The Best Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Pittsburgh & Tips for Eating Out

img_5344-1Eating out has definitely changed since we’ve had a kid, and if you’re anything like us you’re eating dinner about two hours earlier and researching the kid’s menus more than the happy hour menus these days.  Fortunately living north of Pittsburgh we have a ton of great restaurants to choose from that just happen to be kid-friendly too, so we don’t have to sacrifice a good meal and fun atmosphere just because we have a little toddler in tow. Even if our go-to spots are a little more casual now.

As an added bonus… if you make it all the way to the end of this post, you’re eligible to win free kids meals for a year!  Just kidding, we included tips for eating out to keep your kid happy at dinner so you can peacefully(ish) indulge in that beer or cocktail on a Friday night and maybe even eat your dinner while it’s still warm.

Kid-Friendly Pittsburgh Restaurant Picks

Our favorite kid-friendly restaurants have a few things in common: 1.) Locally owned places with creative menus, 2.) Margaritas and/or a great list of beers for Mom and Dad (because, sometimes we need to be a little selfish) and 3.) Grilled cheese, pizza or quesadillas on the kids menu.  Being a super adventurous eater myself, I’m still navigating the whole slightly picky vegetarian toddler thing.  So it’s definitely important to me to find places that have a kid’s menu my son will enjoy and in atmosphere that we don’t feel like we’re being judged for his sporadic loud noises and random food throwing (although thankfully that doesn’t happen quite as much these days!)  Read on below for our picks, most of which have multiple locations in the Pittsburgh area.

Mad Mex

This was our favorite place to go to during our Penn State days in State College, Pennsylvania, but obviously these days there is more food eating than margarita drinking (most of the time at least…no judgement please for that margarita I just had on a Monday night after my son woke up before 4:30am two days in a row.)  Although we frequented the Penn State location for years, it was actually founded in Pittsburgh and has several locations in the area.  In addition to the expansive “funky fresh cal-mex” menu offerings that I love, they have an awesome kid’s menu that keeps us going back long after our college days.  Let’s be honest though, I’d be totally fine if our son just ate tortilla chips for dinner if it means I can get my Mad Mex fix.  Their burritos are definitely my favorite (especially the shrimp mushroom chicken one) and we always have leftovers since they’re pretty huge.  The decor inside is also as unique as the food, and there’s so much to look at to keep even the littlest babies and kids entertained.

  • Family-Friendly Offerings: Kid’s Menu, High Chairs & Booster Seats// Changing Table// Crayons & Coloring Menu
  • Kid’s Menu: $6 for an entree that comes with a side and a drink.  Plus carrots, celery and ranch dressing are brought out early so your kid doesnt go crazy while they’re waiting for their food. Mad Mex is also one of the few places that includes dessert with their kid’s meals, and all kids get a brownie and ice cream for dessert after dinner; another favorite for our little sweet tooth.
  • Locations: Canonsburg, Cranberry, Monroeville, North Hills (our go-to), Oakland, Robinson, Scott Township & Shadyside// plus locations in Erie, State College & Philadelphia
  • Website: www.madmex.com

Stack’d Burgers

Stack’d just opened up a location in Hampton in August of 2018 and it has quickly become a new favorite for us.  The restaurant has a corn hole and bocci ball “court” inside and plenty of seating indoors and outdoors.  This place is super kid friendly, with an extensive kid’s menu and tablets loaded with games to keep your kids entertained while they’re waiting for their food.  Plus it doesn’t hurt that their burgers are really good, there are tons of TVs for sports watching and great beers on draft so you can take advantage of 1/2 off beers during happy hour at your 5:30 dinner time.  Tip: There’s a spacious family restroom with a changing table, which is the first time I’ve seen a designated family restroom in a restaurant (thank you, Stack’d!) Reservations aren’t accepted here.

  • Family-Friendly Offerings: Kid’s Menu, High Chairs// Changing Tables// iPads with games, Bean Bag Toss and Crayons/Coloring for entertainment
  • Kid’s Menu: $5-6 for the meal, side & drink plus $2 dessert options AND their meals come in a frisbee to take home.  Kids eat free ALL DAY on Mondays with the purchase of an adult meal.
  • Locations: Hampton (our go-to), Wexford, Shadyside & Oakland
  • Website: www.stackdburgers.com

Over the Bicycle (OTB) Cafe at North Park

We love it here the atmosphere more than anything (although the food and drinks are great too!)  It’s located in the Boathouse along the lake in the middle of the North Park, and it’s a perfectly casual spot to go to before or after exploring one of the many playgrounds or biking/walking/running as a family.  (In other words, you won’t look out of place if you go there un-showered in workout pants.)  This is a great go to for breakfast on the weekends (our favorite meal here) or a casual lunch or dinner.  While it’s our favorite during the warmer months with the open air seating, they’re open all year round.  Tip: Reservations aren’t accepted but you can use the Nowait App to avoid the long waits that are especially common on a nice weekend day.  If we’re going for a walk around the lake, I’ll usually get a place in line before we’re done so our table is ready shortly after we get to the Boathouse.

  • Family-Friendly Offerings: Kid’s Menu, High Chairs// Changing Tables// Crayons & Coloring Menu (plus there’s a lot to walk around and look at if they need to take a break from the table) UPDATED: Starting November 1st, OTB North Park also has Kids Eat Free on Tuesday nights over the Winter months. That’s up to 2 free kids meals for every paid adult entree.
  • Kid’s Menu:  $6 or $7 for cheeseburger, grilled cheese, corn dog or chicken fingers, side and a drink.  Meals are served on a fun frisbee for kids to take home.
  • Locations: North Park (our go-to) and Southside
  • Websitewww.otbbicyclecafe.com

Burgatory

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This is another favorite for us when it comes to great burgers and creative milkshakes, and we’ve been going ever since they first opened the Waterworks location in Fox Chapel.   In addition to the kids menu, our little vegetarian (and his Mom) loves their homemade veggie burger, which is a great option in lieu of his typical grilled cheese or quesadilla.  The amazing milkshakes are an added bonus, and we can only hope they bring back the unicorn shake (pictured right.)  Tip: Reservations aren’t accepted but you can use the Nowait App to avoid long waits- this place is always packed, for good reason!

  • Family-Friendly Offerings: Kid’s Menu, High Chairs & Changing Table
  • Kid’s Menu (known as the Little Angels & Devils menu here): $6 for kids meals that come with chips on the side.  Drinks are extra (which for us is totally fine since our son loves his water.)  If your kids finish their plate they get a cherry coke ice cream float for FREE.
  • Locations: Mccandleuss Crossing (our go-to), Fox Chapel (Waterworks), Robinson (The Pointe), Homestead (Waterfront), Murrysville (Blue Spruce), Cranberry, PPG Paints Arena & Heinz Field
  • Websitehttps://burgatorybar.com

The Oven Pizza Co.

I first went here for their amazing gluten free crust when I was dabbling in gluten-free living (long before I was even pregnant with my son; I honestly don’t know how people survive parenthood without gluten.)  In all seriousness though, it’s great that they offer gluten free crust and now dairy-free cheese for anyone and especially kids with allergies, which isn’t the norm for most pizza places.  They also have a kids menu (even though you could just tell the kids to eat pizza) which I personally love because I can get a few slices of one of their specialty pieces with creative topics while my picky-ish son can get something a little more plain.  Our son also loves watching them fire the oven from the sidewalk outside.  Tip: Reservations aren’t required here due to the quick service model- just order at the counter and pick a seat until your order is called.

  • Family-Friendly Offerings: Kid’s Menu, High Chairs & Changing Table
  • Kid’s Menu: $5 for the “kids oven” which is geared toward little eaters and includes either a pizza slice, grilled cheese, breadsticks or meatball with a side of chips, hummus and pita or fruit plus a drink.
  • Location: Wexford (Village at Pines)
  • Website: www.theovenpizzaco.com

Emiliano’s

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This is our favorite place for some of the most authentic Mexican food you can get in the Pittsburgh area (the Molcajete Cabo pictured right is AMAZING.) They also bring out homemade chips and the freshest salsa to hold the family over until the food comes. And of course the fact that our son loves Mexican food makes makes this place even better these days.  Reservations are accepted here.

  • Family-Friendly Offerings: Kid’s Menu, High Chairs // Changing Table// Crayons & Coloring Menu
  • Kid’s Menu: $5.99 for the meal, side and drink.  They have one of the biggest kid’s menus I’ve seen, and I love that they include sweet potato fries as an option since they’re our son’s favorite.  (And as parents its one of those things that we can convince ourselves is healthy just because there are sweet potatoes involved.)
  • Locations: Gibsonia (our go-to), South Side, Cranberry & McCandless Crossing
  • Website: www.emilianos.net

Atria’s

img_2051This is a local stable for us with a traditional American menu that has a little bit of everything, and it’s also great for some of our larger family get togethers.  While the dining room area can a feel a little more formal, each location has a casual seating near the bar if that’s what you’re looking for.  We especially love our local Atria’s in Richland since the servers have been great with our son ever since he was a baby and they have a large section with the more casual setting we prefer.  Atria’s is also great for families with little kids around the holidays, with events like Breakfast with Santa and Brunch with the Easter Bunny that include a number of activities in addition to meeting the holiday characters.  Reservations are always accepted at Atria’s.

  • Family-Friendly Offerings: Kid’s Menu, High Chairs // Changing Table// Crayons & Coloring Menu
  • Kid’s Menu: $4.99 for a meal and a side.  Drinks are $.99 extra (which is perfect for us since our son usually drinks water with dinner at this age.)
  • Locations: Richland (our go-to) Mt. Lebanon, O’Hara, Norwin, Pleasant Hills, Peter’s Township, Murrysville and Morgantown (WV)
  • Website: www.atrias.com

Toddling Traveler’s Tips for Eating Out

If you’ve been avoiding your favorite restaurants since you’ve had a kid, don’t.  Read below for a few lessons we’ve learned since eating out with a baby and now toddler.  As with anything, start them young if you can!  And definitely take advantage of those first couple months when they’re super portable and haven’t yet started yelling and throwing their food : )

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  • Disposable placemats are a lifesaver, especially for babies starting to eat solids.  They help you avoid the inevitable plate flipping and make it as easy as possible to clean up while limiting the germ intake when your kid inevitably tries to chew on the table. We still keep these stocked in our diaper bag at all times, and as our son got older they became a form of entertainment for our son to pick out all the colorful fish.  We love the placements pictured here from Little Oochoos (click on picture or link to check them out.)
  • Bring some things with you to keep the kids entertained.  I usually have a handful of small, noiseless toys in my diaper bag at all times.  If they’re still a little too young to be trusted with crayons without eating them, we love Melissa & Doug On-the-Go reusable coloring books.
  • Scope out the kid’s menu before you go.  This is especially important for us with a picky eater, and there have been times where I’ve decided not to go to a restaurant if it has meat only kids menu items.  Or… I just accept that our son is going to eat french fries for dinner and love every minute of it, since he rarely gets them at home.  Also, if you can’t find a kid’s menu or have other questions about the restaurant being kid-friendly, don’t hesitate to call the restaurant before you go.
  • Request to have the kid’s food brought out first.  Since we tend to order things with hot cheese for our son, I like to cut his food up first and let it cool off first.  Plus it helps us to avoid any long waits from our food and potential meltdowns that come along with a hangry toddler.   If I know we’re eating a little later, I will also bring a small snack or some Cheerios to hold our son over.
  • Give the kids a break from the table if they’re waiting a while.  It’s hard enough for parents to sit through long waits sometimes, so you can’t expect a little kid to be fine just sitting there without losing it.  Take turns getting up to hold them (if it’s a baby) or go for a little walk if your toddler is about to go into meltdown mode.
  • Be nice to your servers. The reality is that if they’re waiting on a family with little kids, there’s going to be more cleaning up and more special requests.  Plus those little people aren’t getting $20+ meals that go along with a higher tip either.  Be sure to treat them well, especially for attentive service!

P.S.  I’m also going to take this opportunity to apologize to all of the above restaurants if you’ve been a victim of our son’s food throwing phase.  Thank you for tolerating us!


Children’s Book Inspiration: Pizza! Cook in a Book by Lotta Nieminen

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