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You didn’t come to Cleveland’s trending restaurant scene to eat at mediocre chain restaurants, right? But what if you have kids? [Parents everywhere emit collective annoyed sigh.]
Good news: Cleveland’s got dining spots that are just as appropriate for kids as they are for adults. Here are some restaurants we find “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.
Located 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 deals on burgers and some other select items — making a family tab that much more reasonable.
Located on the corner of Euclid Avenue and East Fourth Street in Downtown Cleveland is the Corner Alley. It offers tasty — if a bit chain-pub-like — food and, of course, bowling, on clean, shiny lanes. You can even order food from your lanes, so you never have to make sure wiggly, hungry kids are sitting still. During happy hour (3-6 p.m.), pizzas are half-price and, for ready-to-relax parents, beers are $2 off.
Over in Ohio City, 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 the time away while they wait for their food. The menu trends toward Mexican and Asian, but there are also lots of vegetarian and vegan options available. Try the exceptional quesadillas —and, adults, the Calypso is perhaps the best salad in the city.
Cleveland’s Little Italy is just up the hill from the treasures of University Circle, and there you’ll find Mamma Santa, a treasure of another kind. In business since 1961, Mamma Santa’s unassuming checked tablecloths and brown-paneled walls give it a cozy, casual feel. The pizza will please everyone in the family, and the grownups can choose traditional (and delicious) Italian entrees if they’re all pizza-ed out from life with kids. After dinner, stroll down the block to Presti’s, another authentic neighborhood stand to choose from the enormous dessert case whilst sipping exceptional coffee.
A grilled cheese restaurant? Of course it’s kid-friendly. But with nearly 30 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 are also available. Wait times can reach 30 minutes or more during peak hours, so call ahead to see if it’s a wait your little ones can handle. On Tuesdays, kids’ meals are just $2 ($4 on other days). Melt has locations that are a short drive from Downtown in Lakewood, Cleveland Heights and Independence, as well as out in the ‘burbs of Mentor and Avon.
This one’s a little different — in the best sort of way. PSC is an old-time neighborhood pub, so 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 —topped off with pierogies and stuffed cabbage (and Wednesday night polka!) on the menu. But never fear, the kids can still get burgers or grilled cheese if that’s more to their taste. The regulars (as well as some of their hipster counterparts) 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.
Located right on Public Square in Downtown Cleveland is an under-the-radar gem that’s actually a real find for families — Pura Vida. 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 most parents. Bonus: Pura Vida is allergy-friendly.
On the west side of town in 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.
Close to University Circle is Cleveland Heights’ Coventry neighborhood, which contains quirky shops and unique restaurants, including Tommy’s. It’s most famous for its thick milkshakes, which recently went viral when the restaurant generously had one delivered to a Virginia hospital to fulfill a dying woman’s wish. Besides milkshakes (of course), Tommy’s serves a delicious range of casual food and is extremely vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. Allergies are no problem. Kids are always welcomed — even when we went with friends and carted six kids in at once!
Kids love this local diner chain, which has nine locations from Downtown at Playhouse Square to Cleveland’s eastern, western and southern suburbs. There is a wide selection of yummy kid’s meals (ice cream included), as well as plenty of grownup casual fare like soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees. (But we won’t tell if you grownups get the anytime breakfast for dinner — we do!) Gluten-free options are prominently featured.
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