Katherine Queen, 5, climbs aboard the boat at Cali 'N' Tito's on Lumpkin Street. The playground is a blend of vintage fantasy and fanciful playthings. Enjoying warm weather at an outdoor, kid-friendly restaurant? Five pink elephant slides out of five.
A Quick Roundup: Before I go into my monthly diatribe, I want to shout out to some upcoming events. For one, with Easter around the corner, you can sign up now for meet-and-greets with the Easter Bunny. Breakfast with the Bunny (9 & 10 a.m., Apr. 7 at Memorial Park, $8; 706-613-3800) is always a hoot, and I think pictures of kids with a smiling rabbit are much better than what you get with Santa Claus.
Canopy Studio's 10th anniversary show, "Evolve" (Apr. 13–15 at Canopy Studio, $8–$15, 706-549-8051) is the type of performance that makes Athens a unique place to live, and it's the type of thing every kid should see at least once.
There's also a 10th anniversary carnival at Terrapin Beer Co. (see www.terrapinbeer.com for details) and the 13th annual UGA International Street Festival (see isl.uga.edu/events), both on Apr. 14. And if you're into sports, take your kids to any of the upcoming softball, baseball or track events at UGA (see www.georgiadogs.com for schedule info).
They Gotta Eat: Spring does seem to have come early this year, and with it comes the desire to unlock our children from the confines of our kitchens at dinnertime. Yes, every so often, parents want to join the masses and eat out in public—but we must do so with a little bit of research, because taking a child to eat at the wrong restaurant is a bit like being forced to watch a really bad movie all the way to the end… and you're the star. Fortunately, Athens has several great places that are not only kid-friendly, but also serve really good food. Just because I have kids doesn't mean I've lost my sense of taste.
Jump Around: One consistent factor among the kid-friendly restaurants in this town is access to the outdoors. This is crucial. I feel pretty strongly that kids who misbehave in restaurants need to be removed—immediately—and can only return when they stop crying and moaning. (And yes, if they don't stop, the parents need to suck it up, take their meals to go and leave. Nobody else should have to put up with your screaming child.) This means my short list of places for a kid-friendly dinner (that doesn't consist of chicken fingers) includes places like Clocked (259 W. Washington St.) and Ted's Most Best (254 W. Washington St.), where kids can run around in a courtyard (and also get a little loud) without being seriously annoying. Big City Bread Cafe (393 N. Finley St.) falls into this category, too, as does Farm 255 (255 W. Washington St.), but I'd opt for brunch or lunch at those places before investing in a nice meal for a kid.
Destination Dining: Some restaurants are in interesting places, which makes the overall dining experience more like a fun adventure. At White Tiger Gourmet (217 Hiawassee Ave.), you can eat indoors in the historic building or outside on the picnic tables, and there are lots of places to explore (and, it's great for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch, when kids eat free!). White Tiger's sister restaurant atop the Georgia Theatre has a limited menu, making it tricky for picky eaters. But if your kid's cool with a pimento cheese sandwich, he or she can eat one and enjoy the view at the same time. Or, head to Cali 'N' Tito's (1427 S. Lumpkin St.), where the line won't seem nearly as long when your kids are playing in the old boat for, say, the entire time you're there (or watching the exotic birds, or poking at the fish, or sliding down the pink elephant slide).
Still More: Your Pie (various locations) lets kids get creative with toppings, and the Five Points location has an outdoor patio. Jason's Deli (140 Alps Rd.) has lots of fresh options that are kid-friendly and won't break the bank, and Chango's Noodle House (320 E. Clayton St.) will also substitute for favorite veggies in an echoey atmosphere that drowns out even the most obnoxious kid (and, really, you can never go wrong with noodles).
Chime In: We're fortunate to have plenty of other restaurants in town with inspired kids' menus or lots of great sides that make up a nice, small meal. And kudos to the wait staffs of our local eateries—I have yet to run across someone who isn't at the ready with some crayons or isn't willing to bring out certain foods first. I'm sure I've missed a few places, so leave comments below to help me fill in the gaps.
But remember, parents, with great restaurants comes great responsibility. It's not out of the question to ask that a child—toddler age and up—sit quietly at a table surrounded by strangers. If they can't do that, enjoy the weather at a table outside where they can run around. Or, stay in your backyard.
Kristen Morales email@example.com