I remember the first time we took Jackson to a resteraunt.

He was two weeks old and Dave and I were going stir crazy in the house… we just wanted a little escape. So we took him to our favorite Mexican place where he slept in his car carrier wrapped in a breathable blanket less any germs try to sneak their way to his nostrils alongside the smell of chips and salsa. My newborn slept the entire time and I remember us looking at each other thinking look at us fitting our baby into our regular routine, we’ll never be those people who stop doing cool things just because there’s a kid involved!

Fast forward to us seven years later and our pre-requisite for a big night out basically involves anywhere that won’t mind if Ford screams Help Meeeee!!! for 9 minutes straight in an attempt to get out of the highchair. Jackson needs a locale that won’t let a pickle anywhere near his plate and Sawyer will spend upwards of 45 minutes trying to decide between milk or water as a beverage while the college-age server waits patiently. 

And so, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite family-friendly eating establishments. If you’re a veteran parent and I’ve missed one of your favorites, please comment at the bottom and let me know. If you’re a newbie parent, unsure about what these sorts of places have to offer, come on over and join our table. I recommend the house salad and a glass of moderately priced white wine!! ~Rachel 


1. Red Robin – I’ve got to start with the Robin because I’ve been going there since I was little and now I take my kids. It’s a circle of life… very Lion King of us. 


– Extensive kid’s menu with multiple options for healthy side dishes

– Fun activity sheet and crayons for each kiddo – a hidden cheeseburger makes for an intense Hollis family competition on each trip

– Allegedly, if you looked a way for a minute let’s say, and your 18 month old ate half of the red crayon, he would totally live because it’s non-toxic. Not that I know from experience or anything.

What I Order:

Petite Cheeseburger (even though it’s not on the menu they’ll still make you one) that way you don’t have to eat your body weight in burger… leaves more room for the bottomless fries with a side of ranch!


2. Chipotle – The Hollis family basically keeps the local Chipotle in business, no, seriously. We’re huge fans and we go there every Sunday after church. I love that they have something for everyone.


– Make-Your-Own kids plates means that my boys can get a deconstructed version of a burrito. Imagine a cafeteria style tray with a protein of your choosing, brown rice, lettuce or black beans and then a teeny tiny chip bag. So great!

– Junior sized cheese quesadillas are so tasty that sometimes mommy and daddy get them too.

What I Order:

Vegetarian Burrito Bowl with brown rice and black beans, extra corn salsa. The key is to get your guacamole on the side with a bag of chips. Then the whole family can eat the guac but you don’t get charged for it because it comes with the veggie bowl. 

best family restaurants

3. Soup Plantation / Sweet Tomatoes  – I love myself some Souplantation. In fact, when I was pregnant with Ford I asked Dave to take me to the one in Atwater Village. It was a new one that had a coming-soon sign up for so long I thought it must be good to go. When we got there and it wasn’t open my 8 months pregnant-self waddled back to the car in tears.


– It’s a salad bar… with a soup section… and a bread/pasta/pizza section. Case Closed.

– You just ate a salad (ignore the cabs associated with the bread bar) so hitting up the dessert section is guilt free!

– Tons of choices means that each child has a weirdo child plate exactly to their liking. What’s that honey? You want to eat diced ham, shredded cheese, cucumbers and sunflower seeds for lunch? No problem!

What I Order:

Everything… and then I cover it in croutons and ranch. The end.

cpm family restaurant

4. California Pizza Kitchen – I know CPK is technically a Cali thing, but they’re all over the country now, right? Kid’s menus have personal pizzas and bowls of pasta that come with as little as pasta, butter, parmesan (parents of picky kids will understand) and the spinach dip is so good even our baby likes it!


– Junior sized pizzas and pastas are great for little ones and their small plates menu has fun things to share

– CPK is a big proponent of “Dine Out” nights to support local schools. You and all the other parents from school take the whole family out on the same night and then the restaurant donates some of the proceeds. 

– Now they serve wine by the glass, bottle or new-and-special sized 9 0z carafe! Also, they’re the only place I know of that serves my favorite every-day Sauvignon Blanc Nobilo.

What I Order:

Half a Barbecue Chicken Chop Salad and a Cup of Tortilla Soup… and the spinach dip to start because, well, I’m only human!


5. Sonic Drive In – If you’ve read my book then you know how much I love me some Sonic. The closest one to us is about a 45 minute drive so it’s something we only do every couple months. We load the boys up for the park, play for a couple of hours and then drive over to Sonic to eat burgers while the car hops zip by on their skates.


– You’re parked but eating in the car… meaning the wiggle worm baby of mine is content to stay in his carseat so long as you keep feeding him apple slices and tater tots.

– I love the creativity of the “toys” that come with the kids meals. The last few times we’ve gone the boys have gotten Kid’s Bob CD’s which gives us something fun to listen to on the way home.

What I Order:

A Brown Bag Special with mayo AND mustard + a Cherry Limeaid with extra lime.


[Photo Credits: Red Robin – Miller Photography  Chipotle – Website   Soup Plantation –  CPK –   Sonic – Clayton Construction]