Dining with the Littles
Take the Kids: Terrific Family-Friendly Restaurants in Cleveland
By Sharon Holbrook, Image by Scott Meivogel
If your kid is looking for a chain restaurant that serves stale pizza with a side of cheap plastic tchotchkes by a giant, cheesy mouse, then might we recommend not visiting Cleveland?
Good for parents, Cleveland’s got great dining spots that are just as appropriate for adults as they are for kids. Here are some restaurants that are deemed “kid friendly” – in the sense of appeal, right-sized choices available and a welcoming attitude toward families. And, of course, each one is authentically Cleveland.
Pura Vida -- Let’s start downtown, right on Public Square. This under-the-radar gem is a real find for families. At first glance its spare modern interior would reveal no sign that it’s a place to take kids. But the staff couldn’t be more welcoming, and Chef Brandt Evans has prepared one of the finest kids’ menus in town. Every meal comes with fresh fruit, which is a frank relief to parents who are tired of seeing the same fried yellow-brown plates of kid menu foods. Bonus: Pura Vida is allergy-friendly.
Corner Alley -- Just down Euclid Avenue is the Corner Alley. It offers tasty – if a bit chain-pub-typical—food and, of course, it offers bowling, on clean, shiny new lanes. Best deal? Hit the weekday lunch, where kids get a game of bowling, shoe rental, and any kids’ meal for just $8. Yep. Adults are $14, which includes the same bowling privileges, plus a wide selection of salads, sandwiches and other lunch items. A second location recently opened in Uptown (near University Circle).
Johnny Mango -- Over in Ohio City, the neighborhood just west of downtown over the Cuyahoga River, hit up Johnny Mango World Cafe. It’s cheap, it’s good and it’s noisy enough that no one will hear your baby cry. Kids get their own menu and will color away while they wait for their food. The menu trends toward Mexican and Asian inspiration, and lots of vegetarian and vegan options are available. Try the exceptional quesadillas – and, adults, the Calypso is perhaps the best salad in the city.
Bar Cento -- Also in Ohio City, this cool eatery looks like a real bar and restaurant for grownups. And that’s because it is. But it’s also remarkably well-suited to the little ones, even though there is no children’s menu per se. The staff is always kind, and the amazing made-to-order pizzas will please any kid. Try stopping in at happy hour, when there are amazing deals on burgers and some other select items, making a family tab that much more reasonable.
Bon Bon Pastry & Café -- Just around the corner from the West Side Market in Ohio City, choose this little place for its sunny, funky interior and tasty brunch items. Sweet or savory, lunch or breakfast? You choose. With the varied selection, the kids can get silver dollar pancakes while you select a sandwich and salad. And just try resisting the siren call of the dessert display on the way out.
Sweet Melissa -- East (University Heights) or West (Rocky River), this suburban spot is an all-around family winner. Your kids will make a beeline for the gorgeous dessert cases and, indeed, they will get one, as each kid’s meal comes with a small dessert. (And fruit!) The menu is reliably delicious across the board, and vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are noted. Order a side of sweet potato fries for the table. You won’t regret it.
Prosperity Social Club -- This one’s a little different, in the best sort of way. PSC is an old-time neighborhood pub – don’t expect anything new or shiny. The Old World Eastern European patina that’s been polished off much of the increasingly hip Tremont neighborhood is still in full effect here. Pierogies and stuffed cabbage still figure on the menu. But never fear, the kids can still get burgers or grilled cheese if that’s more to their taste. The old timers will admire your children while you wait for your food and play old-school board games. (Sorry!, anyone? ) After dinner, just 50 cents a person will get you a full bowling game on the vintage mini bowling machine.
Melt Bar and Grilled -- A grilled cheese restaurant? Of course it’s kid-friendly. But with more than 20 sophisticated sandwich melts, plus salads, soups and burgers, there’s something for everyone in the family. Kitschy (year-round) holiday decorations and retro signs are a feast for your I-Spy eyes. Vegetarian and vegan options available. Waits can be long during peak times, so call to see if it’s a wait your little ones can handle. Locations a short drive from downtown in Lakewood and Cleveland Heights and, further afield, in Mentor and Independence.