No one really needs to read yet another parent rant about the challenges of teaching a child how to behave in public, I’m sure, but anyone who has had a spirited child under the age of 6 or 7 will know the struggle that is growing the skill of being in public.
While some select few children are ready to sit still and quiet at restaurants the first time they try, many children will experience restaurants as a source of excitement and overwhelmingness for quite a while before they can participate in a truly polite way. In the meantime, they really can’t get better if they can’t practice!
As a result, I define a “kid-friendly” or “family-friendly” restaurant as one where the attitude of the space is such that some childhood squawking and squabbling will be a natural part of the pleasant, bustling atmosphere, not a deeply unwelcome disturbance to a primarily-adults crowd that wants an ultra-quiet experience.
Of course, family-friendly restaurants should still be protected from the rowdiest of childhood behavior, the kinds that can jeopardize safety or damage the furnishings, but a non-destructive and non-dangerous child should be able to… well, learn in a family-friendly restaurant!
Some features that I look for in a family-friendly restaurant include an outdoor space where my kid can take a break from the many new things in the indoor dining room, any features that specifically cater to the child, like on-site activities and play areas, and a roomy dining space that isn’t crammed tight with tables, preventing strollers and clumsy toddlers from navigating easily.
Kids’ menus that you can color on with crayons and some recognizable childhood favorite foods don’t hurt either! These aren’t the only ways that restaurants welcome children as diners, though – let’s look at how many Asheville restaurants recognize that locals and tourists alike bring their kids with them when they go out in their hometown and on vacation.
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14 Awesome Family-Friendly Restaurants in Asheville
We’ll also give you the low-down on the best breweries to go to with children in a different post, so none of these restaurants are also a brewery themselves – instead, we focused on the restaurants that we think go out of their way to welcome the youngest and wiggliest guests to dine in style in Asheville. This means either the food itself is a hit with kids, or the space makes it easier than average to have a great dining experience with kids.
1. Play and Roam at Creekside Taphouse
You really cannot beat a meal and a frosty beer off the tap at a restaurant that literally has a playground out back for the kiddos. Creekside Taphouse has been known in my family as “the one with the playground” for a while.
In addition to the playground, their property backs up against a creek, hence the name, so even older kids have pretty natural surroundings to enjoy if they aren’t interested in climbing and sliding themselves.
Their grilled sandwiches, hot dogs, sandwiches, and pizza all fit the crowd-pleasing categories that kids often focus on, and adults will love that they have more than 20 craft brews, including many local favorites, as well as 10 TVs that show popular games.
They call themselves a neighborhood joint, and it’s easy to see why – it’s the kind of spot where literally every member of the family can spend an afternoon and have a good time. Their outdoor seating area is also one of the dog-friendly spots in town, meaning that truly every member of the family is involved.
Location: 8 Beverly Rd, Asheville.
2. Get Familiarity and Freshness at Moose Café
Just a stone’s throw from the enormous Western NC Farmers Market is a little bit of homegrown heaven, the Moose Cafe. I stumbled upon it for brunch with some old friends a while back, and my husband, a WNC long-timer, told me that it’s a favorite spot and has been around a long time.
Kids love this place for plenty of reasons: filling and incredibly flavorful breakfast food and excellent soul food options for lunch and dinner, too. It’s spacious and bustling, an intergenerational go-to, so they won’t be out of place and might even get some smiles from the various other tables nearby.
Finally, there’s so much to see in the Moose Cafe gift shop and just down the street at the Farmers Market itself. If you’re the family that loves an educational outing, think about eating at the Moose Cafe and then learning more about the ingredients and how they’re grown from the farmers who sell at the enormous farmers market.
Location: 570 Brevard Rd, Asheville.
3. Choice and Space Reign at S&W Market
S&W Market is a breathtaking building with multiple food vendors, an upstairs taproom, and even an ice cream stand. What I think makes it one of the most family-friendly places in Asheville is first that it’s large, so only on the most crowded days will you not be able to find a quieter corner for your family to sit and eat.
The second is the element of choice. I know that in my own family, the food preferences of each person don’t always overlap enough at a single-cuisine restaurant for everyone to be happy. But if one of your family members will savor a plate of chicken tenders, another some tasty Thai street food, and a last one a gourmet hot dog, you can all sit down to eat your separate favorites together at S&W Market.
Location: 56 Patton Ave, Asheville.
4. Take a Breather at All Souls Pizza
Let’s face it: pizza is a family crowd-pleaser. At its most basic, a crust with cheese and some sauce, it’s a picky eater’s go-to, but layer on the additional toppings, and it can be anything from a flavorful standard to a truly innovative pie.
At All Souls Pizza, snuggled in between the River Arts District and downtown, you can have your pie and eat it too, all while enjoying the easy, family-friendly atmosphere of the patio. One of the coolest parts is the seasonal garden boxes from which many ingredients on the menu are harvested.
Showing kids this garden area can be a great way to kill time while your pizzas char to perfection, and the garden is a big reason why the salads here will charm even a not-so-veggie-friendly kiddo into taking a bite.
Location: 175 Clingman Ave, Asheville.
5. Peruse an Outstanding Menu at Luella’s BBQ
I love a restaurant that prioritizes depth of flavor and a delicious variety on the menu over extensive table-side service. Luella’s Bar-B-Que, for instance, has an incredible menu that they can dish out quickly due to counter-service ordering.
You still get refills on your soft drink, and the manager might stop by to check on you, but many of the “waits” in a restaurant meal – wait to order drinks, wait to order food, wait to get the check – are consolidated into a single line at the beginning of your experience.
My little guy started coming with us to Luella’s and eating on the patio, where the busy traffic of Merrimon was great entertainment for him and really dwarfed any squawks from him.
Location: 501 Merrimon Ave, Asheville.
6. Have Interactive Fun at Pizza Mind
Another great pizza option in town is right next to the Archetype Brewing Company in West Asheville, Pizza Mind. While you can absolutely get their tasty food to go and eat at the brewery or at home, you can also eat in, and kids get a special treat if you do.
They are the home to the make-your-own pizza on the kids’ menu, where kids get small containers of toppings, sauce, and cheese to put on dough rounds, which are then baked up for them to eat.
It’s basically a craft night, a cooking class, and a meal all in one, and the adults can sample pies like their Roasted Beets & Cauliflower pizza or the Jambalaya specialty pie without worrying that the kids will have to pick the toppings off that they don’t like.
Location: 285 Haywood Rd #10, Asheville.
7. Feed a Crowd at Pack’s Tavern
Often, what you really need when it comes to family-friendly restaurants are restaurants that are truly big enough to feed a crowd. Whether you want a crew at a table for 10 or want to rent out the entire patio for a private event, Pack’s Tavern is a really large restaurant in downtown, close to both convenient parking and Pack Square.
I love letting my little guy explore the park if we can’t be seated right away, then come back and enjoy a nice meal in a bustling atmosphere where even a wiggly child won’t be out of the norm. The menu is extensive as well, so if the children’s menu doesn’t instantly provide a hit for each kid, check the rest of the menu out for a tasty option, even if there might be some leftovers to take home.
Location: 20 S Spruce St, Asheville.
8. Go to Baby Bull for Crowd-Pleasing Staples
Not every kid-friendly restaurant in Asheville is focused entirely on the kids. My favorite fast-casual spot in town is a simple burger joint in the River Arts District called Baby Bull, but due to the understated feel of the indoor space and plenty of outdoor seating, it’s a great option.
They focus on sourcing very specific, very limited menu items and everything is good: there’s a burger, a fried fish sandwich, a lobster roll, a potato fritter-based sandwich to fill up the vegans and vegetarians, a roast pork hoagie, and the world’s tastiest hush puppies served with maple bacon butter… mmmm.
By keeping the options simple, you can either try a couple of things as a family or just get your kid the one thing for kids, the smaller size of their burger. After the meal, there’s lots of areas nearby to explore, see art studios, or go a little further to the River Arts District greenway by the river.
You’ll have to excuse me – I have got to go get myself a burger now that I’ve been writing about it!
Location: 1 Roberts St, Asheville.
9. Experience the Courtyard at Liberty House
In the heart of the North Asheville/Charlotte Street “wellness district,” there’s a great little spot for brunchy favorites and excellent coffee. Liberty House Cafe has you ordering inside, but the majority of seating is outdoors in a luxurious courtyard full of picnic tables.
On pretty weather days, it’s the perfect spot for kids to get a few wiggles out before a gorgeous plate of salad or sourdough pancake dish comes out. I like that the menu isn’t super long but focuses on well-sourced ingredients and that they have weekend specials that you have to get while the getting is good.
Follow their Instagram to keep an eye on what mouthwatering thing might be the reason to take your family here on an upcoming weekend.
Location: 2Lox21 S Liberty St, Asheville.
10. Roam the River at White Duck Taco
When it comes to great counter-service spots in town, you can’t go wrong at White Duck Taco Shop. Their menu, consisting mostly of their various specialty tacos, a few appetizers, and a few kids’ menu items, is easy to navigate while you wait, and then you can choose a table indoors for protection from the elements or a spot in their huge riverside picnic table section.
If your kid is like mine, sitting down for a long meal is not his idea of fun, but finding other kids to run around and play cornhole with while the rest of us nosh our tacos and chips is my kid’s favorite thing about this place.
It’s also steps away from a nice walking path along the River Arts District for after-dinner constitutionals – though if the parking lot is busy, it’s best to move your car to public parking down the street since White Duck Taco’s lot is just for customers.
Location: 388 Riverside Dr, Asheville. (White Duck has multiple locations around Asheville)
11. Step into the Past at Woolworth Walk Soda Fountain
While really little kids might miss the appeal, I think Woolworth Walk’s Soda Fountain is an ideal spot for an intergenerational gathering. If you have grandparents in town with you, in particular, it can be fun to show the grandkids a slice of history while getting a little nostalgic for days when soda fountains were more common.
It’s all the fun of a diner, with highly-praised food and ice cream, and the items on a soda fountain menu tend to be fan favorites for a huge variety of people. If your kids can be careful with the space, the whole Woolworth Walk art gallery is fun to explore and see art that you might not have seen in the past.
Be aware this is a lunch spot, and it’s usually closed up by 4 or 5 pm.
Location: 25 Haywood St, Asheville.
12. Get Farm Fresh Foods at Farm Burger
A decent amount of the family-friendly restaurants in Asheville have a recognizable formula, in that they decide to use the top ingredients they can find, innovate a little in the kitchen, but ultimately offer food that has been popular consistently for a long time.
In the case of Farm Burger, you’ll get a burger and fries that will make any adult foodie thrilled but which, incidentally, are also delicious to kids and recognizable enough not to worry a picky eater.
At this point, Farm Burger has multiple locations in multiple states, so it is a chain, but it really adheres to a lot of the values of the Asheville scene, bringing burgers that are well-sourced straight from the farm and pairing them with yummy sauces, white cheddar cheese, and caramelized onions to create the Farm Burger.
Over the years, they’ve made good chicken burgers and vegan burgers for those who aren’t interested in a beef burger, but if you’re only going to eat one burger, stopping by here is a good option.
With so much of downtown to explore, getting these to-go and eating in Pack Square is a good option if you do happen in with small kids during a very busy moment for this popular restaurant.
Location: 10 Patton Ave, Asheville.
13. Have a Sweet Treat at The Hop Ice Cream
While not a restaurant, per se, The Hop gets a mention for being so child-friendly as a spot for getting ice cream. I’ve got a kid with food allergies, and having an ice cream spot that is focused on providing some kind of treat for every dietary need, including allergies and vegan options, is a real positive.
Your most adventurous-eating kids and adults will be able to find something out-of-the-ice-cream-box, but your regular-flavors-only kids will also be able to find something they trust they’ll like.
Because they offer birthday parties, the spaces are already prepared with kids in mind, with lots of murals, colors, and even play areas. It’s not dinner, but count it as a family-friendly dining option for sure.
Location: 640 Merrimon Ave #103, Asheville.
14. Try the Food Trucks Everywhere and Anywhere!
I would be remiss if I left you with only brick-and-mortar options when writing about kid-friendly Asheville restaurants because one of the cornerstones of the Asheville food experience is eating at Asheville’s best food trucks at festivals, concerts, and breweries.
If you aren’t sure that your kiddos will want to sit still or will be able to contain their excitement, a great way to handle it is to just… not contain them! Festivals on Pack Square and at various venues around the area, like the LEAF Festival series, offer a bustling atmosphere where children who need to keep moving can explore a larger space and grab a bite from their parents when they need a break.
I also think that food trucks are more than they seem in Asheville. While there are some that serve fairly standard fare, a lot of the food trucks in Asheville are launched by the same kind of innovators that run the successful restaurants in town – chef-driven flavors in a limited-menu package.
Whether you’re getting food at a concert venue, a brewery, or a folk festival, the food truck options are likely to include something that every family member can enjoy, even the littlest ones.
There you have it! The 14 best family-friendly restaurants in Asheville. Did we miss any kid-friendly Asheville restaurants? Let us know so we can add them to the list.
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