Family-friendly local restaurants and breweries! Some places go out of their way to make family outings enjoyable for parents and kids too.—Maria Redieske
Charlottesville overflows with great spots for a grown-up night out. But you don’t have to give up your social life just because you have kids. Parents with small children simply face a different calculus: Is there something on the menu the kids will eat? And even more importantly, something to keep them occupied so you can actually relax and enjoy your meal?
We crowd-sourced this question and added our own favorites to give you a look at the best family-friendly places around town (because babysitters are expensive!).
Beer Run No kids’ menu per se, and yes, the beer is off-limits. But locals prize the Carlton Road spot’s relaxed vibe, and outdoor picnic tables mean the wee ones have a little room to roam while you’re waiting for the food. Plus, the nachos are some of the best in town and the breakfast tacos are fun for all ages.
Bodo’s One preschooler we know sticks with butter on plain whole wheat, while another has been known to order liverwurst and onion. Either way, low prices, kid-friendly options, and seat-yourself dining rooms make this Charlottesville favorite a no-brainer for kids.
Brazos Tacos Texas-style tacos, a sneaky-good chicken and tortilla soup, and chips with queso and guacamole are best enjoyed on a sunny day at picnic tables on the outdoor patio. Grown-ups can finish off their margaritas and Tecates while their younger relations explore the porch swings and book installation across the grass at this Ix Art Park spot. And if everyone behaves, there’s the promise of a Sweethaus cupcake around the corner.
Chew Chew Town A recent addition from the owners of the wildly popular Seminole Trail chicken joint Al Carbon. This railroad-themed offshoot features a super-cool train set overhead, while a separate countertop train delivers the food. There’s standard kids menu fare like mac and cheese for the picky eaters, while grown-ups can enjoy their favorites from the much beloved Al Carbon kitchen.
Firefly This lively restaurant/bar/arcade is perennially popular with families. Commenting on Facebook, C-VILLE reader (and Feast! owner and Local Food Hub board member) Kate Collier calls out Firefly’s abundant games—from foosball to Donkey Kong—and its local food, plus “a wood stove to keep you warm and toasty.” Chase your chicken tenders and tater tots with a Shirley Temple from the dedicated kids’ drink menu.
Fry’s Spring Station Every Tuesday at this historic former Jefferson Park Ave. service station is family night, when you can get either a $33 family dinner or a $3 kids’ meal. The place is a neighborhood fixture with a unique character, but young people may be most interested in the desserts that come bundled into the $6.50 kids’ meals. Try “The Wookie,” a warm cookie with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
Kardinal Hall Open-air tables with flexible seating, plus bocce and ping pong, add up to a place where the whole family can stretch out and relax. The kids’ menu has the usual grilled cheese/chicken nuggets/hot dogs, plus organic carrot sticks and ranch dressing for the pint-sized vegetarian in your life.
The Nook This Downtown Mall stalwart won’t be setting any speedy-service records, but the staff is warm with kids and, aside from the basic children’s menu, it has what must be the longest dedicated mac-and-cheese menu in town. Diner staples like the BLT on toast are a step up in quality from standard greasy-spoon fare, and the outdoor patio is a short hop from the Virginia Discovery Museum carousel and the free speech chalkboard while you’re waiting for your meals to arrive.
The Pub by Wegmans The Fifth Street Station grocer with a cult-like following has a restaurant where kids eat free on Tuesdays. Reader Betsy Hernandez praises its casual seating without a rush to finish and its quick service—and a kids’ corner with cartoons on the TV.
Three Notch’d, Champion, and Random Row Who says breweries are just for beer drinkers? All three of these local craft taprooms have dedicated fans in the parent scene. Champion’s comfort-food-oriented menu has pretzels and cheese dip and a hella-good hot dog, while Three Notch’d, with its kid-zone play area, serves a $7 kids’ meal that includes an entrée, a side, and a scoop of Virginia-made Homestead Creamery ice cream. Random Row serves pizzas from Mona Lisa Pasta with juice boxes and milk for the kids to sip, plus board games and a chalkboard coloring wall.
Wild Wing Café Young’uns who like to watch sports will thrill to the battery of TV sets showing live athletics, while parents will be pleased to know items from the extensive “Wild Child” menu are just $1 apiece for kids 10 and under all day on Mondays. Leave the Little League team home, though: There’s a limit of two dollar-kids’-meals per table.