The dining scene in Miami doesn’t always seem very kid-friendly. There are the trendy, swanky and sleek spots, sure, but it wouldn’t cross your mind to ask for a high chair at most of them.
Yet just because you’re a parent — or have friends who are parents — doesn’t mean you should be banned from dining out. And as Miami becomes a more sophisticated dining city, it is getting better at catering to a complex clientele: people who love good food…and want to share that passion with their children.
Since I take along my two little ones (ages 1 and 4) on nearly all my meals out, I’ve come to know which spots are great at handling an underage entourage. So I’m offering a short list of stylish restaurants where you can dine comfortably with your wee ones.
A note on my criteria: As a general rule, places with ample outdoor seating scored extra points. Any place where there’s usually a wait for a table, where it’s difficult to maneuver and park a stroller or where you cannot get a high chair or booster seat (Gigi and Yardbird, we’re looking at you) didn’t make the cut.
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Tongue & Cheek
With its hip, speakeasy-style décor (Edison bulbs, subway tiles) and adventurous menu (veal tartar, cauliflower panna cotta), this new spot from Tudor House chef Jamie DeRosa doesn’t look at first glance like the best place for kids. But the restaurant gets everything right: music is loud but not too loud, there are plenty of high chairs, and a funky kids’ menu (presented with crayons) touts grilled chicken and vanilla-blackberry milkshakes. There’s even a proclamation that everything’s been taste-tested by the chef’s daughter, Isabela.
431 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-704-2900; tandcmiami.com.
There’s nothing like a bit of distraction in the form of a koi fish pond to keep kids happy while you attend to your meal. This sushi house, located in the chichi Bal Harbour Shops and with outdoor seating flanking the mall’s fish ponds, is the perfect place to introduce your children to the wonders of Japanese food. Munch on robata-grilled short ribs with truffle miso while your tyke tries the chilled udon with chicken and pea sprouts. If you’re there during lunch, the three-course $16 bento box is a bargain.
9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour; 305-864-8600, makoto-restaurant.com.
Located inside a restored Art Deco hotel, this farm-to-table spot is a good bet for brunch or an early dinner. In addition to working magic with sustainable seafood and seasonal ingredients, chef Julie Frans is a mom with two toddlers, so she stocks the kids’ menu with healthy eats like Angus burgers and salmon teriyaki along with sides of Thai black rice and yam fries. Come here Wednesdays at 5 p.m. for the chef’s tour of the poolside organic herb garden and taste the basil, fennel and cilantro that find their way onto her plates.
The Palms Hotel & Spa, 3025 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-908-5458, essensiarestaurant.com.
With a magnificent courtyard sporting a namesake oak tree, this spot from River Oyster Bar’s David Bracha is ideal for bringing along the little ones for evenings out or Sunday brunch. The menu emphasizes modern American cooking with shareable plates of deviled eggs, bison carpaccio and duck pizza. And of course, the same great oysters that have made Bracha’s name synonymous with stellar seafood.
35 NE 40th St., Miami; 786-391-1818, oaktavernmiami.com
Mandolin Aegean Bistro
Festooned with hanging lanterns, white canvas umbrellas and Mediterranean pottery, the courtyard at Mandolin is a dream for folks of any age. Little ones will be focused on the wedges of warm Turkish bread that hit the table as soon as you’re seated. And you’ll come here for bright dishes of Aegean home cooking like tomato walnut dip and fava bean purée, grilled octopus and lamb burgers.
4312 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-576-6066, mandolinmiami.com
Wynwood Kitchen & Bar
The look of this place, centered in Miami’s gritty gallery district, is art world elite. But the reasonably priced menu and casual, come-as-you-are atmosphere lend a family-friendly vibe. The patio, outfitted in Crayola-colored plastic chairs, overlooks the garden with murals by street artist Shepard Fairey. It’s loud and there’s plenty to look at: two things that ought to entice tots to try chef Miguel Aguilar’s ropa vieja empanadas and bacon-wrapped dates.
2550 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-722-8959, wynwoodkitchenandbar.com
There are plenty of excellent dining options at the Fontainebleau, but this open-air brasserie, with its glorious beachfront location and St. Tropez feel, is probably the best bet for a breezy lunch or early dinner (they close by 9 p.m. on weekends). There’s a refined Mediterranean menu with dishes like fava bean agnolotti and foie gras with poached pears and carrot foam. And if the youngsters get antsy, there’s always a walk around the hotel’s five pools to work off some of the energy.
Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-4710, fontainebleau.com/lacote
Sara Liss is the Miami editor of UrbanDaddy and a restaurant contributor to Miami.com. Email her at email@example.com.