Maybe your children like sashimi with a dash of wasabi. Maybe they like elegant spoonfuls of tuna tartare, followed by kale salad and duck confit.
Maybe. But probably not.
While Boulder is one of the foodiest towns in America, with award-winning restaurants and ever more impressive menus that bring adult food-lovers to their knees, some of the finest restaurants in town don’t exactly make it easy for a family night out. Luckily, Boulder is across the board laid back and many restaurants will work with you to find something your kids want to eat. But there are some destinations that are just more kid-friendly than others.
Here are the 11 best, family-friendly restaurants in and near Boulder.
1. Next Door
This restaurant was founded with kids in mind. The goal: to offer families a place to eat where the food was all fresh and as local as possible, but in a relaxed environment and with a menu kids enjoy.
You’ll find kiddie faves like a quesadilla and ham and cheese lunchbox here, plus some equal comfort foods with a little more adventure, like a lamb sandwich, kale chips and burgers. For a splurge, Next Door serves Coke de Mexico and organic lemonade.
What really makes Next Door stand out, though, is that its kids’ meals help fund the Growe Foundation, which plans school gardens. So your kids get fed and other kids do, too.
Kids will feel at home with crayons and games, even a magnet board in the back. Celebrate with milkshakes and a walk down the Pearl Street Mall, right outside the front door.
2. The Sink
The Sink is a Boulder classic (around for nearly 100 years), and although it’s located on University Hill and popular among college students, it’s also fun for families. That’s no doubt in part due to the environment: the walls and ceilings are filled with colorful murals, words and signatures. It’s stimulating and fun to look at and can keep kids occupied while they wait for their food.
The Sink claims to have the best pizza and burgers in Boulder, and many locals won’t dispute that. Burgers are 100 percent grass-fed or Angus beef . Even the pickiest eaters will probably not hate the chicken tenders, flash-fried mac and cheese and soft pretzel sticks. For kids with dietary restrictions, there are gluten-free and vegetarian options, too.
3. Chautauqua Dining Hall
Go for a hike, listen to live music on the grass and then head to the Chautauqua Dining Hall, right at the base of the Flatirons, to fill up.
This casual, historic restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating on the porch, which is great for antsy kids whose energy can’t be contained under a roof. Parents can relax with a glass of wine while kids choose from the multiple kids’ menus, with offerings such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, mac and cheese, chicken tenders or pizza. You know, the classics.
The dining hall also holds special events for families, such as a Children’s Easter Tea Party, with a special visit by the Easter Bunny, a photo booth, treats and an Easter egg hunt. There’s also a family-friendly Mother’s Day brunch.
4. Murphy’s Grill
Murphy’s Grill has a kid-friendly menu and atmosphere, but a highlight for families is its tableside magic with the Amazing Lamont every week. Catch the tricks 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays in the south location and 5:30 p.m. Thursdays in the north location.
The menu is diverse, so it fits a variety of taste buds, and it changes seasonally. Prices are reasonable, too. The kids’ menu is always evolving; in addition to the expected plates, like chicken fingers and mac and cheese, it has a few more original options that many kids will still enjoy, like a chicken and bean burrito or pasta with a meatball.
5. 3 Margaritas
There is a branch in Boulder (3390 28th St.), as well as one in Longmont. Tres Margaritas is so family-friendly it even has “Family Mexican Restaurant” as part of its name.
Enjoy authentic Mexican food at this family-run chain, started by immigrants directly from Mexico. If you’re visiting Boulder County and want a taste of good Mexican fare in a lively, colorful atmosphere that welcomes kids, you won’t be disappointed by Tres. In Longmont, ask for a table on the large patio during warmer weather.
Kids not feeling like Mexican food? Tres also serves burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken fingers. Finish with sopapillas for everyone.
Moe’s Original Bar B Que is a popular destination for families craving some BBQ. Although it’s a chain, Moe’s offers $2 kids meals every day with an adult meal purchase. On other days, the “family packs,” loaded with meat, bread and sides are a great way to feed a big family.
For a locally owned BBQ experience, try Longmont’s Georgia Boys’ Southern style BBQ served in a totally casual, bare-boned location from 11 a.m. until the food’s sold out. Try the Family Sampler, which feeds up to six people. Take your meal to the park for a picnic and avoid the fight to keep your kids in their chairs altogether.
7. Mustard’s Last Stand
Mustard’s Last Stand, located in downtown Boulder near Boulder Creek, is a quick and cheap stop for families. Grab a burger, corn dog, sandwich, Polish sausages, hand-cut fries or a Chicago-style hot dog. They even have veggie dogs, for people who don’t eat meat.
What makes Mustard’s extra family-friendly is you can ask them to borrow a blanket and you can take it down to the creek for an impromptu picnic in the grass.
Mustard’s Last Stand has been a Boulder staple for more than three decades.
8. Oskar Blues
Oskar Blues has two Boulder County locations: one in Longmont, one in Lyons. Both have a great menu (and great beer for parents), plus quirky decor. The Longmont location has a massive backyard play area, complete with a big sandbox space for kids and tons of picnic tables. It’s the closest thing you can find around here to eating in a park where the beer and burgers are brought to you.
Oskar Blues specializes in Creole food, but picky eaters can find pizza, burgers and mac and cheese, too.
The Lyons location has an awesome arcade in the basement that can occupy even older kids for as long as the adults want to stay and imbibe.
Oskar Blues says it was founded on building relationships with family and friends. It also regularly hosts live music. Some of it is later than most kids are up, but on Sundays your whole fam can jam out to bluegrass from noon to 3 p.m.
9. Centro Mexican Kitchen
Every Sunday after 5 p.m. is family night at Centro. Kids eat free.
If that’s not reason enough to draw you (let’s be honest, it probably is), Centro’s food is so delicious, you won’t believe they’d give anything away for free. The menu accommodates pretty much any food allergy or restriction, but a family-friendly, shareable app is the nachos, served with queso, black bean refritos, crema, cotija cheese, guac and meat, if you want to add it. Including chorizo. Try the chorizo.
As one of Boulder’s finer establishments, you might be wary to bring your kids to this open-kitchen, open-dining hall destination. But don’t. Oak at Fourteenth is perfect for families. First and foremost because it bakes fresh donuts every morning, in various flavors.
Oak is perfect for families because it offers family plates to share. While there is some cuisine that many picky kids might not want to try (like the chicken liver pate), there are some that are all but a guaranteed slam dunk: crispy fried pickles, housemade ramen noodles, a grilled double cheeseburger and housemade sodas. Yes, Oak makes soda right in the kitchen; so while you might otherwise not be big on letting your kiddo sip Coke, this is a rare occasion that might warrant the splurge.
11. Pizza Colóre
Local tip: If you need extra bribery leverage, ask about the house-made dessert, fresh daily.Pizza Colóre is simple, fast, cheap and ideally located for families. Nothing fancy here. Just delicious, New York-style, thin-crust pizza that you can order by the slice. Got a hangry kid? A comforting bite of pizza is only seconds away.
Colóre is located right on the Pearl Street Mall by the courtyard lawn (perfect for picnics) and the kiddie water feature that is always splashing in the summertime. Grab a table on the tiny patio out front and refuel before diving back in.