These restaurants are great for kids and parents alike
1225 S Gilbert St, Iowa City
Wait… a brewery on a list of kid-friendly establishments? You bet. The casual atmosphere of Big Grove lends itself well to dining out with kids in tow. The menu of international street food offers choices for both adventurous and discerning eaters and the brewery is known for their great selection of brewed-on-site beers for the 21+ crowd. While the main dining and bar area feature traditional booths and tables, the back game room is equipped with shuffleboard, foosball and ping-pong to occupy waning attention spans. In the warmer months, when youngsters have just got to move around, there’s a fenced in lawn where the kids can run, free-range. For parents who are comfortable with a “longer leash” there’s a new playground close by; Riverfront Crossing Park is just across the bridge behind the brewery. The taproom is usually relatively loud and busy, so there’s a good chance no one will notice when your kid is wailing and having a melt down.
4823 Dingleberry Rd NE, Iowa City
Rapid Creek Cidery chef Matt Steigerwald crafts a beautifully seasonal and locally sourced menu for both brunch and dinner, though brunch affords you the delightful opportunity to soak in your surroundings during daylight hours. The cidery is housed in a huge century-old barn north of Iowa City, and on a blue-sky summer day, its location just can’t be beat. The dining room overlooks neighboring Wilson’s Apple Orchard, and in the warmer months you can sit on the patio and fully immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the orchard. The ciders on tap are crisp and refreshing, and the shakshuka mouth-wateringly good, as is the Braunschweiger toast, but trust there are plenty of options for the younger crowd on the menu, too. After you fill up on brunch, trot down to Wilson’s to walk it off. The orchard is open seasonally August through October for U-Pick visitors. Kids can pick apples to their heart’s content, feast on apple cider and doughnuts in the retail barn and get carted and bounced around the grounds on a tractor ride.
225 S Linn St, Iowa City
The great thing about Bread Garden? There is something for everyone. You can custom order a burger, sandwich, pizza or tacos just the way you like from their digital kiosks. The pay-by-weight hot bar and salad bar have a rotating selection of salads, kitchen-fresh dishes and soups, and the macaroni and cheese is a genuine crowd-pleaser. Adults can make a pit-stop at the wine and cheese bar for a more mature snack but no one is immune to the siren song of the gelato and pastry case where you’ll find everything from homemade cookies and doughnuts to a colorful selection of creamy gelato. The downtown play structure is within eyesight of the dining area so kids can venture off and run wild, stopping back occasionally for a few bites of food and to rehydrate.
616 2nd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids
Another brewery on the kids’ list? Well, Quarter Barrel is part local brewery, part pizzeria, part arcade and definitely family friendly. The menu highlights specialty pizzas (meat, vegetarian and vegan options available) named after Mario Kart characters, but also innovative sandwich preparations and shareable appetizers. The beer list has plenty to choose from––many of them brewed in-house––and features guest taps as well as cans and bottles. And as for the arcade games––there are 40 of them! You’ll find video games and pinball machines; some are free play, the rest range from 25 cents to $1. The kiddos can soak up some arcade history and blow through some pocket money, and adults can enjoy some pizza and a beer from a watchful spot nearby. Kids are allowed at Quarter Barrel anytime the kitchen is open. Once they stop serving food it’s a sign to pack up and head home.
1310 1/2 Melrose Ave, Iowa City
This new neighborhood coffee shop is a great spot for those with tiny companions and an appetite for reading. A full-service coffee bar whips up lattes, cortados and hot chocolate and displays pastry cases lined with freshly made treats from Tip Top Cakes and ice cream from Heyn’s. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are lined with a curated selection of books for purchase, and while they stock titles for both kids and adults, children’s books are the main focus. Owned by a former first grade teacher, Sidekick aims to foster an atmosphere where reading and learning are encouraged and children are welcomed. Every detail has been thoughtfully considered for the smallest of patrons––the hexagonal reading nooks are just right for tiny bodies to lounge and cozy up with a good book and the shop features creative and engaging storytime and multi-sensory experiences on a regular basis. One more unique feature? The cafe is a wifi-free zone in an effort to inspire person-to-person connection, making it a great spot to spend quality, distraction-free time with your sidekick.