9 Places for Foodie Parents to Enjoy a Meal with Kids in Charlotte
Make a reservation at one of these nine restaurants that offer palate-pleasers for the littlest appetites — and the biggest ones, too.
“Oh, just wait. You won’t go out to eat for years.”
Sound familiar? It’s a common phrase parents of older children just love to toss out at wide-eyed expectant parents. Well, cheer up, parents! Don’t rush to secure a weekly babysitter for your desperate escape from peanut butter and jelly, and macaroni and cheese from a box. Instead, make a reservation (or a well-timed arrival) at one of these nine restaurants that offer palate-pleasers for the littlest appetites — and the biggest ones, too. Some are fancier than others, but all offer delicious food choices.
There’s a reason this place exploded onto the national scene, even earning a spot on Bon Appetit magazine’s coveted “Best New Restaurants” list (they were number seven). The food here is simply wonderful, the setting is classic and the service is stellar. The chef-driven, family-owned restaurant — the owners, husband-and-wife team Joe and Katy Kindred welcomed their third child in February — doesn’t overlook its littlest diners. There isn’t a children’s menu, but kids are uniquely welcomed, with house-made play dough — and those small plates are surprisingly good at tempting little eaters into trying a variety of dishes. Chef Kindred’s pasta is never a bad choice, the milk bread could win over even the grumpiest of diners, and the seasonal menu always offers a safe bet for picky eaters. Kindred, 131 N. Main Street, Davidson, kindreddavidson.com, $$.
2. Nan and Byron’s
Few restaurants can claim a menu that includes a $27 filet mignon and mac ‘n cheese with weenies. Nan and Byron’s makes it work, with a full lineup of classic kids’ favorites alongside more sophisticated offerings like tuna tartare and charcuterie. There are lots of kid-friendly items on the regular menu, too. The crowd takes a turn toward a more adult crowd as the night goes on, so hit up this spot for lunch or an early dinner — and make reservations if you have a party of more than four. Nan and Byron’s, 1714 South Blvd., nanandbyrons.com, $$-$$$.
3. Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen
This upscale-casual restaurant earns a spot on lots of lists. It’s great for date night, and it’s fun for a night out with friends. If you go for dinner on the early side, around 5 p.m., it’s often crowded with families. There’s just so much flexibility with the rustic chic a la carte menu: hand pizza, house-made pasta, grilled meats, excellent charcuterie. And then there are the family-style sides like their popular pan-fried corn. If you’re bringing the kids, the SouthPark location is the better choice, as it’s bigger and slightly less intimate. Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen, Uptown at 150 N. College St.; and SouthPark, 6601 Morrison Blvd., roosterskitchen.com, $$-$$$.
4. Terrace Café
With locations in SouthPark and Ballantyne, this upscale bistro is a brunch standard (not in small part because they serve up a dessert-like red velvet waffle), but there’s so much more for families to love about it. For starters, they serve breakfast all day, everyday. So if your little darling is in a scrambled-eggs-only phase, not to worry: You can still get shrimp and grits or that fried oyster salad without having to become a short-order cook. The wait staff is very patient and kind to kids, too, which helps make Terrace Café a favorite for families. Reservations never hurt, especially at busier times and on the weekend. Terrace Café, 14815 Ballantyne Village Way, Suite 150; and 4625 Piedmont Row Drive, Suite 105, terracerestaurants.com, $$.
If there’s a global cuisine that’s best for kids, it might be German food — and Waldhorn is your best bet in Charlotte. The setting feels like it’s been plucked straight out of Disney World and dropped into south Charlotte, with flags hanging from the exposed beams and traditional music playing. Picky eaters could easily fill up on the hot pretzel rolls that come with every meal, but some of the restaurant’s best offerings — sausages, schnitzel, and spatzle — are kid-friendly on their own merit. Come hungry for the brunch buffet, which takes up a huge corner of the restaurant and offers simple breakfast foods like French toast, an omelet station, and scrambled eggs in addition to a roster of European favorites. Pro tip: The restaurant only takes reservations for parties of six or more, but they do honor call-ahead seating if you call when you’re en route. Waldhorn Restaurant, 12101 Lancaster Hwy., Pineville, waldhorn.us, $$.
6. 7th Street Public Market
The uptown market may have taken a few years to find its groove, but now that it has, it’s practically perfect for foodies with kids in tow. Not only are there lots of choices — always a plus when kids are involved — but the dining options here are far from basic. (Two favorites: the fanciest of grilled cheese sandwiches from Orrman’s Cheese Shop and the most sinful pancakes you’ll ever meet from Local Loaf.) Everyone will leave here happy, especially once Mom and Dad get a few sips of their pour-overs from Not Just Coffee. If you go on a weekend, get there early or be prepared to fight for a table. Bonus points if you grab some pasta and sauce from Zia Pia for a quick and easy dinner at home. 7th Street Public Market, 224 E. 7th Street, 7thstreetpublicmarket.com, $-$$.
7. Viva Chicken
With three locations across the Charlotte-metro area, Viva Chicken has solidified its position as a local chain with staying power. What’s not to love here? The food is simple but flavorful and definitely qualifies as healthy, from the traditional Peruvian rotisserie chicken (natural and free-range) to the cilantro-infused rice and the quinoa-stuffed avocados. Just be warned: if you don’t order enough, you might find yourself fighting with the kids over the last piece of fried yucca or spoonful of rice. Just go ahead and order too much food on purpose — Viva Chicken makes for great leftovers. Viva Chicken, 1617 Elizabeth Avenue; 12206 Copper Way and 9121 Sam Furr Road in Huntersville, vivachicken.com, $-$$.
If you’re a foodie, you’re probably on the lookout for the great restaurants that haven’t yet been discovered by the crowd. Verde fits the bill. This restaurant is tucked in a Huntersville strip mall, and is the sibling restaurant to The Prickly Pear (high end) and Burrito Loco (ultra casual). It offers approachable but elegant Mexican-centric fare with nods to South and Central American classics (think empanadas and ropa vieja). If your kids don’t like tacos or fajitas, there’s a robust children’s menu with quesadillas, mac-and-cheese and even fish sticks. Verde, 9818 Gilead Road, Suite 107B, Huntersville, verdehuntersville.com, $$-$$$.
CO offers up a feast of Pan-Asian dishes. The atmosphere is contemporary with a mix of communal and private-dining tables, as well as a lighted “tree” sculpture that is mesmerizing. The food is herbaceous and full of flavor with menu items ranging from traditional Banh Mi sandwiches with a twist to pho, pad thai, sushi and ramen bowls. A menu of small plates makes it easy to order several items to share; and there are three kinds of dumplings and a chicken wonton that are best-bets for kids, just be sure you order enough so you aren’t fighting over who gets the last one. CO, Park Road Shopping Center, 4201-D Park Road. eatatco.com/charlotte. $$-$$$.
Aleigh Acerni is a Charlotte-based writer and editor who’s doing her best to turn her toddler into a foodie.