Dining with the Kiddos

By Maggie Moore

How to make those nights out in Waco with the family stress-free and fun

These days, everything feels more expensive and date nights are no exception. Even when the plan is only dinner, you quickly realize going out to eat alone is a very special treat. Often, the cost of a sitter, on top of the dinner bill, can leave you wondering if the outing was worth it. And while we think the answer is always “YES!”, we also know having your kids join you for a meal out is much more common than those elusive date nights.

But as parents, we’re left with the question, “How do I make going to a restaurant with my kids enjoyable?” I won’t lie to you, there have been a handful of times I wish we had just stayed home. However, more often than not, the outing was a success.

One surefire way to make sure you won’t regret your decision is making the right restaurant choice. With both casual and upscale dining options, Waco is hearing the plea of many parents and finding ways their restaurants can cater to kids.

Take Slow Rise Slice House in Woodway, for example. A favorite amongst families with children due to the giant, enclosed outdoor area for kids to run and play. I always feel more comfortable taking my little one to a place I know she won’t be disrupting others who are trying to enjoy a quiet or romantic outing. Slow Rise eases that burden by providing a space where kids can be kids, and everyone expects the environment to be full of tiny voices. Another wonderful casual option is a place like Union Hall. A lot of times, kids throw tantrums at restaurants due to food choices — maybe they wanted a burger, but the kids’ menu only offers chicken fingers. Union Hall alleviates that issue by allowing a variety of choices for the whole family. Parents can enjoy a unique Thai dish from Curry Up & Wok This Way, while kids dive into a burger from Waco staple, (Captain Billy) Whizzbang’s Hamburgers.

Mastering casual dining with kids may feel like a breeze; many of you probably have a solid rotation of restaurants you know your children will enjoy — but I’ll bet upscale dining has you slightly more stumped. Let me take that worry away and reassure you that places like Di Campli’s, MOROSO or Ichiban are as easy to tackle!

One of my top recommendations for upscale dining options is to call the restaurant prior to your visit. By speaking to an employee, you can be reassured that your child will not only be welcome in the establishment, but you can also rest easy knowing if they have crayons/coloring pages, highchairs, a specific kids’ menu, patio for a potential crying baby, changing table in the bathroom and more! Another helpful idea is to pack a specific toy/game to take with you that your little one doesn’t have access to unless out to eat; this will make the item more interesting since it is new or rare, and ultimately hold their attention longer.

If upscale dining still has you uneasy, consider eating at a less popular time/day of the week. A Tuesday, 5 p.m. dinner reservation is less appealing, but many restaurants are much emptier at that time of night or on weekdays. Or try choosing a spot with an “activity” to capture the attention of your children; the pizza oven at MOROSO and the hibachi at Ichiban really take the pressure off parents to come up with a game plan for the night.

Overall, eating out with kids will never be a walk in the park. But you might be shocked to find that your little one loves the salsa at Hecho en Waco or has become a surprisingly good pool player from practicing at Guess Family Barbecue. Whatever the case may be, we hope these tips empower you to try out some local spots — we have a feeling you won’t regret it!