Eating out with kids: what do you want to see?


I was grabbing a takeaway coffee yesterday and chatting to the owner about an idea she had and was asking me for some help on creating a good kids menu for dinner time. We were both lamenting (OK, maybe it was just me) about how there is just SO much fried options, and that’s it when you eat out at dinner time. The regular offenders are the same pretty much every where you go: Nuggets with chips, fish and chips, a pizza or maybe some pasta.

She was asking me what I’d like to see on a menu (OK, maybe I just told her) that I can never find. Granted, we live in the country where the options are pretty limited and we don’t get out much but I would LOVE to see things like:

Chicken strips and cut up raw stuff (tomatoes/cucumbers/avocado)
Cut up veggies (capsicum/cucumber/carrot/tomatoes) with hummus
A lamb cutlet with haloumi & tomato
Cheese & crackers
Fruit platters
A boiled egg with soldiers
Tacos (or anything in a wrap maybe fish & salad)
Chicken & noodles
Any kind of rice dish (because holy shit that stuff makes a mess at home)


The kind of stuff that I know my kids will eat and that won’t just get left on a plate. And maybe even have some kind of vague nutrition about them. We usually end up ordering the kids a antipasto plate or something similar as they would be happy eating olives and salami pretty much every day.

I know that eating out is a treat and that for most of us we are just happy to not be cooking, or cleaning up, drinking a glass of wine and hoping that you can get through the meal without someone spilling their godforsaken drink STOP SPILLING THE DRINKS but I’d love to know the kind of thing that YOU guys would like to see on menus when you are eating out with kids.

What about you? What would you like to see?
Seen some good kids menus about?
Where are they?!


  1. Anything on a stick – chicken Satays, beef skewers, lamb kebabs with rice or some nice chopped up raw veggies. We travel a lot and can never find decent kids food. I generally order from the adults menu and share with the kids.

  2. Food that doesn’t require a bib in public. I have a 3 and 1 year old so avoid anything ‘sloppy’ like bolognese. It’s messy and stains. Best one we had was Palm Cove Cairns, they had avocado and cheese toasted, then Trinity Beach had grilled fish with roasted veggies. Fritters. Egg and bacon slice. Simple food. I’m usually just glad I don’t have to cook it and clean up, but feel bad if my kids make an appalling mess of the Cafe.

  3. We were up on holidays in Noosa recently and bistro c has a great kids menu. They have the usual kids fried meals & spag Bol but they also have a kids “fried” rice. White boiled rice, with a few veggies (not too many otherwise my kids won’t eat it), carrots, peas… White chicken breast (any other type of chicken cut/meat & they won’t bloody eat it), honey soy sauce on the side. It was brilliant and such a great option amongst all the nuggets, chips, burgers etc. The kids absolutely loved it!

  4. We rarely eat out as its expensive and sometimes terrible. I’m onboard with the lamb cutlet (we call them lamb lollipops at home), hot chips that are literally three ingredients of potato, oil and salt ie not chips from a bag, Milkshakes that have real strawberries blasted with ice and milk and ice cream and no artificial colour. I guess to me it’s real food that I look for as opposed to convenient food. I can do convenient food at home but choose not to. So when I go out with or without my kids I like to eat real food also. I understand it’s not easy or viable doing this in a commercial environment, so Iet I let go and let them order the bloody nuggets and chips when we are out. Oh and that’s the other thing: tell the owner that real food or healthy options only work with my kids when there are no other heavily processed nugget and chips, pre made pizza etc items available on the menu as all they do is food perv and nag me to go and get the crappy option.

  5. We hardly ever ate out when the kids were small, too expensive and crap choices, but often when we did we would get entree sized meals and the kids would either share or sometimes have one each. So I guess the ideal for me would have been child friendly sized meals from the main menu, with maybe just some small changes to spicy sauces etc.
    I do really like the platter idea, specially for really young kids, just veg, cheese, crackers, fruit, dips etc

  6. Totally agree with the side of raw veg (carrot, cucumber, tomato) instead of the ridic balsamic dressing lettuce with red onion. What kids like balsamic? Seriously!! Chicken noodle soup I would add to the list as well as zucchini slice. Most times better off ordering the kids a chicken schnitzel and cut it up than some of the horrific ‘chicken’ nuggets we’ve had.

  7. Dimi Cromdos says

    There’s a great cafe/restaurant on the main drag in Mooloollaba that does this. Rice with veggies, mini kiddie roasts, real chicken crumbed lightly etc. Needless to say we ate there every day!! Wish cafes would think outside the square when it comes to kids’ meals – heartily sick of chips, nuggets and pizza being the only option on the menu! Your suggestions sound delicious and easy! And how nice is it to leave the crumbs and dishes behind?? BLISS.

    • Fiona Gavin says

      We’re about to holiday here soon.. Do you happen to remember the name of the place? Thanks

      • Dimi Cromdos says

        Hi Fiona. So sorry but I don’t remember the name – was a while ago now. Was smack in the middle of the main drag, quite a large place with lots of chairs and tables out front. Check the menus of places and hopefully you stumble across it.

  8. My kids really don’t like hot chips. Maybe a hand full but not a whole plate accompanied by some fried up, dry “chicken” nuggets. They would be wrapped with a plate of cut up veggies/hommus/bread. OR even better a plate of salad and meat where we they can build their own wrap.
    We usually only order one meal to share and give them bits off our plates.
    Lets face it- for the $12+ dollars it costs these days- surely a cut up carrot and some cherry tomatoes could be chucked in??

  9. Grilled meat, not just the deep fried stuff. Vege sticks. Salad without dressing. My kids don’t mind that it’s the usual suspects on almost every kids menu, though after a few days on hols it must wear thin, even for them! Rice, mashed potato or pasta as an option on the side rather than just hot chips. Some places get it right.

  10. Lasagna
    Fried rice
    Chicken tenders
    grilled sandwiches
    Chicken meatballs
    Mini sliders
    Cabanara pasta
    Mini quiches
    Sausages/mash and green beans
    Grilled flatbread with dips
    Grilled fish
    Mac n cheese

  11. Recently were holidaying and went to jarrahjack winery near Pemberton, WA. They had a kids ‘buffet’. $7.95 included a regularly replenished: pasta dish, a Bain Marie with French fries and nuggets, a platter of cut up raw vegetables, jelly cups and chocolate mousse cups. It was a massive hit.

  12. cec maher says

    I love the option of the boiled egg ! I have a 9 year old coeliac daughter and while she misses out on the fried stuff, this doesn’t leave her many other options. Yes a steak sounds all fine for me but nope not for the gf chickadee. I agree with the dip type options and rice dishes, yes perhaps omelette style meal, and even a maybe small make your own pizza style meal. Gluten free kids meals are very rare

  13. I completely agree with you! Every now and then I don’t mind, but it’s when you go away and are eating out more frequently that it’s a real problem. I love all your suggestions, exactly the types of foods my Miss 5 and Master 2 would eat.

  14. I’d prefer grilled fish to fried. Calamari that doesn’t come out of a packet. A toasted sandwich with some veggie sticks. A roast chicken drumstick and some steamed veggies. Mini homemade sausage rolls and salad.

  15. In Hawaii a number of the hotels serve children’s meals with a side of either chips, salad or fresh fruit. They also serve vegetable sushi (I accpet this isn’t any easy one for a cafe to make fresh all the time) and steamed vegetables. Why is it so hard for a restaurant to serve a plate of mixed steamed veges for kids when they steam certain veges for adults???

  16. Yes, yes, yes!!!!!! Hate the kids menu options everywhere always the same
    Salad finger food plate, simple protein options. love it!

  17. It would be great if you could just order from 1 menu but in kids or adult size – but if thats too tricky maybe things like
    a kid size hamburger thats not loaded up so much they can’t fit it in their mouths
    house made sausage rolls or pastizzi
    side salads without dressing
    finger food platter so you’re not constantly picking up cutlery off the floor (meatballs, veg sticks, arancini etc)
    soup with toast

    • Love the idea of a ‘finger food’ platter. Meatballs, some cherry tomatoes, bocconcini or cheese cubes, some cucumber and a couple of olives. Yum – actually, I think I’ll give that to my kids for dinner one night this week…thanks!

  18. Jo Lloyd says

    I agree with the lamb cutlet option, some grilled chicken and fish options. Veggie sick with dressing in the side. Chipotle sausages and some mashed potato. Cheese and crackers. Tiny pizzas that aren’t pre packed frozen ones.
    We rarely eat out with the kids for this reason. Options are limited, quality is poor and they don’t end up eating it.

  19. My daughter has aged out of the kids menu now (just) but she was always quite disappointed that the kids menu was always the same boring stuff. I really like the idea of offering the option of choosing a dish from the regular menu but being able to order a smaller, kids portion at a smaller price. My daughter liked the sound of some of the adult menu items but a regular menu portion was too much.

  20. I would love for restaurants that offer kids menus to serve the kids meals on appropriate sized plates with appropriate sized cutlery and small sized drinks. Sometimes everything is so BIG for the littlies it is hard to navigate.

  21. On my wish list is:
    Shepherds/cottage pie
    Mini hamburgers
    Meatballs and spaghetti
    Vegetable lasagna
    Chilli con carne

    Chicken nuggets and chips are always great to have as basics but I always feel a bit stink when we’ve ordered delicious meals loaded with veggies, salads, sauces etc yet out comes a basic plate of deep fried crap for the boy!

  22. Yes please to the vege sticks and hommus. Eating out results in junk food for my kids most of the time as they never eat the side salad (they hate salad dressing) and don’t like soft cooked veges.

    A few other suggestions:
    – Good quality chicken schnitz (made with real chicken breast fillet)
    – Wontons or dumplings
    – Rice paper rolls

  23. Grilled chicken with 3 veg/ salad eg peas, broccoli, carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, beans/snow peas. Seriously, no need to be creative, just offer, clean, real food. Also when in a restaurant that serves a particular style of food, surely it is better to offer a mild/ tweaked version of their menu rather than go straight to chips and nuggets??

  24. Love the raw veggies. Maybe a pick and choose so parents can double down on the ones that get eaten and skip the ones that don’t. Also hummus is a deal breaker for us due to life threatening allergies. An alternative like ranch/yoghurt etc would be good. Sesame allergy is on the rise.

  25. We went to a cafe recently and they had a kids ploughman’s plate, melted cheese on toast, smashed avo, tiny bowl of chips and cut up apple. Was an absolute winner!

  26. It’s been a long time since we had to worry about this however when the kids were small we used to go to Black Stump (I don’t think it exists anymore). We wanted to make sure that our children could conduct themselves in a ‘restaurant’ situation.
    Black Stump had the kids menu and it had the usual items of fish and chips, lasagne, corn on the cob etc. They had a place mat and pencils to keep them busy while waiting to eat. The food was pretty good for the Big people also.
    The thing I loved was that we were in and out in an hour. Sitting in a restaurant or cafe is boring for little children (a bit like grocery shopping), so the quicker, the better. I can’t stand seeing little kids wander around a restaurant. It’s dangerous to them and the wait staff.

  27. We quite often just ask if we can have a meal off the menu in a kid’s size and it’s amazing how many places will oblige.
    If they don’t we usually just order two mains and split it between our three kids.
    Most kids menus are crap and expensive (for what they are) so it would be rare for us to order off them.

  28. Emily Furlong says

    I would like to see smaller servings of the normal menu. There is always something on the menu my daughter has wanted more than the usual fried crap, but the servings are too big and expensive for a tiny belly. If the adult portion has 4 lamb cutlets, then give 2 to the kids. Easy. That way there’s no more prep involved, no hidden laminated A5 page that needs to be requested. Simply entree sized portions of everything for us to choose from. Support families trying to raise kids who aren’t fussy eaters by giving them variety rather than pigeon holing them!

  29. If we can’t get smaller serves of the adult menu, I would love to see hearty food that has those veges hidden in there somewhere, like Chicken Pot Pie, Shepherds/Cottage Pie, Tacos (with grated carrots and zucchini hidden in there and salad on the side, Kebabs would be great served with rice and stir-fried veges, lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, real home-made macaroni cheese served with chicken strips. And for the fussy eaters a toastie with a great choice of fillings from cheese to baked beans or savoury mince. Fortunately for us our lot are happy if we go Chinese and order a Banquet or a Curry House, they love a good curry.

  30. I feel the same about fruit/veg and hummus when out myself! When you only want a snack, there really aren’t any healthy options.

  31. We hardly ever eat out these days, but back before no.2 we had dinner at The Cook’s Larder – no longer there unfortunately, and my sone had an organic chicken drumstick with mash potato from the kids menu. ACE! And dessert was good vanilla ice cream with chocolate or strawberry sauce made in house. Simple, good. A local cafe here in Milton does chicken nuggets but they make them from breast meat, lightly crumbed, and they look oven baked! So good. The idea of a ‘kids salad’ – chopped raw veg – to go with their meals is brilliant, my boys like a decent fish and chips with salad, but the younger struggles with the ‘fancy’ salad.

  32. Lynsay Cooperwaite says

    Just including some vegetables in every meal would be a good start, or even indicating on the menu that if you want some you need to specify. Seriously, I have to ask you to add lettuce & tomato to the kids burger? And reasonable serving sizes for the junkier options like hot chocolate, milkshakes etc. Occasionally I forget to interrogate the serving staff on exactly what I am ordering for my children and nearly always regret it.

  33. Larissa Peters says

    Hidden veggie Mac n Cheese, Nachos made with lentils or kidney beans in the mince and using either unsalted plain corn chips or flatbread cut into triangles, frittata or quiche, Fish fingers made with fresh fish and coated in breadcrumbs, chicken risotto, soup with cheesy bread sticks. It’s really not hard to adapt adult food to kids food. I always have such a problem when once again you see the regular – fish n chips, chicken nuggets and chips or ham and pineapple pizza on the menu. I tend to either feed the kids before we go out and just treat them to a dessert or they will have an entree size of soup or share a chicken schnitzel or calamari plate.

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