Family health

The best family restaurants in Canada

A cross-country guide to the best places to eat with your kids

By Fina Scroppo
The best family restaurants in Canada Photo: Rocky Mountain Flatbread

Going out as a family for a great meal is often a treat, or at least it should be. Restaurants that go out of their way to welcome young families score extra points, so we’ve scoured the nation to dish up some of our favourites. From the big-chain restaurants to hidden local gems, here are our tastiest picks for where to go for kid-friendly food and fun.

Nation-wide chains

Boston Pizza Families love the easygoing atmosphere of this resto, which packs a huge selection of meals for parents and kids. Tots will feel all grown up while eating pint-sized portions of grown-up dishes, ordering from a special kids’ menu and sipping Shirley Temples. And don’t leave without digging around in some Worms and Dirt—a rare delicacy for any kid who loves chocolate pudding and squirmy gummi worms.

Old Spaghetti Factory Got a pasta lover in your brood? Check out the Old Spaghetti Factory, where you’ll find everything from classic lasagna to veal à la parmigiana, as well as eclectic antique-y decor. Their Toronto location features a vintage streetcar and a king-size bed for seating options. Their Just for Kids menu includes a soup or salad and, of course, dessert with every meal.

Jack Astor’s Can’t get the kids to stop drawing on the walls? Take them to Jack Astor’s where they can draw on the tables instead! Once they’ve had their fill of creating art, kids can check out the mounted TVs, which broadcast blooper videos, classic Charlie Chaplin clips and even the game for sports fans.

East Side Mario’s Nothing says family like a home-cooked Italian meal, and at this eatery everyone’s family. If the fun decor, funky kids’ drinks (like the Cookie Cream Dream, an ice cream cake you can drink) and menu designed for tiny tummies aren’t getting any smiles, the trio of mini ice cream cones and a visit from the treasure chest for a take-home toy ought to do the trick.


Pizza Hut A family favourite that no kid can resist, Pizza Hut offers 18 different choices and a “create your own pizza” option to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Not in the mood for a slice? Try out a pasta dish or wings and pick a side from their varied menu including stuffed pizza rollers, crispy potato wedges, garlic bread and even Hershey’s Chocolate Dunkers! Kids 10 and under eat free on Tuesdays.

British Columbia

Rocky Mountain Flatbread (pictured on page 1) With three locations (two in BC and the other in Alberta), this establishment has made a name for itself with its handcrafted flatbread pizzas. When the kids aren’t enjoying the designated play area, they’ll love watching their pizza prepared in the oven room. For aspiring chefs, Rocky Mountain features family pizza-making nights every Sunday and Monday. 1876 W 1st Ave., Vancouver: 604-730- 0321; 4186 Main St., Vancouver: 604-566-9779; #1 838 10th St., Canmore, Alta: 403-609-5508;

Choo Choo’s Restaurant Train aficionados (read: Thomas the Tank Engine fans) will delight in this resto that prides itself on homemade-quality meals made with locally sourced foods. The restaurant’s miniature model train will keep kids entranced as it tours the dining room while you wait for food. The extensive menu features everything from Flatcar Baked Potatoes to a Conductor’s Choice Burger. Need more to keep tots busy before you dig into one of 42 cheesecakes? Choo Choo’s gives out toy trains during mealtime. 20559 Fraser hwy., Langley 604-534-7111


Little Nest They won’t feel far from home in this hip café that offers counter service for an easy meal. Here kids enjoy playing in the retro kitchen playset, while wee ones watch nearby in ’60s-style high chairs. Owner and pastry chef Mary Macintyre has created a friendly space (it’s peanut-free, too) with wholesome choices both kids and grown-ups will love. 1716 Charles St., Vancouver 604-251-9994

Kokopelli Café This eatery was designed by two moms, so you’ll find hearty breakfasts and healthy lunch choices that suit kids’ needs. Egg-and- cheese croissants, organic baby food, mini-grilled cheese sandwiches, fresh lemon loaves and even cheese strings are some of the offerings. Of course, the kids will also be asking for one of the signature cupcakes or natural frozen fruit bars. While parents put in their order, a kids’ play area keeps them entertained. 4593 Dunbar St., Vancouver 604-228-0818

Alberta Rylie’s Cattle Barn A visit to the Wild West isn’t far when families visit this saloon-style cookhouse. Enjoy Fajita Mondays (four eat for $40), Rib Madness on Sundays (kids eat for free after 5 p.m.) or their legendary homemade Alberta beef burger. If you need a quick solution for lunch, pick from Rylie’s 15-minute lunch menu. 200 Southridge Dr., Okotoks 403-995-7779

Bumper’s The Beef House Bumper’s has been a fixture in Banff for more than three decades, and for good reason. The relaxed chalet-style setting and friendly staff make family dining easy. So does the dinner menu: Kids can order a junior burger or a half-size portion of most entrées, including prime rib, steak and pasta. 603 Banff Ave., Banff National Park 403-762-2622


Fat City Franks With hot dogs being a fave kids’ food, this restaurant is, frankly, top dog. The variety of wieners on order includes pork/beef, all beef, vegetarian, farmer sausage and bratwurst, and specialties include the Breakfast Dog (cream cheese and chive scrambled eggs), Ukrainian Dog (potato and cheddar perogy filling with sautéed onions) or a Kids Dog with unlimited condiments. Leave room for the malted milkshakes or ice cream floats! #3 2015 4 Street SW., Calgary. 403-229-DOG1 (3641)

Saskatchewan Fixin’s Homestyle Eatery Tiny bears – what this eatery calls its young patrons – can choose from an assortment of specially designed plates for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Kids eat free on Wednesday nights from 5 to 9 p.m. and adults can choose a burger meal for only $10. Be sure to visit Fixin’s candy cart for your fill of dessert, too. 106 Circle Dr. (Travelodge Hotel), Saskatoon 306-242-8881

Jerry’s Food Emporium Known for its fresh battered cod, burgers with made-in-house buns, and artisan gelato, Jerry’s caters to the whole family. The Jr’s & Sr’s menu (under 12 and over 60) makes it affordable for the whole family to join in. While the grown-ups finish their meals, the kids can enjoy the play area or contemplate the ingredients for a create-your-own shake or smoothie. 1115 Grosvenor Ave., Saskatoon 306-373-6555

Manitoba The Original Pancake House While a happy face pancake garnished with fruit and whipped cream usually puts a smile on little faces, it’s not the only thing that brings families back to this restaurant. For more than 50 years, The Original Pancake House has featured a front counter with toys and games where parents can purchase stuffed animals, key chains, balls and other treats. Another standout: Among its large all-day breakfast menu, you’ll find gluten-free options in the pancake and waffle sections. 3 Winnipeg locations: 1445 Portage Ave. (Clarion Hotel): 204-775-9035 1049 Pembina Hwy: 204-452-1040 1 Forks Market Rd: 204-947-5077

The best family restaurants in Canada


Zak’s Diner (pictured above) This restaurant is open 24/7 – which means no munchkin-decreed meal is too early or too late. Featuring poutine, deluxe sandwiches and burgers, this retro ’50s diner also serves mini-sundaes and old-fashioned banana splits, ideal for sharing. The kids’ menu at either location offers some standard fare along with several healthy options. Best perk? Zak’s open spaces make it easy to navigate between tables or to park strollers. 499 Terry Fox Dr., Kanata: 613-435-5483; 14  ByWard Market Sq., Ottawa: 613-241-2401

Lady Marmalade After much success with its Victoria location, this breakfast and lunch spot opened in Toronto’s baby-crazy Leslieville neighbourhood in 2009. While it doesn’t offer a specific kids’ menu, it accommodates small sides of everything, and a kids’ nook with colouring books, as well as a large chalkboard, keeps little artists busy. Parents can pull strollers up to the tables and enjoy one of Lady’s famous “bennies” or a bowl of tofu-vegetable curry. 898 Queen St. E., Toronto 647-351-7645


Yang’s Teppanyaki and Sushi There’s something about watching your food being cooked that engages young and old alike. While the chef slices, dices and scoops fresh ingredients before you, you’ll witness a “volcano tower” (onions piled high and ignited) and might even try your hand at being the chef’s assistant. There isn’t a kids’ menu but dinners are easily split. 3255 Rutherford Rd., Unit 15-18, Vaughan 905-761-0268

Ice Cream Patio By the name alone, you’d expect to be going to a restaurant that serves only ice cream, but this establishment is known for so much more – from wood-oven pizzas and grilled calamari to daily fresh and fabulous soups and pastas. Little diners love its open and noisy trattoria ambiance and vast kids’ menu (featuring games along with crayons). Best of all, they can’t wait to visit its see-through ice cream bar – no tippy toes required! – to pick out their preferred dessert.?? 149 Rowntree Dairy Rd., Woodbridge 905-850-3302

Jawny Bakers Designed with families in mind, Jawny Bakers accommodates groups in its cozy lounge, dining room or patio. When you’re not here to enjoy brunch, an extensive Just 4 Kids menu, featuring healthy classics like jumbo shrimps with rice and carrot sticks or sirloin steak with sautéed vegetables, will satisfy everyone. Once dinner is all wrapped up, the little ones can pick a free toy from the treasure chest. 804 O’Connor Dr., East York 416-285-1165

Family Place Restaurant & Pizza In the heart of Muskoka’s cottage country, families come to enjoy a vast menu at great prices. Yes, pizza is high up on the list, but so is liver and onions. Sorry, kids! But don’t fret, if neither of those dishes entice the palate, there’s a slew of other offerings, from chicken parm to club sandwiches and pastas. A very casual setting with comfortable seating can easily accommodate groups. 1 King William St., Huntsville 705-789-5602

The Flying Saucer Take them to another universe with a visit to this kitschy diner-style restaurant shaped like a flying saucer. Another out-of-this-world feature is its $1.99 breakfast (two eggs, hash browns and toast until 10 a.m.). If lunch or dinner options are what they’re after, kids can pick from their own menu while adults choose from a huge assortment, including specialty subs, stir-fries and finger-lickin’ chicken wings. The Saucer’s spacious booths give fidgety kids lots of room to move around. 6768 Lundy’s Lane, Niagara Falls 905-356-4553

The best family restaurants in Canada


Tubes & Jujubes Bistro (pictured above) This recently opened restaurant boasts a varied menu of sandwiches, pizzas, salads and other fun foods. But what really attracts families is the attached play centre’s spacious structures, climbing walls, a toddler park and other equipment to keep the kiddies active while you watch. 170 Deveault St., Room 200, Gatineau 819-773-1212

L’Astral Perched on the 27th floor, this revolving glass-walled restaurant offers a spectacular panoramic view of Quebec City. The kids, however, may not notice; they’ll likely be distracted by computer games, laser drawing boards and, for the little ones, pop-up placemats. There are other reasons to visit: an authentic Quebecois menu prepared by an executive chef and staff, a free à la carte meal for kids under six, a free buffet for kids under seven and 50 percent off for those seven to 12. 1225 cours du General-De- Montcalm (Loews HÔtel Le Concorde), Quebec city 418-780-3602


La Banquise This 24-hour eatery is famous for its poutine, and the family can choose from more than two dozen plates of the famous fries smothered with cheese curds and gravy with a wide selection of toppings, including the T-Rex (ground beef, pepperoni, bacon and hot dog – ideal for carnivores!). But if the kids don’t have a taste for poutine, they can choose from some typical fare for their main course, and a whole lot of unique sides, such as pineapple, corn and green peas. 994 rue Rachel Est, Montreal. 514-525-2415

Jukebox Burgers & Bar Laitier With no fewer than nine types of macaroni and cheese on the menu, kids are bound to get excited about their meal. Up the ante with frozen yogurt and ice cream sundaes crowned with an endless array of yummy toppings (chocolate bars, brownie chunks and gummi bears!). If the food isn’t enough to hold their attention, the decor will. Red and white vinyl booths and stools grace the restaurant, along with a jukebox, retro lighting and a ’60s replica car with wheels jutting out of the wall. 11798 de Salaberry, Dollard-des-Ormeaux 514-542-3222

Benjo Getting your little ones to eat will be a cinch in this restaurant within a toy store. During the week, they offer a rotating lunch-only menu (from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) with a big choice of kid favourites like burgers and pizza. Celebrating a birthday? Benjo’s private room gives large groups space to eat, then time to explore the store’s many departments, including dolls, games, puzzles and a hobby section with electronic trains and model cars. 550 boul Charest Est, Quebec city 418-640-0001

New Brunswick Frank’s Finer Diner A throwback to the ’50s, this old-fashioned family restaurant features waitresses on roller skates, a working train that runs along the dining room’s top shelf, and a playroom for the kids. Tuesday night is family night and patrons can expect entertainers like magicians to delight the little ones. The huge menu means everyone will find something they like. A notable pick: Mom’s Homemade Pie. They’re so sure you’ll love it, you’ll get double your money back if you give it a thumbs-down. 80 Two Nations Crossing, Fredericton 506-459-0707


Isaac’s Way Restaurant and Bar Billed as an eatery that loves kids, Isaac’s Way offers a good assortment of tasty options, such as their chicken Caesar salad with homemade croutons. But what really sets it apart is its involvement in the community, like raising money for local children with its ongoing silent art auctions (sometimes kids’ art) that brighten up the brick walls. The venue also has change tables in both men’s and women’s washrooms, as well as high chairs, boosters and Bumbos for infants. 73 Carleton St., Fredericton 506-472-7937

Nova Scotia Tree House Cafe Here’s an eatery that marries fun activity with healthy eating. It has a play park, complete with an indoor man-made tree house, and a thoughtful kids’ menu, including the Turtlewich (a bagel with cream cheese, cucumber and raisins), tuna logs and half sandwiches. It also prides itself on being peanut-free, so parents have more reason to kick back in the lounge and enjoy free wireless Internet. 22 Glendale Ave., Lower Sackville 902-252-8333;

Palladium Family Restaurant If you’re looking for a little more culturally diverse mix, you’ve come to the right place. At Palladium you can try spanakopita, calamari Greek salad, moussaka and other favourites. Along with a heaping dose of the more standard dishes – pizza, hamburger, mac ’n’ cheese – Palladium also serves little ones chicken souvlaki, grilled haddock or grilled chicken with fresh veggies and a choice of fries, mashed potatoes or rice. Patrons love friendly service and owners that go “the extra mile.” They even hosts kids’ events like colouring contests. 942 Cole Harbour Road, Dartmouth, NS (902) 434-6402

The best family restaurants in Canada


Prince Edward Island Red’s Corner The words “Eat, drink, be happy” are posted above this restaurant’s entrance for good reason. A play area, kids’ menu and friendly staff means the little ones are taken care of, while you enjoy Red’s signature Caesar cocktails, locally sourced meat dishes and fresh seafood, chowder, prime rib sandwiches or their homemade bread pudding. 4536 Pooles Corner, Montague 902-838-3838

Newfoundland Leo’s Restaurant There are several great fish-and-chips outlets in the province’s coastal regions, but many call this small locale the best, with its crispy secret batter on the outside and fresh fluffy fish on the inside. Take the kids just for the experience of tasting this dish done right. 27 Freshwater Rd., St. John’s 709-726-2658

India Gate There’s no doubt this restaurant is geared for kids with an adventurous palate and, if they’re game, they’ll taste what many patrons consider to be one of the best Indian kitchens in the country. At this family-run business, you can order entrées from mild to spicy. There’s a kids’ menu, with offerings like chicken fingers and fries, but the venue will also do smaller plates or portions of any of its entrées. High chairs and boosters help little ones get settled, while parents can enjoy some favourites like vindaloo dishes, butter chicken, and chicken mughlai, vegetarian chana masala and matter paneer. 286 Duckworth St., St. John’s 709-753-6006

Lighthouse Picnics (pictured at top of page) This seasonal offering at Ferryland Lighthouse (built in 1870) has a spectacular view of Mother Nature’s wonders. Families take in breathtaking sightings of humpback whales and seabirds while enjoying a picnic lunch of crab cakes, chutney-glazed ham and brie on bread, and orange crumble squares. Its Puffin Picnic offers special treats for little ones like homemade lemonade in Mason jars. Open May to September:  Ferryland 709-363-7456

Did we miss a spot? Let us know in the comments section below!

This article was originally published on Feb 07, 2012

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