Fun family dining destinations in greater Phoenix

Servers bring cotton candy with the check at Rustler’s Rooste in south Phoenix, and kids can slide down an indoor slide into the dining room. Photo:

When the weekend finally rolls around, most families are eager to spend some quality time together after long days at the office and non-stop school-year schedules.

Dining out fits the bill. But it’s not always easy. Kids quickly get bored waiting for their food when faced with the standard in restaurant entertainment: three crayons and an activity sheet.

For parents trying to unwind, a relaxing dinner out can turn into yet another exhausting exercise in juggling and negotiating. It’s surprising how few restaurants thoughtfully consider how to host younger diners.

Still, we found more than a dozen that surpass “the usual” by offering everything from toys and video games to full play areas to keep kids entertained — and parents relaxed. Here are 18 restaurants the whole family can enjoy.

Arcadia Tavern
4801 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix
602-840-3950 •
Kids can play video games while parents take in a college football game at this casual sports bar. A Microsoft XBox, a Nintendo Wii and a few iPads are available to keep kids entertained. Ages 12 and younger eat free on Mondays.

Barro’s Pizza
2485 E. Baseline Road, Suite 158, Phoenix
602-268-4200 •
At this Phoenix location, young kids can play in the restaurant’s pretend kitchen area. There are also Duplo blocks, quarter prize machines and a flat-screen TV tuned to Disney Jr. (Through Dec. 9, Barro’s Pizza and Dr. Pepper are giving away $10,000 for tuition to an Arizona student who enter’s Barro’s online giveaway.)

Brat Haus
3622 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
480-947-4006 •
A large shaded patio with wooden picnic tables is where patrons eat and kids can play lawn games such as giant Jenga, ping-pong, darts and bean-bag toss. Grown-ups can enjoy one of 28 craft beers on tap. This restaurant is dog-friendly, too, so feel free to bring Fido.

Chestnut Fine Foods and Provisions
4350 E. Camelback Road, Suite I-100, Phoenix
602-708-7679 •
This Phoenix breakfast and lunch spot boasts a small play area with with a kid-size table and a basket full of toys.

Dillon’s at Wildlife World Zoo
16335 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park
623-535-4249 •
Featuring Kansas-City-style barbecue and a family-friendly atmosphere, this Dillon’s location offers tables with shark-tank views inside or patio tables that overlook a flamingo habitat.

El Encanto Mexican Restaurant
6248 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek
480-488-1752 •
Diners are seated next to a scenic pond where turtles, ducks and blue heron make their home. Kids can feed and interact with the ducks or take selfies with the turtles. El Encanto recently opened a fourth location at OdySea in the Desert.

Valleywide •
Locations in Phoenix, Glendale and Tempe feature an arcade game area. Kids can try their luck at claw machines, seated racing games, stand-up arcade games and quarter prize machines while they wait for their burgers.

Joe’s Crab Shack
1606 W. Baseline Road, Tempe
480-345-0972 •
In Tempe, there is a huge outdoor playground for kids. The climber is shaped like a boat with three big sails and park-sized slides. This restaurant often brings in a balloon artist to make swords, hats and other creations for kids.

Joe’s Real BBQ
301 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert
480-503-3805 •
Kids can run around or play cornhole on a grassy outdoor lawn next to air-conditioned patio tables. This country-style barbecue joint also has an antique John Deere tractor on display that kids will love.

Luci’s at the Orchard
7100 N. 12th St., Phoenix
602-633-2442 •
The large outdoor patio and lawn space that’s part of this converted ranch-style home features a mini splash pad. Kids can splash and play or chill out on the grass at this fast-casual restaurant with indoor or outdoor seating. Moms and dads can shop Luci’s Marketplace or have a cocktail at Pomelo bar.

O.H.S.O. Brewery and Distillery
10810 N. Tatum Blvd., Suite 126, Phoenix
602-900-9003 •
At O.H.S.O.’s Paradise Valley location, kids can play a variety of yard games on the outdoor patio, including table tennis, foosball and cornhole. This restaurant is also dog-friendly.

Ollie Vaughn’s Kitchen and Bakery
1526 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix
602-254-1392 •
Little kids can enjoy the small wooden playhouse with plastic flower boxes and baskets of plastic food that can be cooked up on a pretend stove as kiddos talk on a play phone.

Postino Wine Cafe
302 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert
480-632-6363 •
At the Gilbert location of this popular Valley chain, kids can play in an outdoor green space that features bocci ball and giant Jenga games.

Rustler’s Rooste
8383 S. 48th St., Phoenix
602-431-6474 •
Kids (and grown-ups, too) can slide down a large tin slide into the Western-themed dining room. The restaurant regularly features live country music and a roaming magician, and servers bring cotton candy with the check. All ages will enjoy the sweeping panoramic views of the desert and city lights. Ages 12 and younger can join the Kidz Slide Rider Club for $6 and eat free all year with a paid adult entrée.

Swirl It Froyo
1397 E. Williams Field Road, Suite 104, Gilbert
480-917-9475 •
The Gilbert location boasts an XBox Kinect for kids and teens to play, plus board games and puzzles.

The Perch Brewery
232 S. Wall St., Chandler
480-773-7688 •
Kids can interact with more than 50 different tropical birds and parrots the restaurant saved from abuse, abandonment or neglect. This rooftop brewery/lush garden also offers beautiful panoramic views of downtown Chandler.

The Teapot
818 N. Fifth Ave., Phoenix
623-522-6027 •
The downtown Phoenix yard of this converted historic home is a play space for ages 8 and younger, including a playhouse with slide, a mini rock wall and wooden patio tables for parents. Kids can play with various push-pedal cars and other toys; a $2 play fee is added for ages 1-8.

The Watershed
5350 S. Lakeshore Drive, Tempe
480-756-0508 •
The only lake-house restaurant in the Valley features cooking from scratch, a contemporary twist on American classics and boat rides ($5; free for ages 5 and younger).

Do you have a favorite kid-friendly restaurant that we didn’t list? Let us know by emailing