I'll admit it, February's warm-cold, "betwixt and between" weather had me eating my feelings a good bit, which inspired this next piece.
Now creating a “where to eat” piece for kids has to be made with some fear and trembling. There’s no accounting for taste, and in a county like ours that’s known for restaurants, it’s easy to miss a lot of good spots. I can already hear, "What about so-and-so?"
I know, I know.
So here’s what I did: I made a subjective list of notable locally-owned joints that dish not only adult favorites but quality menus for kids as well (offering a variety, not JUST "fries-and"). A few are popular local favorites, while I would consider others hidden gems. And though they may not have indoor play areas for our little tykes, they are unique and interesting spots where kids can dine happy and moms and dads can, too.
Check out these 10 great kids menus in Rutherford County.
Known by adults for its great beer selection and legendary burgers, ribs, and wings, Toot’s also offers an award-winning kid’s menu for the 12 and under crowd. It’s hard to beat the FREE hot dog basket available with an adult meal purchase, or the $4.99 four-course kid’s menu offering favorites like chicken tenders, steamed broccoli, fresh fruit, and that crucial cup of ice cream with toppings children clean their plates for.
Multiple locations in Rutherford County; toots.com
Adults love the hand-crafted cocktails, craveable apps, and seared-to-perfection steaks; kids love the complementary gold fish appetizers and no-fuss options just for them like The Huck—one of the establishment’s homemade meatballs-no sauce- and hand cut fries. Littles can also try more traditional options like fried chicken or shrimp with a side like the garlic mashed potatoes or crispy Brussels sprouts. The $4.99 kids meal comes with a homemade cookie to round out lunch or dinner.
223 W. Main St. Murfreesboro. 615-203-3498. thealleyonmain.com
While you might hear the grownups raving about Primrose Table's Korean Barbecue Stuffed Potato Skins or the Oatmeal Cookie Banana Pudding, owner Marshall Murdock caters quality to little ones, too, with grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese pasta, fresh in-house ground burgers and chicken tenders (grilled or fried) for the children’s menu next to tasty homemade sides like herbed potatoes and squash casserole. The $7 children’s meals come with entrée, side, drink, and a warm Christy Cookie for dessert.
1650 Memorial Blvd. 615-900-5790. primrosetable.com
This Smyrna tradition feels upscale with its extensive wine and exquisite food offerings, but the vibe is still casual and relaxed. Adults will appreciate the perfect wine paired with Italian classics like cheese manicotti, chicken florentino, seafood alfredo, (and not to mention their dizzying selection of pizzas and stromboli), while young diners can choose from simple dishes of spaghetti and sauces, fettucini alfredo, and even chicken tenders, fries and onion rings, for around $6-$7. A nice bonus for gluten-free folks: gluten-free pasta is also on the menu.
114 Front St. Smyrna. 615-984-4771. latavolatn.com
An after-work watering hole and popular date night favorite for its relaxing atmosphere and memorable steaks and burgers, this Smyrna standard is just as great for a family dinner. For less than $5 kids can eat up mac and cheese, penne pasta, corn dogs, and grilled cheese with a side of fries from the kids menu, or try out one of the restaurant's cravable sides like red beans and rice, mashed sweet potatoes, or even grilled asparagus. Don't forget a signature kitchen dessert like the carrot cake or oreo ice cream pie!
999 Industrial Blvd. Smyrna. 615-459-3900. hickoryfallsrestaurant.com
The family that made one of the area’s most successful restaurants continues to be good to the families who dine with them by offering flavorful low-calorie, gluten-free, and other need-sensitive menus next to signature items like their lasagna, seafood, and steaks. From the kids menu little diners 10 and under can order generous portions of house favorites like grilled chicken tenderloin, spaghetti with meat sauce or Alfredo, hamburger, or steak medallions with hash browns alongside the restaurant's famous "The" baked chicken soup. Items range from $4.29-$7.99.
1115 NW Broad St. Murfreesboro. 615-895-3701. demosrestaurant.com
After 120 years of business, Tennessee's oldest restaurant continues its tradition of serving patrons, from the heartiest eater to its smallest, with tasty family recipes. Little ones can get a pb & j or grilled cheese, chicken tenders, fish, or the owners are happy to make a custom meal to fit a children’s menu for around $6 or less. Check out the daily chalkboard specials for homemade sides like turnip greens, creamed corn, and purple hulled peas, or scrach-made desserts like fudge pie, chesse pie, and fruit cobblers.
113 East Main St. Murfreesboro. 615-893-1303. citycafemboro.com
8. Slick Pig BBQ and Catering
Heralded for its hickory-smoked wings and slow smoked Boston Butt, Slick Pig is a favorite with diners of all ages and stages. Little eaters can get their own $1.50 pulled pork sandwiches or grilled cheese any day, with a $4.99 kid's meal including any entrée and favorite homemade side (like the mac and cheese, or baked or white beans). Picky eaters can enjoy a hot dog, burger, or piece of fried fish for less than $3. Kids eat FREE on Thursdays.
1920 East Main St. Murfreesboro. 615-890-3583. slickpigbbq.com
Admittedly one of my favorite spots (my husband asked me to marry him after a dinner of our favorite calzones and salads), it remains a standard for my family. My daughter devours the pizza and calzones like her mommy and daddy. I’ve never seen my son eat baked chicken faster anywhere else. Kids can also enjoy smaller portions of adult favorites like the kid-sized pizza, baked ziti or ravioli, with a drink and complimentary ice cream for about $6.99.
125 N. Maple St. Murfreesboro. 615-849-8881. marinasonthesquaremenu.com
Anyone with a with food sensitivities knows the angst of searching a menu for something—anything— to eat when dining out. Enter The Tasty Table with its inspired gluten-free and vegan breakfast and lunch options for adults (chick-pea salad tacos or chipotle black bean burger with mango slaw and avocado, anyone?) next to its just-as mouthwatering creations like blackberry bacon grilled cheese or shrimp poboy with homemade rémoulade. Likewise, the kid's menu is one more careful eaters (and their parents) can feel good about—a kid’s cheese pizza (naan or cauliflower crust), an almond-butter and jam sandwich, or grilled cheese with simple sides of fresh fruit, chips or carrots and humus, all for just $5.
215 N. Church St. 615-482-0543. tastytable.net
How'd I do and what did I miss? Share your favorite local restaurant for dining out with kids in the comments below!
Laura Beth Payne is a writer mama living in the Blackman Community of Murfreesboro with her husband Nathan and their two children. Follow @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram for more family fun in and around the city.