Going out to eat with your toddler is usually a bit of a gamble. Sometimes the stars align and your tot sits happily for the whole meal, while other times it takes balloons, iPads or the promise of an ice cream sundae to get your tyke to stay in her seat.
Why not take some of the guesswork out of the equation? Sure, even a visit to the most kid-friendly places can turn into a “check, please” situation, but these restaurants in southeast Michigan all have something special, making them a pretty good bet for toddlers.
Some will lure your little guy or girl in with games. Others might put a unique spin on the typical kid-menu food. And a few of these places just have the vibe (read: loud noise level) that makes you not worry so much about the occasional toddler squeal or fit.
Here’s our list of 12 popular toddler-friendly restaurants in the area and what makes them great. We’ve included local favorites as well as some chains known for good kid perks. Bon appétit!
Locations: Clinton Township, Dearborn, Detroit, Farmington Hills, Livonia, Mount Clemens, Novi, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak, St. Clair Shores, Sterling Heights, Troy, Warren, Washington Township, Waterford, Westland
Check if your location offers personal tablets for each child at the table – they’re loaded with cool new games that just might trump the apps on mom or dad’s phone. These are great for when your toddler’s patience runs out before you’ve finished eating.
Locations: Ann Arbor, Brighton, Clinton Township, Commerce, Detroit, Livonia, Madison Heights, Novi, Pittsfield Township, Roseville, Southgate, Troy, Westland
They’ve got arcade games, a great kids menu and – perhaps most importantly – pretty much everyone who walks in knows they’re entering a family-friendly zone. No rolling eyes at messy kids allowed! Check if your location offers special entertainment; Madison Heights and Roseville have a weekly magician who visits tables.
Locations: Chesterfield Township, Ferndale, Southgate, Sterling Heights
Would your little guy or girl like dining with Buzz Lightyear, Olaf or Darth Vader? Then head to Rosie’s for Kids Night, where a character visits each week and kids eat free. Check your nearest location for days/times.
Locations: Ann Arbor, Auburn Hills, Brighton, Canton, Dearborn, Detroit, Livonia, Novi, Shelby Township, Sterling Heights, Troy
With the promise of desserts like the “Cup of Dirt” (pudding, crumbled Oreos and gummy worms), your little ones might just be willing to chill out during the main course. Also check out their gluten-sensitive menu options like an all-natural chicken sandwich and the blue-raspberry or mango-peach-lemonade slush.
Locations: Ann Arbor, Canton, Hartland, Novi
Kids will love the pizza, moms and dads will appreciate the casual atmosphere and the staff will happily offer your toddler a ball of pizza dough to play with. You can’t go wrong with built-in entertainment.
Location: 10292 Dexter-Pinckney Road, Pinckney
What toddler doesn’t love a good balloon animal? Gordo the Magician makes a visit here from 6-8 p.m. every Thursday offering magical illusions and fun animal-shaped balloons. There’s a kids eat free special too.
Location: 24223 Jefferson Ave., St. Clair Shores
A magician visits this waterfront restaurant 5-8 p.m. every Sunday evening, and kids eat free on Mondays (one child meal free for every adult meal purchased).
Location: 419 S. Main St., Royal Oak
Here you’ll find a kids menu that parents and tots will appreciate with choices including grilled chicken, steak, homemade macaroni and cheese and more. Little ones get to choose two sides with each meal, so you can get in their fruits and veggies or strike a compromise with fruit and fries. On Sundays, two kids eat free for every one adult meal ordered.
Locations: Berkley, West Bloomfield Township
This fast-casual Italian eatery with optional cafeteria-style ordering is loud enough to make families with toddlers feel comfortable. The menu has something for everyone with delicious pizzas, mac ‘n’ cheese, grilled cheese, burgers, paninis, salads and more. Plus, the bakery treats are always a crowd pleaser.
Location: 2501 Jackson Ave, Ann Arbor
Kids can choose from original mac ‘n’ cheese or more adventurous Kiddie Iggy (Monterey Jack cheese, smoked chicken, fresh corn and cilantro tossed with macaroni), a yummy grilled cheese or a New York strip steak, grilled chicken breast or fish and chips. You might also consider dessert with a Bakehouse mini pastry.
Location: 25253 Telegraph Road, Brownstown
Check out the huge bear and other cabin-esque decor, then treat your toddler to the mini burgers, mac ‘n’ and cheese or maybe even the Cubby Sirloin Steak. “Bear cub” meals include a beverage and dessert, plus every Thursday is free cookie day with any lunch entree purchase.
Location: 1331 Broadway St., Detroit
Located in downtown Detroit, this restaurant is huge and action-packed with bowling, shuffleboard, pingpong and arcade games. It’s a bustling place where everyone is having fun, so your busy toddler will fit right in. It’s family-friendly until the later evening hours, and a kids’ menu is available.