Back in the day, finding a “family-friendly” restaurant meant looking for something involving animatronic characters or a dollar menu where “happiness” came in a box.
But in Bend and Central Oregon, you’ll find a huge selection of true family-friendly restaurants that are as appealing to mom and dad as they are to the kids. In fact, just about every spot welcomes your little ones and has a kids’ menu with food you won’t feel bad for feeding your children. And as the dad to a teenager and two kids under 4, it’s nice to walk into a restaurant without getting the stink eye from the host or other patrons.
Here are a few of my family’s favorite spots to eat.
Crux Fermentation Project
Grab a beer from the patio bar, find a spot in the grass and let the kids run free. With its gigantic green space, lawn games and diverse selection of local food carts, Crux is arguably the best family-friendly dining option in the region. The brewpub is home to some of Central Oregon’s most popular beers and is known for its amazing Sundowner Hour (food/drink specials a half hour before and after the sun sets.) Added bonus: There’s often live music outside as well, giving the kids something to really wiggle to.
Located along the Deschutes River in Bend’s Old Mill District, Red Robin is kind of the go-to spot for families looking for good food, a fun environment and a great view. Sure, it’s a chain but even on vacation, it’s sometimes nice to eat somewhere familiar. Bonus points for unlimited broccoli. Heck, tell them it’s someone’s birthday and you’ll get a free cupcake out of the deal.
One of our favorite Mexican restaurants, La Rosa’s Northwest Crossing location has a kids menu that features all the traditional favorites like tacos, enchiladas, etc. along with some “American” standards like chicken nuggets. And the refried beans that come with the complimentary chips and salsa is always a big hit for parents of wee babies. The location is also just a short walk down the street from Compass Park. The park features a playground, pavilion with picnic tables and green space that each summer hosts outdoor movies.
Sunriver Brewing Co. Sunriver Pub
Great food, great beer and A CHILDRENS’ PLAY AREA. That’s right. Just inside the door, there’s a small kids’ play area stocked with toys, books and a giant chalkboard. For parents on vacation, Sunriver Brewing Co. might just be the new Happiest Place on Earth. There’s also a nice, big patio for dining outside in the sun – perfect for people watching during the busy summer season in the Village at Sunriver.
When my middle daughter was just starting to eat real food, Pizza Mondo was of the first places I took her when mom left us alone for the day. (Dad of the year, right?) It’s a tiny little pizza joint in Downtown Bend that also happens to make the city’s best pie. That’s according to the locals who have voted it “Bend’s Best Pizza” every year since it opened in 1996. Pro tip: There’s a basket of brownies next to the cash register. Don’t even think about leaving without one.
This one might be surprising to some, but Deschutes Brewery’s Public House in Downtown Bend is actually one of the most family-friendly spots in the area. The kids’ menu features some super tasty options beyond the traditional hamburger or chicken strips. For mom and dad, the dining here straddles the line between pub food and fine dining. And the beer, of course, is legendary at Bend’s first brewpub. The pub’s expansion a few years ago really opened up the restaurant and now there’s tons of seating so a table with a couple of high chairs won’t cramp the style of the tables next to you.
Ok, so it’s not a “restaurant” in any way, shape or form. Nope, Goody’s is just home to Central Oregon’s best chocolates, candies and ice cream and it’s a must-visit for anyone vacationing here. Check out the original shop in Sunriver, the Downtown Bend location or take a tour of an actual chocolate factory. Your sweet tooth – and your kids – will thank you.