8/25/05!!


http://www.gynosaur.com/assets/ribbons/ribbon_gold_12m.gif Weaned @ 13 months