Tulsa “Kid Friendly” Restaurants
Callister loves the free bomb pop at Smitty’s Garage!
Walking into my grandmother’s white, two-story farmhouse in the middle of the Kansas wheat fields, I was enveloped by her warm arms and the yeasty aroma of baking bread. I remember the heavenly pleasure of tearing into a hot roll oozing with butter and honey while sitting at the old wooden table in her cozy kitchen. There was always something simmering on the cooktop or baking in the oven, forever linking memories of my grandmother’s love with delicious home-cooked treats.
Sadly, my grandchildren won’t have those memories with me. Instead, any food-related memories will most likely be about going out to eat. I cooked a lot when my daughters were growing up, but when they left for college, I had my kitchen remodeled and basically only use it to make coffee in the mornings. Twenty years of cooking for children wore my meager domesticity inclination plumb out. I’m all about going to restaurants!
My grandson is two and a half, and while he’s a great kid, the age itself comes with a few caveats when it comes to eating out. He isn’t exactly the most patient when it comes to waiting for food, and although I always pack a book and a toy, it helps if there are other distractions before the food arrives.
We also choose restaurants where there are good food choices for kids and the atmosphere is “kid-friendly.” By this I mean perfect, quiet behavior is not an expectation. I try to take others’ needs into consideration and don’t want to ruin anyone’s special night out with an active two-year-old sitting near them. One suggestion a reader on our TulsaParents Facebook group gave was to go to nicer places at “linner” time, around three o’clock, between lunch and dinner. I love this idea, works for us older folks and toddlers!
Putting together a list from my own experiences and also from contributors on the TulsaParents Facebook group, here are some ideas of places to eat with toddlers and preschoolers:
This is one of our favorite places to go! There are multiple restaurants here, like a new version of a food court, so everyone can find something they love. There is an inside play area, so we get a table nearby where he can play while we leisurely eat and talk while keeping an eye on him. During nice weather, there is a covered, enclosed eating area outside with a mini-golf course and a play area.
Mother Road Market has something for everyone, including a fun play area!
We go to the one in KingsPointe Village, but most of them are similar. Being OSU alumni, Hideaway is an integral part of our college memories, and we love revisiting the past. Plus, the pizza is great. They give kids a color sheet with crayons and on request will also give a piece of dough for the kids to play with while they wait. Andolini’s also gives kids pizza dough while they wait, and I noticed the location on Riverwalk in Jenks has a lunch buffet.
Callister likes the pasta on the kid’s menu at Hideaway, but the kids’ pizza is not on par with the regular Hideaway pizza so usually, he has part of our pizza instead of getting the kids’ meal. It’s a loud atmosphere with televisions scattered around, so there is no worry about disturbing others. A reader mentioned CiCi’s buffet and although we haven’t been, I can imagine a pizza buffet might be a great choice for young kids!
We’re big fans of Hideaway Pizza!
Smitty’s on 71st and Sheridan has become one of our favorite spots! They have a good kids’ meal complete with a bomb pop at the end of the meal. Milk is available for the drink, but you might need to ask. The burgers are great but lately, I’ve been stuck on this weird combination, a side salad and the loaded queso. The salad is delicious and my questionable reasoning is that the healthiness in the salad cancels out the decadence of the queso.
The service is exceptional, on the level with a nice restaurant rather than the burger place it is. There are lots of TVs, most are on sports channels, but they always have at least two on kids’ movies. There is a small game room in the back and, being the indulgent grandparents we are, we allow some time to play a few games after dinner.
Smitty’s Garage has become one of our regular places.
I’ll be honest, you’re not going here for the food, you’re going for the trains. Ollie’s serves homecooked, good food, but the trains are the main attraction. With a train running around the room, your little ones will be fascinated. It’s also located on Route 66 so while you’re there visit the Route 66 Historical Village, a small museum dedicated to the history of Route 66.
Web editor Tara Rittler and her son Joss recently visited Ollie’s.
(Photo credit, Tara Rittler)
5. Old School Bagel on Yale
We take Callister to Old School Bagel often. It’s close to our house, it’s one of my favorite places, and I have the car keys so he doesn’t have much choice. He does like it though, and there are so many great choices for everyone! He almost always gets eggs, bacon, and chocolate milk and then steals food off our plates also. My favorite thing to get is the BLT on an asiago bagel and tomato soup. Their soup is so good I’ve even been known to eat it for breakfast! My husband loves their salads and to balance that out, he gets one of their delicious cookies. If you’re going low carb, you may be surprised to find they have some keto friendly options. In addition to the yummy food, we like the casual atmosphere, friendly employees. In nice weather, sitting on the deck is fun!
We all love Old School Bagel! Who needs a high chair when you have your grandmother’s lap?
There are Mexican restaurants everywhere, and that’s because it’s delicious and a great choice for families! Some of the perks are getting chips as soon as you sit down, which satisfies the immediate hunger, lots of kid-friendly choices like tacos and quesadillas, and the atmosphere is almost always festive.
My absolute favorite place for Mexican is Elote. You cannot get better than their puffy tacos, and they have gluten-free and vegan options! Go for dinner so you get table service instead of standing in the lunch line. Other Mexican places we frequent are Senor Tequilas, Bravos, and Arizona.
Carefully reading the menu, but he always gets the quesadilla.
(Photo credit, John Cavert)
Another thing I try to keep in mind when I go to a restaurant with my grandson is the extra work the waiter will have to do because of a toddler. I make sure my tips reflect that; I call it the “toddler tax.” Although I do my best to keep the mess to a minimum, I know the staff will inevitably have to do a little extra cleanup. Therefore, they deserve additional compensation.
Tulsa has an abundance of great restaurants, these are just a few of my favorite “kid-friendly” haunts. I’ll try to get to some of the other restaurants readers recommended and review them in the next couple months. What are your favorite places to go with your little ones?