In my other life I write about food, usually for The Boston Globe. And so I get asked all sorts of restaurant questions: Where to take Grandma. Where to take Grandma and her new boyfriend. Where to take Grandma, her new boyfriend and your long-lost cousin who only drinks icy martinis and eats caviar. Usually, there’s a good (and tasty) answer.
People also ask me about family-friendly dining spots. This is pretty straightforward, too: There are plenty of terrific restaurants in Boston that have good kids’ menus and patient servers, no frightening clowns or mysterious “chicken” nuggets involved.
Dining with an actual baby is tougher. You need someplace large enough to accommodate strollers and other apparatus; noisy enough that a rogue shriek won’t result in snooty glares; and tasty enough that you’ll actually feel like venturing out of the house with an infant was worth it.
This Watertown hangout known for its rotisserie chicken is run by the team behind Boston’s Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar and Row 34, where service is excellent. There’s a toasty patio, a bocce court where older kids can roam free-ish and a noise level that ensures a rogue squeak or five won’t spark displeasure. And if it does? A vast wine and beer list might help you care a little bit less.
Location is key here: Right across the street from the best toy store ever (the Curious George Store, of course), Felipe’s has a bigger menu and salsa bar than the burrito chains, without skimping on quality. Service is fast; the noise level ensures that even a howling child won’t raise brows. Plus, there’s booze!
Owner Rebecca Roth Gullo, a mom herself, opened this place as a South End hangout for families like hers. And what’s not to like? It’s loud, it’s friendly and it serves poutine. On borrowed time? Hit up sister restaurant Blackbird Doughnuts instead. Their chocolate-glazed doughnut is a sugar-spun, densely doughy orb of beauty, the kind of item you can easily shove into your mouth in three seconds while also changing a diaper.
A tapas restaurant from super-chefs Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer might not seem like a prime place to bring a baby. Yet I’ve seen plenty of babies (and bleary-eyed parents) there, and I’ve been impressed with the quick service and unfazed waitstaff. It’s a terrific place to go if you need to get out but can’t decide where, because their menu has a little bit of everything, from foie gras bratwurst to wok-fried chow fun to matzo-ball ramen. Plus, unlike at sister tapas place Toro, they take dinner reservations, so you won’t waste precious time waiting for a table.
This mellow Allston spot has the kind of menu that the very hungover or seriously sleep-deprived crave: Frito’s chili pie, tater tots topped with short ribs, Hollandaise sauce and poached eggs, English-muffin pizzas and beer cheese soup. The crowd skews young and unbothered.
This new Jewish deli in Kendall Square from the talented people behind State Park is noisy (a plus), delicious (get the 1/31/31/3, a husky sandwich packed with pastrami, corned beef and tongue) and it takes reservations. Best of all? I was almost a half-hour late on a recent visit, yet they held our table without a whiff of ‘tude.
Pure Cold Press
Clean and pristine, Pure Cold Press is run by the Cohen family, who oversee Rami’s kosher restaurant next door. There are cold-pressed juices and smoothies, a massive salad bar that looks like a Pinterest spread, plus tasty soups and sandwiches and tables spaced with stroller room in mind.
Seven Star Street Bistro
This family-run Chinese restaurant lured Newtonites for years when it was located in the center as Seven Star Mandarin House; now Chris Lin, a newish dad himself and the son of original owner Joseph Lin, runs a new iteration in Roslindale. The menu has familiar classics (crab rangoon, Peking ravioli), but Lin also hosts pop-ups like Astro Diner, specializing in hash, and Rozzie Ramen, serving—you guessed it—ramen.
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