My 6-year-old son, Remy, loves food — all kinds of food. His TV heroes both host food shows on the “Travel Channel.”
I appreciate his adventurous appetite. But when it comes to dining out, we’re constantly plagued by a problem many parents face: we can grab affordable but mostly fried kids fare, or stress the family budget at a pricier restaurant with healthier, more adventurous kids options.
St. Francis, an upscale central-Phoenix eatery, is trying to change all that. At a recent kids menu-tasting event there, Remy and I learned chef/owner Aaron Chamberlin prides himself on offering interesting and healthful kids entrees. And at St. Francis, kids eat free, all day, every day, and they get to pick out a trinket from the toybox.
“I would see parents [having] to go to certain restaurants that kids want … even though the parents don’t particularly want that,” Chamberlin says. “I thought that if we could have a great kids experience that costs nothing, parents could sit back and have a glass of wine and their [grown-up] food, and kids would enjoy it as well.”
We scoured the Valley to find lots of other places that offer kids-eat-free — or nearly free — options, plus some added bonuses, such as more adventurous menus and fun activities while you dine.
Here’s a roundup of Valley restaurants that offer no-cost (or nearly free) kids meals, plus some added perks!
HAVE SOME FOOD WITH YOUR FUN
The Watershed at Lake Country Village in Tempe overlooks the water and hosts live music and offers boat rides for just $5 (free for age 5 and younger). On Thursday nights, up to two kids, 12 and younger, eat free with each paying adult. 5350 S. Lakeshore Drive. 480-756-0058 or watershedaz.com.
At Mining Camp Restaurant in Apache Junction, you and the kids can enjoy live bluegrass music while you dine. Age 4 and younger eat free all day, every day. The restaurant serves all its dinners family-style, including barbecue ribs, roasted chicken, baked ham and more on old-fashioned tin plates. 6100 E. Mining Camp St. 480-982-3181 or miningcamprestaurant.com.
At Deer Valley Airport Restaurant in north Phoenix, kids will love watching planes take off from the tarmac and marveling at the huge fleet of model airplanes hanging from the ceiling. Kids 10 and younger eat free from 3-9 p.m. Mondays-Tuesdays. Kids meals include mini corn dogs and spaghetti. 702 W. Deer Valley Road. 623-582-5454 or deervalleyairportrestaurant.com.
At The Hub Bar and Grill in Mesa, kids 12 and younger eat free on Mondays until 10 p.m. Members of the wait staff will give the kids a key, and if they’re good, they can use it to choose a toy from the treasure bucket after the meal. 1925 S. Sossaman. 480-718-5440 or hubgrill.com.
St. Francis in central Phoenix offers kids a chance to eat more like a grown-up: including chicken with seasonal veggies, seven vegetables with black rice and chile sauce, or a cheesy pasta bake. The kids brunch menu includes simple fruit salad, chocolate-chip pancakes and scrambled eggs with toast. Kids 12 and younger eat free all day, every day, with purchase of one adult entree per child. 111 E. Camelback Road. 602-200-8111 or stfrancisaz.com.
Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery in Scottsdale takes your adventurous eater on a trip to Thailand. Menu items range from egg and sweet-radish rice noodles to Thai vegetable pad and fresh tofu to grilled chicken with peanut sauce. Kids 12 and younger eat free all day Tuesdays with the purchase of an adult entree. 8787 N. Scottsdale Road. 480-778-1999 or soifour.com.
Otro Cafe, a neighborhood restaurant on a central-Phoenix street that’s becoming a dining destination, offers American and Mexican entrees made with fresh, local ingredients. Kids 10 and younger eat free all day, every day. 6035 N. Seventh St. 602-266-0831 or otrocafe.com.
YC’s Mongolian Grill lets kids make their own stir-fry combinations, just like adults, so the creativity is enormous. Kids 12 and younger eat daily for just 55 cents multiplied by the child’s age. Kids meals include soup, frozen yogurt and a drink. Bonus: Once you’ve paid for YC’s adult, “one-trip” meal for $12.35, an extra to-go box costs just 50 cents. Five locations in Tempe, Scottsdale, Chandler and Gilbert. ycs-mongoliangrill.com.
Flavors of Louisiana in Avondale introduces your children to cajun food. Kids can choose from fried catfish; tilapia strips; oysters, crawfish and alligator po’ boys with red beans and rice, cajun chips or coleslaw. Kids 12 and younger eat free all day Mondays with the purchase of an adult entree. 13025 W. Rancho Santa Fe Blvd. 623-935-2357 or flavorsoflouisianacajun.com.
Rumbi’s Island Grill in the East Valley serves up kid-size Hawaiian teriyaki bowls with fresh veggies, orange chicken with rice and tiki burgers. Kids meals include a drink. Kids 12 and younger eat free Mondays and Tuesdays after 4 p.m. with the purchase of an adult entree. 885 N. 54th St., Chandler; and 1902 S. Val Vista Drive, Mesa. rumbi.com.
GREAT PATIOS AND VIEWS
At 18 Degrees Neighborhood Grill at the Ice Den in north Scottsdale, watch skaters on the ice rink below as you dine. Hockey parents can take in an NHL Center Ice game on one of 16 big-screen TVs. Kids 12 and younger eat free all day Thursdays with the purchase of any adult entree. Standard kids fare, but you can substitute fruit for fries. 9375 E. Bell Road. 480-344-2653 or 18-degrees.com.
Rustler’s Rooste in the South Mountain foothills has stunning panoramic views. Younger kids will adore the indoor slide. The bull pen outside and live country music offer extra entertainment. Kids 10 and younger eat free all day for a full year for a one-time $6 fee with 50 percent off for additional children. Kids menu includes spaghetti and a 5-ounce top-sirloin steak. 8383 S. 48th St., Phoenix. 602-431-6474 or rustlersrooste.com.
Chelsea’s Kitchen, along the Arizona Canal in east Phoenix, has a beautiful large patio, complete with fireplace and festive lighting among the mesquite trees. Age 12 and younger get one free kids meal 3-6 p.m. daily with purchase of an adult entree. 5040 N. 40th St. 602-957-2555 or chelseaskitchenaz.com.
At 347 Grill in Maricopa, do some star-gazing while eating on the patio, which boasts misters, a fireplace and a fountain. Kids eat free Tuesdays with the purchase of an adult entree. Kids meals include a drink and choice of fries or fruit. 16000 N. Maricopa Road. 520-568-3456 or ultrastarakchin.com.
SWEETEST OFFERS (DESSERT INCLUDED!)
Salty Senorita’s lets kids choose from a fresh-baked cookie, a scoop of ice cream or a frosted cake pop. Kids-menu choices include grilled tacos, chicken quesadillas, black beans, corn on-the-cob and more. Age 12 and younger eat free all day Thursdays with the purchase of an adult entree. 8011 W. Paradise Lane, Peoria (every day); and 3636 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale (through Monday, Sept. 5). saltysenorita.com.
Chompies. Along with a bowl of fruit, this New York style deli includes a sprinkle cookie or gluten-free peanut-butter cookie with its kids meals. Ages 10 and younger get one free kids meal all day Tuesdays with purchase of adult entree. Kids choices include Yankee sliders, Long Island French toast, Manhattan egg sandwich, a Brooklyn Heights bagel and more. Glendale, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tempe and Chandler. chompies.com.
FAMILY SPORTS FUN
Arcadia Tavern, an upscale sports bar in east Phoenix, is popular with fans of the University of Arizona and the New Orleans Saints. Kids 12 and younger eat free all day Mondays with the purchase of an adult entree. 4801 E. Indian School Road. 602-840-3950 or arcadiatavern.com.
Buffalo Wild Wings broadcasts a huge array of sporting events. Kids 12 and younger eat free (only at the Gilbert location) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays with purchase of an adult entree. 970 S. Gilbert Road. 480-632-9464 or buffalowildwings.com.
The Clubhouse Grill in Goodyear hosts all pay-per-view mixed-martial-arts fight nights free of charge, and it has darts, arcade golf, pool tables and weekly poker tournaments. Bonus: Painting and craft events for moms. Kids 8 and younger eat free all day, every day, with purchase of an adult entree. 14175 W. Indian School Road. 623-535-4857 or clubhousegrillaz.com.
Uncle Bear’s Grill and Tap’s entire theme pays homage to a well-traveled Lab-mix named Bear. Man’s best friend is always welcome on their patios, and dogs eat free on Saturday nights. Kids (10 and younger at the Queen Creek grill; 12 and younger at the Mesa grill) eat free all day Wednesdays with purchase of an adult entree. 9053 E. Baseline Road, Mesa; and 21151 E. Rittenhouse Road, Queen Creek. uncle-bears.com.
Lakeside Bar and Grill in Peoria welcomes your pooch on its patios. Each deck of this upscale sports bar is equipped with misters. Kids 10 and younger eat free all day Tuesdays with purchase of adult entree. 9980 W. Happy Valley Parkway, No. 1101. 623-566-1470 or lakesidebarandgrillaz.com.
Cucina Tagliani in the West Valley invites you to bring your pup along for dinner on its large, festively lighted patios with misters. Age 10 and younger eat free all day Mondays and Tuesdays, and for 50 percent off Wednesdays through Sundays with purchase of adult entree and a (free) Tagliani Rewards Card. The kids menu includes pick-a-pasta, pizza, chicken tenders and spaghetti with a choice of sauces. 17045 N. 59th Ave., No. 101, Glendale, 602-547-2782; and 8349 W. Bell Road, Peoria. 623-412-2670. cucinatagliani.com.
Not free, but noteworthy
Pita Jungle’s many local restaurants offer healthful kids meals filled with fruits and veggies and lots of choices for $4.99. pitajungle.com.
Mad Greens offers cool, healthy Kid’s Awesome Box and Super Box meals — filled with such things as grilled citrus chicken, pasta, edamame, apples, carrots and ranch dipping sauce — at its multiple locations. madgreens.com.
Luci’s at The Orchard, 7100 N. 12th St., Phoenix, features a splash pad for the kids.