A lot of places call themselves “family friendly,” but we’ve got the scoop on what parents really look for in kid friendly restaurants! Thank you to Willie’s Grill and Icehouse for sponsoring this post – all opinions are our own.
My Granny recently came to visit us all the way from West Virginia. Since we live almost 2000 miles apart, it was a big deal and we wanted to spend as much time as possible with her.
For her first day in town, we wanted to plan an afternoon with food and family-friendly fun — a place that would be good for four generations.
The place we chose called itself family-friendly, but that was a bit misleading.
Though they had an outdoor area, there really wasn’t much for the kids to do at all! Also, the A/C struggled to keep up with the Texas heat, so we all were sweaty messes within ten minutes. Fail!
If only we’d known about Willie’s Grill and Icehouse!
Related: See why Willie’s is one of our favorite staycation ideas for families!
What Makes a Restaurant Kid Friendly?
Restaurants take note…this is what parents really look for in a kid friendly restaurant!
1. Things for Kids to Do
Boredom is the #1 reason for a family dinner fail.
Let’s keep it real…coloring pages are played out! Parents want activities for kids that are truly a draw! (See what I did there?)
How many times have you gone out to eat, only to plow through your food because the kids finished in 5 minutes and then got restless? When the kids are done eating, that’s when the countdown starts for parents.
What’s the point of paying for a restaurant meal if you don’t have time to enjoy it??
Every Willie’s Grill and Icehouse location features a cozy patio and a BIG sandbox for where kids can play. That way if kids finish their food first they can go play while the grown-ups enjoy the rest of their meal. (Warning: it’s so much fun that they might not want to leave!)
There’s lots of seating around the sandbox and plenty of fans and misters to keep cool. However, you can still get that patio vibe indoors too — it’s a very open floor plan so the whole place feels like a patio!
2. Laid back atmosphere
Our kids are generally well-behaved in restaurants, but they’re still kids!
Kids get messy!
Kids get a little loud…
We do take our kids with us to family dinners at fancy restaurants, however, aside from those special occasions, we usually want to go to a place where it’s ok for kids to just be kids.
Parents don’t want to be scrutinized when they’re out for a meal with their kids, or worry about getting dirty looks if a baby shrieks or one of the kids gets a little too excited.
Because trust me, the babies WILL shriek and the kids WILL get excited.
The laid-back atmosphere at Willie’s is perfect for families. There’s music, Texas sports teams on the televisions, and an awesome patio with a huge sandbox (see above).
Everyone feels right at home!
3. Food for Everyone in the Family
My idea of a perfect meal is different from my kids’ idea of a perfect meal. So when you find a place that everyone agrees on, it’s a big deal!
I always look for a menu with things that we all enjoy — but at the same time, I want a menu that’s not so big that it’s overwhelming and we spend all evening just trying to decide on our meal.
Willie’s Grill and Icehouse strikes the perfect balance of variety with their menu of Cajun and Texas favorites. From fried pickles to po-boys, Willie’s got it!
I ordered the special fried avocado burger and sweet potato fries — it was delicious with the chipotle mayo and jalapeños!
Our girls loved the mac ‘n cheese and French fries — seriously, just give them French fries and they’re happy campers!
My husband generally eats low-carb, so he had a steak and veggies.
We ALL split the giant platter of onion rings. Oh, the onion rings…I would go back just for those!
Annnnddd of course we saved room for dessert!
4. Fast Food (Without Being a Fast Food Restaurant)
Kids have NO patience when they’re hungry, so if a restaurant really wants to call itself kid friendly, the food needs to come out FAST!
One unique thing about Willie’s Grill and Icehouse is that you order your food as soon as you walk in the door. (You can grab an ice-cold beer when you walk in the door too!)
After you place your order, the staff guides you to a table and your server comes over to confirm your order. Minutes later your appetizers arrive, so there’s almost no wait!
It’s the best of both words: the efficiency of counter-style ordering with the comfort of restaurant service. Win-win!
5. Kids Cups
Fact: A restaurant without kids cups is a disaster waiting to happen! That’s why kids cups – with LIDS – are an absolute must!
Bonus points if the cups are something that kids can take home with them as a keepsake!
If you’ve got French fries and special cups, you’ll win over the kids every time.
6. Amazing Drinks
As a former bartender, I’m admittedly a little picky with my drinks. That and I usually only have one drink with dinner, so it better be good!
Y’all…I’m still dreaming of the Frosé from Willie’s Grill and Icehouse. I usually skip frozen drinks, but this one sounded so refreshing on a hot Texas evening, and it did NOT disappoint!
Picture this: sweet rose wine, a bit of vodka, blended together with strawberries and ice. SO SO GOOD.
In fact, the Frosé is so amazing that I’m going to try to make it at home too. We’ll see if I can re-create the magic! Because it is indeed a magical concoction.
PS- If strawberry isn’t your thing, Willie’s also offers margaritas, frozen Jack & cokes, Texas beers, and more!
Visit Willie’s Grill and Icehouse for Kid Friendly Dining
Willie’s Grill and Icehouse has 17 locations in Houston, San Antonio, and College Station, so there are lots of options close to home!
DEAL ALERT: For a limited time, enjoy $10 off a $25 food and beverage purchase at Willie’s Grill and Icehouse! Click here to get the coupon code! (Expires 6/11/19)