Top 15 places to eat with kids in the Twin Cities

Categories: Top 10

7. Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque & Pirate Bar

Arrr, mateys! Step inside Smalley's BBQ for some pirate-loving décor served alongside smoke-kissed barbecue. Let the little ones rummage through a treasure chest for a little distraction. The ample outdoor seating makes for easy cleanup for wee ones whose eating accuracy may still be in development. The food from La Belle Vie alum Shawn Smalley is a wallop to the tastebuds. The wings are available in all manner of heat level and consistently tasty no matter your bravery index. The crowd-pleasing stunner of a side dish is unquestionably the mac and cheese. The little elbow pasta of your youth is smothered in rich and creamy orange cheese sauce (but actually made with quality cheese) and topped with mild, smoky poblanos and a few crumbles of salty, pork-tastic bacon. When you're done, you can gaze out on the nearby St. Croix river with your kids and in your best Captain Jack voice cry, "Now, bring me that horizon! (423 Main St. S., Stillwater; 651.439.5375)

6. Blue Plate Restaurant Company (Edina Grill, Highland Grill, Longfellow Grill, Groveland Tap, the Lowry, and 3 Squares)

Tony Nelson
Stephanie Shimp and David Burley, the owners of the Blue Plate restaurant group, have a knack for reading what kind of restaurant will be best suited for a neighborhood. One thing all their restaurants have in common is an atmosphere and a menu to make kids comfortable. Any child can appreciate the mammoth waffles studded with bananas and walnuts, served with real maple syrup, thank you very much. Menus are tailored to its neighbors: oysters in Uptown, crinkle fries at the Tap, sweet potato fries in Longfellow, stunning salads in Edina, massive breakfast burritos in Highland, and a lovely selection of white wines at 3 Squares. No matter what part of town you're meeting the extended family in, if the kidlets are in tow, everyone will be happy at a Blue Plate eatery. (various locations; Blue Plate website)

5. Sea Salt

Vincent Marcinelli
One of the keys to successful parenting is to run them ragged. Kids have the boundless energy of an attention-deficient chihuahua on Red Bull. It's easier to get them focused on a plate of food if they're tuckered out from running around. In the warmer months, just pack them up to Minnehaha Falls in south Minneapolis and set them loose. There's plenty of running-around areas in addition to swings, sand, and hiking trails, and when they're done, the incomparable Sea Salt is right there in the park. Our usual adult strategy is to have one grownup stand in line while the other keeps watch on the kids. The line at Sea Salt can sometimes be lengthy, but the reward at the end is delicious seafood and a great wine and beer list. Treat the kids to some fish tacos and a scoop of Sebastian Joe's ice cream. Eating great food on a patio near the rushing falls, watching ruddy little cheeks get gooped up with melting ice cream while you sip a Surly beer, it's easy to remember why you wanted to have those adorable little kids in the first place. (4825 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis; 612.721.8990)

4. Pizzeria Lola

Emily Utne
Who wants pizza? It's a request met with more cheers than for ice cream. While the dish might be Italian in origin, nothing is more all-American and kid-beloved than a pizza party. Chef-owner Ann Kim, as the website says, is a Korean immigrant who quit her day job to open a pizza joint named after her dog. Kim and her crew at Pizzeria Lola are rocking it out like no one else with their universally loved restaurant. The exceptional pies are packed with fresh ingredients atop a perfectly crispy, chewy crust. And for those sadly banned from the ubiquitous slice by gluten intolerance, rejoice -- Lola has the best gluten-free crust in town. (5557 Xerxes Ave S., Minneapolis; 612.424.8338)

3. Tilia

Emily Utne
This Linden Hills hotspot attracts more than just the fooderatti who flit from one well-reviewed restaurant to the next. Long after the new shine fades to comfortably worn-in, this joint will draw the loyal neighborhood people who Steven Brown is aiming to please. While the food is indeed noteworthy, it's also never pretentious. Kids menus arrive like little paper-folded fortunes, and kids' meals are only $3 for little kids or $6 for big kids. The menu is full of safe yet interesting options like tomato soup, shrimp, or grilled chicken. Grownups have the run of Tilia's fantastic menu, featuring everything from escargot to hot dogs. Save room for the dessert: The pastries change seasonally, and the perfectly balanced butterscotch pot de crème (luscious pudding topped with barely sweetened crème fraiche) is divine. (2726 W. 43rd St., Minneapolis; 612.354.2806)

2. Brasa

Thumbnail image for brasa-premium-rotisserie-rachelle-carlson-.jpg
Rachelle Carlson
Every parent understands the cold-sweat terror that comes from trying to eat out with young, hungry children. The panic rises as their restlessness grows: Will the food come before their full-on freak-out? Will you be the object of scorn from other diners? Worse, can the kids order anything that isn't scraped from the bottom of the nutritional slop barrel? That's why it pays to have Brasa in your back pocket. With two locations, one in each city, it's easy to get to, and the concrete floors make kids easy to clean up after. The food is responsibly farmed, free of chemicals, and abounding in delicious vegetable options. The slow-cooked food is delectable, for kids and their parents (both restaurants are owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Roberts). The staff is quick to serve the kiddies their drinks with lids and straws, and the kids' menu is full of cute distractions. (600 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.379.3030. 777 Grand Ave, St. Paul; 651.224.1302)

1. Midtown Global Market

midtown global market2 --e katie holm-x560.jpg
E. Katie Holm
Contained within the Midtown Global Market is a veritable flavor wonderland. A melting pot of ethnic restaurants and small businesses allow for a quick cultural tour. Foodwise, you'll find a wealth of options -- everything from tacos (traditional and fusion) to camel burgers, fresh fruits and vegetables to burgers and fries -- all in a wide-open, welcoming space that's great for letting kids run free. Besides food, there are scads of entertainment options for little ones. They have Wee Wednesdays with musical and educational entertainment. Kitchen in the Market has cooking classes for kids -- an especially fun session includes Manny from nearby Manny's Tortas and a little lesson in espanol. Have a special dinner at the counter of the Left Handed Cook, under the chandelier, of a bok-bok chicken bowl with a Korean soda pop that has whole grapes inside. It's all easy on the pocketbook (even parking -- the lot across the street can be validated for three hours free). End your day with a mammoth cookie from the Salty Tart. Owner and renowned pastry chef Michelle Gayer is a mom herself and knows the way straight into a kid's heart. It's an entire building filled with fantastic food experiences, all waiting to be shared with small eaters. (920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.872.4041 )

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Location Info


Midtown Global Market

920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis, MN

Category: General

Brasa Premium Rotisserie

600 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant


2726 W. 43rd St., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Pizzeria Lola

5557 Xerxes Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Sea Salt Eatery

4825 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar

423 Main St., Stillwater, MN

Category: Restaurant

Birchwood Cafe

3311 E. 25th St., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant


4000 Minnetonka Blvd., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant


3800 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Mendoberri Cafe and Wine Bar

730 Main St., West St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant

Day By Day Café

477 7th St. W., St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant

Mickey's Diner

36 W. 7th St., St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant

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