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8 Best Kid-Friendly Family Restaurants – How Affordable Are They?

When you have children, your approach to dining out undergoes a major shift. Before becoming a parent, you may have thought nothing of dropping $100 or more on dinner for two at a fancy restaurant, complete with candlelight, wine, and elaborate, exotic dishes. But when you start eating out with kids, your tastes shift toward eateries with booster seats and child-friendly menus, places where no one complains if your kids make noise or decide to play hide-and-seek under the table.

However, that doesn’t mean you and the other adults in your party have to resign yourself to dining on chicken nuggets and spaghetti. There are plenty of chain restaurants across the country that manage to be child-friendly without being adult-unfriendly. They offer menu options for both childlike and sophisticated palates, and some can even provide a glass of wine with your meal. And their prices won’t break your budget when you’ve got three or four mouths to feed.

Top Affordable Family Restaurant Chains

Various print and online publications offer lists of the best chain restaurants for families based on their menus, atmosphere, and service. However, these lists don’t always agree with each other. A restaurant that shows up at the top of one can be completely missing from another, and it isn’t always clear why.

Still, there are a few chains that show up over and over in the rankings. The best-of-the-best eateries offer good menu options for both kids and adults, including those on special diets like vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, or gluten-free. They have locations across the country, and their prices won’t break the bank. Many of them also provide special extras for kids, like crayons and placemats with activities.

The list below offers a closer look at these top picks, including their menu choices, locations, and cost. It doesn’t cover fast-food and quick-service restaurants since most sources evaluate those separately. These aren’t places to grab a quick bite in the middle of a shopping excursion; they’re places to sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal with your family.

Pro tip: You can easily save money on your meal by purchasing a discounted gift card from before heading to the restaurant.

1. Red Lobster

Red Lobster Chain Restaurant Sign

No other family-friendly restaurant gets more recommendations than Red Lobster. This seafood restaurant is among the top 10 out of 33 family restaurant chains on Ranker, a site where fans of just about anything can rate their favorites. It also earns recommendations in Women’s Day, The Daily Meal, Cheapism, and Parents magazine.

Menu Selections for Adults

The menu at Red Lobster is all about seafood. Fish, shrimp, lobster, crab — pretty much anything that comes from the sea is available here, and the portions are generous. There are light and low-carb options like the Salmon Power Bowl for the diet-conscious, as well as more indulgent fare like crab linguini Alfredo. There are also a few steak and chicken selections for non-seafood lovers.

Most of Red Lobster’s main courses come with a choice of two sides. There’s a wide assortment to choose from, including soups, salads, steamed or roasted veggies, rice, potatoes, and the restaurant’s celebrated Cheddar Bay Biscuits. Any vegetarians in your party can make a meal out of the biscuits and one of the heartier salads, such as the Tomato-Mozzarella Caprese.

Red Lobster stresses that all its seafood is sustainably sourced. It deals only with suppliers who obey the laws and meet its labor and human rights standards. Unlike some seafood restaurants, Red Lobster always kills lobsters humanely before cooking them, rather than boiling them alive. On the environmental front, the restaurant is moving to eliminate plastic straws and move toward recyclable plastic for its to-go containers.

Kid-Friendly Choices

Kids aren’t always fish lovers, but the kids’ menu at Red Lobster is a great way to convince reluctant eaters to give it a try. More than half the options on it are beginner-friendly seafood dishes, such as popcorn shrimp, grilled tilapia, and a mini lobster tail. Salli Setta, a Red Lobster executive interviewed by Parents, says most young diners opt for one of these choices.

However, for kids who simply can’t won’t touch fish, there are also more standard options like chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese. All child-size entrees come with one side dish.

Special Deals

Because of its focus on seafood, which is often pricier than meat, Red Lobster isn’t as budget-friendly as some other family restaurants. However, there are several ways to save on your meal. When dining with a group, you can get good value by choosing the Family Feast, which includes a family-size main dish, sides, and biscuits for four to six people to share. Or you can get separate meals but share a family-size soup, salad, or dessert.

Red Lobster also offers weekday specials available until 6pm. For instance, on “Pick 2 Tuesday,” you get a choice of two seafood dishes and one side for a flat price, and on Wednesday or Thursday, a prix-fixe four-course meal is available. Several times a year, the chain runs a special promotion such as its Endless Shrimp fest, which offers all-you-can-eat shrimp in five different styles.

Another way to save is to sign up for the Fresh Catch Club. Members get 75 points when they sign up and another point for each dollar they spend at Red Lobster. When they reach 125 points, they can cash them in for a choice of three rewards. Members are also entitled to a reward on their birthday.

Sign up for Fresh Catch News to get Red Lobster coupons and special offers via email. You’ll hear about upcoming events and specials and receive a special birthday offer each year.


There are over 650 Red Lobsters in the USA. The chain has restaurants in 44 states, plus Puerto Rico, and four Canadian provinces. It also operates in seven other countries. You can find the Red Lobster location closest to you through the company’s interactive map.

2. Outback Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse Sign Outdoors Restaurant

The Australian-themed Outback Steakhouse is one of the top-rated family restaurants on Ranker, coming in at No. 5 out of 33 candidates. It also earns recommendations from both Women’s Day and The Daily Meal, which praise its kid-friendly “Joey Menu.”

Menu Selections for Adults

Not surprisingly, the menu at Outback Steakhouse centers on steak. Beef isn’t cheap, so Outback prices are on the high end for a family restaurant — around the same as Red Lobster’s or a bit higher. It’s comparable to competing steakhouses like Longhorn Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse, but with a bit more of a focus on high-end steaks. All steaks come with a potato and a choice of side dishes.

For those who aren’t steak lovers, the Outback menu has lots of other options to choose from. It includes chicken, ribs, seafood, grilled pork, and “forkless features” like burgers and sandwiches. Outback doesn’t offer much for vegetarians, as even its soups and salads tend to come with a topping of bacon or cheese. Gluten-free diners are in luck, though: Outback offers gluten-free versions of most dishes on its menu.

Outback is also known for its appetizers. Offerings include chicken wings, coconut shrimp, crab cakes, and the famous Bloomin’ Onion with spicy sauce. To finish your meal, you can choose from several rich desserts, including cheesecake and a brownie sundae.

Kid-Friendly Choices

Outback’s Joey Menu is small, but it offers all the usual choices kids are likely to ask for. In addition to child-size portions of sirloin, chicken, or ribs, it includes such kid favorites as mac and cheese, chicken fingers, and a grilled cheese sandwich. Sides include plain steamed broccoli, fresh fruit, and fries. The drink menu has 2% milk, soda, and several types of juice.

Special Deals

One of the best deals at Outback is the Aussie 4-Course menu available during the holidays. It gives you the soup and salad of your choice, followed by a choice of a 6-ounce or 8-ounce steak, grilled chicken, or salmon and finishes up with a slice of cheesecake.

On Wednesday evenings, you can take advantage of the Walkabout Wednesday special. It includes a choice of a 6-ounce steak or grilled chicken, plus fries and either beer or a soft drink, for about half the price of a full-size steak.

Regular Outback visitors can enjoy bonuses through the Dine Rewards program. Each time you spend at least $20 at a participating restaurant, you get credit for a “qualified visit.” After making three qualified visits in a six-month period, you get a coupon for 50% off your next meal. However, you can only take up to $20 off with this coupon at Outback Steakhouse, and you must use it within 90 days.

Outback also offers discounts for seniors who are members of AARP. Just show your AARP member card to take 10% off your entire lunch or dinner check — not counting alcohol, tax, or tip — at any U.S. location. This offer does not apply to takeout orders.


Based in Tampa, Florida, Outback Steakhouse has over 1,000 locations worldwide. There are Outback restaurants in every state except South Dakota and Maine, and in 20 other countries as well. You can use Outback’s directory or international directory to find the location nearest you.

3. Red Robin

Red Robin Burger Restaurant Signage

No restaurant on this list really aims to please its younger patrons as Red Robin does. Restaurant patrons at Ranker rate this American grill as the third-best family restaurant in the U.S., and it’s also a top pick by Cheapism and The Daily Meal. Red Robin has delicious menu items for adults as well, but it’s the foods and activities for kids that really make it a standout.

Menu Selections for Adults

Red Robin specializes in burgers. There are literally dozens of kinds on the menu, from classics like the bacon cheeseburger to more unusual options topped with bleu cheese, guacamole, or fried egg. But if burgers aren’t your thing, there are lots of other options, including grilled or fried chicken, fish, sandwiches, wraps, soups, and salads. You’ll pay more for these items than you would at most fast-food or quick-service restaurants, but the prices are pretty standard for a family restaurant.

More than most eateries, Red Robin goes out of its way to accommodate people on special diets. Its Interactive Allergen Menu lets you see exactly which items contain various ingredients, such as gluten, milk, and soy, and offers suggestions on how to customize your meal to avoid them. The restaurant offers gluten-free buns and is very accommodating about swapping in items such as veggie burgers, lettuce wraps, or healthier sides.

Speaking of side dishes, most of Red Robin’s main dishes come with unlimited refills of your choice of side. The basic choices are steak fries, chips, salad, and steamed broccoli, but for a small extra charge, you can get bottomless sweet potato fries, garlic herbed fries, or zucchini fries.

Red Robin’s drinks —  including soda, iced tea, and the chain’s signature flavored lemonades — are bottomless too. In addition to soft drinks, the chain offers beer, wine, and a variety of cocktails for the adults. To satisfy your sweet tooth, there are shakes, smoothies, and several decadent desserts.

Kid-Friendly Choices

The kids’ menu at Red Robin includes such standards as burgers, pasta, pizza, and chicken fingers. All kids’ pasta options are bottomless, including the “Mac it Yours” macaroni and cheese.

The chain has also partnered with KidsLiveWell to offer child-friendly healthy options, like grilled chicken, pasta with tomato sauce, salad, and fruit. And according to Susan Lintonsmith, a senior vice president who spoke with Parents magazine, kids actually order these healthy options. About 40% of child visitors to Red Robin pass up the fries in favor of one of the healthier side dishes.

The fun for kids doesn’t stop with the menu. They also get an activity sheet with puzzles and games and a free balloon on the way out the door. The chain’s mascot, a bird named Red, also puts in occasional appearances. And according to Parents, newer Red Robin locations even feature special child-size sinks in the restrooms.

Special Deals

Kids and adults alike can save at Red Robin by joining the Red Robin Royalty program. Its perks include:

  • One free birthday burger available anytime during your birth month
  • One free item — a burger, salad, sandwich, or main dish — for every nine you purchase
  • A $20 discount if you visit five times in the first five weeks after joining
  • Special offers and deals throughout the year
  • Additional rewards for teachers and members of the U.S. military

You can also save by choosing from the Tavern Menu. It offers slightly smaller items, including burgers, a cheese melt, and Pub Mac ‘n Cheese, with slightly smaller price tags to match. Keep an eye out for additional limited-time promotions throughout the year.


Red Robin has more than 500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. There are Red Robin restaurants in 42 states and two Canadian provinces. To find the Red Robin nearest you, run a location search on the Red Robin site.


Ihop Pancake Restaurant Signage

Formerly known as the International House of Pancakes, IHOP is now officially just IHOP. However, it hasn’t lost its emphasis on pancakes and other breakfast fare, nor its family-friendly vibe. It’s rated the second-best family restaurant in Ranker and earns recommendations from Women’s Day, Cheapism, and The Daily Meal.

Menu Selections for Adults

Despite its name change, IHOP’s menu continues to focus heavily on traditional breakfast foods. At any hour of the day, you can order eggs and hash browns, waffles, French toast, or an omelet. Pancakes are still very popular too, from the traditional short stack to exotic offerings like Mexican churro pancakes and sweet or savory crepes.

If breakfast for dinner isn’t your style, IHOP also offers more traditional dinner fare. You can choose from a wide array of burgers, sandwiches, and all-American main dishes like roast turkey or sirloin steak. Sides can be breakfast-centered, like hash browns, bacon, and biscuits, or more dinner-oriented, like French fries, onion rings, and salad.

The focus on breakfast foods makes IHOP a vegetarian-friendly place to eat. Vegans will have a harder time — there’s not much here for them besides salad and a couple of side dishes. But people on gluten-free diets are in good shape, as many of IHOP’s pancake and burger selections come in gluten-friendly versions.

Kid-Friendly Choices

IHOP goes out of its way to keep the kids happy. One of the most cherished items on its children’s menu is the Funny Face pancake, a single chocolate chip pancake with a face drawn in whipped cream, accompanied by one egg, one strip of bacon, and one sausage link. Other kids’ items include chicken and waffles, mac and cheese, a junior cheeseburger, and the ever-present chicken nuggets.

Special Deals

IHOP is a very budget-friendly choice, with low prices on nearly every menu item. However, for those who prefer a still lighter and cheaper option, there’s the 55+ menu. It offers modest portions of several breakfast items, sandwiches, and dinners, with correspondingly modest prices.

Another way to save is through the MyHop loyalty club. It gives you a free order of pancakes when you sign up, every year on your birthday, and every year on the anniversary of your signup date. You also receive special offers and news by email and an app that speeds up online ordering.


IHOP has nearly 1,700 restaurants in the U.S. and another 100-plus in other countries. Its restaurant locator can help you find the one nearest you based on your ZIP code.

5. Olive Garden

Olive Garden Italian Restaurant Signage

When you think of Italian food with a friendly, homey atmosphere, you likely think of Olive Garden. Diners on Ranker place it in the top five family-friendly restaurants, and Women’s Day and Cheapism both recommend it.

Menu Selections for Adults

When you go to Olive Garden, you know just what to expect: generous portions of uncomplicated Italian fare. Pasta dishes are a standout here, both as a main course and as an accompaniment to dishes like beef Bolognese, shrimp alfredo, and chicken parmigiana. Prices are typical for an Italian restaurant, a bit higher than Red Robin’s but lower than those at Red Lobster or Outback Steakhouse.

A lot of the items on the Olive Garden menu are fairly rich, dripping with cheese and heavy sauces. However, people on special diets can easily find a meal to fit their needs. For instance, the “Create Your Own Pasta” dish, which includes your choice of pasta, sauce, and topping, offers gluten-free pasta and a vegan marinara sauce as options. Some locations also serve “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) primavera.

Even more than its main courses, Olive Garden is known for its side dishes. Most locations offer bottomless portions of several traditional Italian soups, as well as the famous Olive Garden house salad. Every meal also comes with unlimited, fresh-baked garlic breadsticks.

Another nice perk for the adults in your group: Olive Garden offers both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Its selections include wine, beer, assorted cocktails, hot or iced tea, lemonade, and fruit juices. You can also enjoy Italian-style coffees such as espresso or cappuccino with your dessert.

Kid-Friendly Choices

Olive Garden’s special kids’ menu features “Ollie and friends,” five cartoon characters representing different foods. Ollie the Olive, Gina Grape, Bene Breadstick, Tonya Tomato, and Ricky Ravioli liven up a menu full of kid-friendly Italian dishes like pizza and pasta. Even the obligatory chicken fingers come with a side of pasta, giving them an Italian twist. Children’s dinners generally come with one side dish and a glass of 1% milk.

Special Deals

Although Olive Garden’s prices aren’t especially low, you get a lot of food for your money thanks to the limitless portions of soup, salad, and breadsticks. You can even make a meal out of these items alone for a lower price than most dishes on the menu.

Olive Garden has an array of specials that change throughout the year. Members of the Olive Garden eClub can be the first to learn about these specials, as well as receiving additional offers. Some Olive Garden locations also participate in a rewards program that gives you points for each dollar you spend, which you can cash in for free appetizers, entrees, or desserts. All guests can get a free dessert on their birthday, accompanied by a chorus of “Happy Birthday” from the staff.


There are more than 850 Olive Garden locations worldwide. The chain operates in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and Guam), Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Kuwait, Mexico, Panama, and the United Arab Emirates. Find the location closest to you through the website’s location search.

6. Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Restaurant Signage

The No. 1 family restaurant in the country, according to diners on Ranker, is Cracker Barrel. Professional reviewers in The Daily Meal, Women’s Day, and Cheapism also recommend it. With its combination of Southern-style comfort food, a homey feel, and modest prices, it’s an easy choice for kids and adults alike.

Menu Selections for Adults

The menu offerings at Cracker Barrel — cheeseburgers, country-fried steak, smoked ham, chicken and dumplings — definitely wouldn’t be considered health food. Cracker Barrel also serves a hearty, country-style breakfast all day long. Eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, and biscuits are all staple items.

It’s not easy to eat at Cracker Barrel if you’re on a special diet. Even the side dishes, such as turnip greens or green bean casserole, tend to contain meat or dairy. Vegetarians can get by with one of the breakfast choices if they hold the meat, but the best option vegans have is a salad, plain steamed veggies, or a baked potato. If you’re on a gluten-free diet, your best bet is to check Cracker Barrel’s Allergen Guide. It shows which menu items do and don’t contain gluten, soy, eggs, and other common allergens.

Along with its comfort food, Cracker Barrel is known for its budget-friendly prices. They’re roughly on par with IHOP and quite a bit cheaper than upscale family eateries like Red Lobster or Outback Steakhouse.

Kid-Friendly Choices

The children’s menu at Cracker Barrel is basically a scaled-down version of the adult menu. It includes smaller portions of Cracker Barrel classics, including pancakes, country-fried shrimp, and chicken and dumplings. It also adds a couple of trusty kid-friendly favorites like macaroni and cheese.

The fun for kids at Cracker Barrel isn’t just about the food. In addition to their own menu, young diners receive coloring and activity booklets and even a game to play, according to The Daily Meal. Before or after eating, both kids and parents can have fun browsing the attached general store. It offers an assortment of country-style foods to take home, as well as clothing, decor, toys, games, books, music, and personal care items.

Special Deals

Unlike many other family restaurants, Cracker Barrel doesn’t offer discounts through a loyalty club or coupons. There are no discounts for seniors and no special senior menu. Fortunately, its prices are low enough already that you don’t really need these to feed a small family on a budget.

If you have a big group to feed, you can save by ordering a heat-and-serve family meal to go. These feasts include a main course that varies based on the time of year — for instance, ham at Easter and turkey breast at Thanksgiving. It comes with all the fixings, such as dressing and gravy, plus a choice of three side dishes, a batch of rolls, and two pies. Each meal serves up to 10 people.


Cracker Barrel has over 650 locations in 45 U.S. states. Its store directory can help you find the one nearest you. You can also use this tool to get on the waiting list at a nearby restaurant. It’s not the same as a reservation, but it can cut down your wait time when you arrive.

7. Chili’s Grill & Bar

Chilis Restaurant Store Front Signage

At Chili’s Grill & Bar, you’ll find family favorites with a Southwestern flair. Reviewers on Ranker place it in the top 10 family restaurants, and it also earns recommendations from Women’s Day, Cheapism, and The Daily Meal.

Menu Selections for Adults

Many of the items on Chili’s menu echo those you’ll find at Red Robin or Cracker Barrel, including burgers, ribs, steak, and fried chicken “crispers.” But there’s also a subtle emphasis on Tex-Mex cuisine, with offerings like chili, fajitas, tacos, and quesadillas. Unlike Cracker Barrel, Chili’s offers a good selection of lighter fare. Examples include salads with grilled chicken or shrimp and the “Guiltless Grill,” a selection of five dinners with no more than 650 calories.

Chili’s isn’t ideal for vegetarians, especially vegans. It doesn’t offer meatless versions of its tacos, quesadillas, or chili. There’s a black bean fajita on the menu that’s meatless, but it comes with queso fresco — though you could ask to leave it off. Even the salads mostly come with chicken, shrimp, or egg-and-cheese-laden Caesar dressing.

People on gluten-free or low-carb diets will have a somewhat easier time. The menu includes plenty of salads and grilled meats without starchy sides, such as the Classic Sirloin with Grilled Avocado. There’s also a special gluten-friendly menu.

Because Chili’s is also a bar, you can choose beer or a cocktail with your meal. Margaritas are a perennial favorite, with a different flavor on special each month. Alcohol-free selections include soda, beer, and lemonade.

Prices at Chili’s are fairly middle-of-the-road. There are some pricier items here, like steak and ribs, but the burgers, sandwiches, and burritos are much more budget-friendly.

Kid-Friendly Choices

Chili’s “Pepper Pal” kids’ menu doesn’t offer much in the way of Mexican food. Aside from a plain cheese quesadilla, it’s all items for the non-adventurous child palate, such as mini hamburgers, chicken crispers, pizza, and grilled cheese. There’s also a child-size version of Chili’s molten chocolate cake.

Chili’s also shows its commitment to kids through its charitable donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Since 2003, it has raised more than $71 million for St. Jude’s through its Create-A-Pepper promotion. For one month each year, Chili’s guests can donate $1 to St. Jude’s and color in a picture of a chili pepper to show their support. And on one day per year, Chili’s donates 100% of its profits across all locations, up to $350,000, to St. Jude’s.

Special Deals

One of the best values on Chili’s menu is the 3 for $10 special. It includes a non-alcoholic beverage, an appetizer, and a main dish, chosen from a limited menu, for a fixed price. Main dish selections include the chicken crispers and Bacon Ranch Chicken Quesadillas, and appetizer options include soup, salad, or chips and salsa.

You can also save by joining My Chili’s Rewards. All members get either chips and salsa or a nonalcoholic beverage of their choice each time they visit or order from Chili’s. To maintain this benefit, members must eat at Chili’s at least once every 60 days for lunch or dinner. Members also get a free dessert on their birthday, free Wi-Fi, and special offers such as free kids’ meals, appetizers, and desserts.


Chili’s operates more than 1,600 restaurants in 31 countries and two territories, spread across five continents. Within the U.S., there are Chili’s locations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

8. Denny’s

Dennys Americas Diner Restaurant Signage Neon Lights

When you’re on a family vacation and a delayed flight has you hunting frantically for dinner at 10pm, there’s just one place to go: Denny’s. Not only is it open 24/7, but its diner-style menu has something for everyone, even tired and cranky kids. Both Women’s Day and The Daily Meal recommend it, and it makes the top 10 list on Ranker.

Menu Selections for Adults

Like IHOP, Denny’s offers breakfast all day long. No matter what time you roll in, you can order eggs and hash browns, an omelet, or any of numerous pancake selections.

However, Denny’s menu isn’t quite as heavily breakfast-focused as IHOP’s. More than half the menu is devoted to traditional diner fare: soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and “diner classics” such as meatloaf and spaghetti. If you’re looking for healthier options, consult the “fit fare” section of the menu, which features light dishes like an egg-white omelet, lean sirloin steak, and a veggie-packed Veggie Sizzlin’ Skillet.

Between the salads and breakfast dishes, vegetarians won’t go hungry at Denny’s. Vegans are likely to have trouble though — they’ll probably have to ask the server to customize their order, leaving out either cheese from a salad or egg whites from the Veggie Sizzlin’ Skillet. Gluten-free and low-carb eaters will have an easier time, as several of the “fit fare” items meet their needs.

Kid-Friendly Choices

Denny’s kids’ menu is packed with fun and playful dishes children love. Beyond classics like chicken tenders and spaghetti, kids can enjoy mini corn dogs, colorful Birthday Cake Pancakes, or the novel and healthful Grilled Chicken on a Stick. There are “junior” versions of many desserts, as well.

Denny’s also demonstrates its commitment to kids through its partnership with No Kid Hungry. Since 2011, it has raised more than $7 million to fight childhood hunger. During its yearly fundraiser, Denny’s asks its patrons to donate and receive coupon incentives in exchange. With as much as $15 in coupons in exchange for a donation of only $3, it’s a great deal for everyone involved.

Special Deals

Dinner at Denny’s is easy on the wallet, with prices about on a par with IHOP’s. However, for the extra budget-conscious, there are several ways to save, including:

  • Value Menu. Denny’s Value Menu includes inexpensive fare like pancakes, chicken wraps, and a classic BLT. However, it may not be available at all locations.
  • Senior Deals. Diners ages 55 and up can enjoy smaller portions with prices to match. Denny’s 55+ selections include grilled chicken, country-fried steak, a club sandwich, and a Belgian waffle. In addition, seniors who are members of AARP get a 15% discount on their entire bill.
  • Denny’s Rewards. When you join Denny’s Rewards, you immediately receive 20% off your next Denny’s meal. You also get news and special offers via email and a special birthday treat each year.
  • Kids Eat Free Days. At participating Denny’s restaurants, kids can eat free on certain days. You can get up to two main course selections from the kids’ menu for each adult meal over a certain price.
  • Birthday Freebies. On your birthday, you can enjoy a free Build Your Own Grand Slam. You can choose the classic Grand Slam — two eggs, two pancakes, two bacon strips, and two sausage links — or customize it to your liking. To take advantage of this offer, you must show a photo ID when ordering.


Denny’s started out as a single doughnut stand, called Danny’s Donuts, in 1953. Over the years, it has expanded into a chain with over 1,700 locations across the US. Use the locator tool to find the one nearest you.

Final Word

There’s no one restaurant that’s best for every family and every occasion. It all depends on your particular needs: your budget, your location, and your tastes. For instance, Red Lobster is clearly the best choice for seafood, Outback for steak, Olive Garden for Italian food, and Chili’s for Mexican.

If your top concern is feeding your family as cheaply as possible, your best bet is either Denny’s or IHOP. IHOP could get the edge at breakfast time, while Denny’s is a better bet for dinner. If you’re looking for a place where you can get a healthy meal for yourself and your kids, try Red Lobster or Red Robin.

Every restaurant on this list offers menu options even picky children will eat. However, if you care most about giving your kids a truly special experience, they’ll get it at Red Robin, Cracker Barrel, or IHOP. By contrast, if you want a place where the adults in the party can enjoy a drink with dinner, choose Red Robin, Olive Garden, or Chili’s.

For people on gluten-free diets, Outback Steakhouse and Red Robin are the most accommodating. If any adults or children in your party are vegetarians, they’ll find plenty to choose from at Olive Garden, IHOP, or Denny’s. None of the family restaurants here is really ideal for vegans, but Olive Garden is probably the best of the bunch.

What are your favorite restaurants to dine at with your family? Do you have any other favorite tips for saving money while dining out with kids?

Amy Livingston
Amy Livingston is a freelance writer who can actually answer yes to the question, "And from that you make a living?" She has written about personal finance and shopping strategies for a variety of publications, including,, and the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. She also maintains a personal blog, Ecofrugal Living, on ways to save money and live green at the same time.

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