Toronto’s top chefs on their favourite kid-friendly restaurants
Dining out with kiddos can be tricky, what with their non-existent attention spans and picky food preferences. But choosing the right restaurant can make a world of difference. According to some of Toronto’s top chefs—and their little ones—not only are these spots kid friendly, but they also offer creative kids’ menus that go well beyond the usual chicken nuggets.
Wong is the chef and co-owner of Patois and Bar Mignonette. He’s also the dad of two boys: four-year-old Milo and two-year-old Knox. (Note: Patois also has a secret kids’ menu that includes dishes like popcorn chicken and Trini mac pie.)
Go-to spot #1: Avling
Why it’s great for kids: “Chef Eva Chin pulls out all the stops whenever we visit this Leslieville brewery. It’s a bright and spacious place for our family to enjoy brunch or lunch, and there’s plenty of space for stroller parking.”
What to order: “For brunch, the Petit Smorgasbord is perfect for kids. It’s a spread of cheese, fruit, a frittata, bread and a granola parfait. For lunch, the chip butty melt is their fave. What’s not to like about fries and cheddar melted into a buttered sandwich?”
Go-to spot #2: Dairy Cream
Why it’s great for kids: “We recently moved out to Port Credit, and to be completely honest, this institution being in the neighbourhood was definitely a selling point. In the warmer months, we love biking over with the kids.”
What to order: “They have the best soft serve ice cream, and they put it on their famous funnel cakes. It’s like Canada’s Wonderland but without the long lines.”
Barr (True True Diner, Saturday Dinette) is currently consulting on a new restaurant in Miami. She’s also the mom of a seven-year-old son named Myles.
Go-to spot #1: Maha’s
Why it’s great for kids: “The restaurant is comfortable, family friendly, and caters to all kinds of food cravings with that Egyptian menu.”
What to order: “My son loves the date grilled cheese sandwich. It’s so comforting, and the dates offer a twist on a familiar classic.”
Go-to spot #2: Il Fornello on Danforth
Why it’s great for kids: “There are all kinds of seating options for small and large groups as well as outdoor seating if the kiddos get bored sitting inside. And the food is very reasonably priced.”
What to order: “Pretty much anything is fair game for Myles. There are a lot of North American Italian plates here. He loves their pastas, like the spaghetti pomodoro with tomato sauce and basil, and their classic cheese pizza.”
Chow is the co-owner of Good Behaviour and dad to a six-year-old daughter named Matilda.
Go-to spot #1: Udupi Palace
Why it’s great for kids: “It’s Matilda’s favourite place right now. She knows the staff, and they’re always incredibly kind to her—they often drop off something sweet to her for dessert. She loves Udupi Palace so much that she once wrote a whole story about it—complete with pictures—for a school writing assignment.”
What to order: “She loves the paper masala dosas. They’re large enough for her to put her head into, which she does every time she gets one. She also loves the chana masala and the kulfi.”
Go-to spot #2: Souk Tabule
Why it’s great for kids: “The staff and customers there are used to kids being in the dining room, and the food is affordable and delicious.”
What to order: “Beirut chicken and rice is one of my daughter’s favourite dishes. And, if she’s particularly amped up, we can also just grab everything to go and have an impromptu picnic in the nearby Corktown Common.”
Horne is the district executive chef of Canoe, Auberge Du Pommier, Maison Selby, Biff’s Bistro, Jump Restaurant, and the Rabbit Hole. He’s also the dad of nine-year-old Kaitlyn and five-year-old Mason.
Go-to spot #1: Kinka Izakaya in North York
Why it’s great for kids: “This spot was within walking distance from our old house, so we’ve been taking the kids since they were babies. We love their Japanese pub food, and the service is quick, so you’re in and out. The kids get a kick out of how the staff give everyone a loud, enthusiastic greeting as soon as you walk in the door. Mason likes to wait by the door and watch staff greet guests over and over.”
What to order: “They love the karaage fried chicken, the ponzo beef carpaccio, the Kinka udon, the bibimbap and the black sesame spinach.”
Go-to spot #2: Parcheggio
Why it’s great for kids: “We’ve never really had a great pasta spot in North York until Parcheggio opened. My kids absolutely destroy chef Andrew Piccinin’s bowls of fresh pasta. This is where we first got our daughter into stracciatella, and now she’s obsessed with it. It’s also great because they have semicircle booths, so my kids can’t get up and run away from us—they’re literally trapped. The servers are also very patient with the kids: they have smart conversations with them and bring them crayons and colouring book pages without us even asking.”
What to order: “The kids’ favourites are the tagliatelle bolognese, the rigatoni rosé, the stracciatella, and the house-made focaccia.”
Lu is the senior sous chef of Chotto Matte and father to 15-month-old Nathan.
Go-to spot #1: Pho Con Bò
Why it’s great for kids: “This is a family-owned Vietnamese restaurant that has been around since I was young. My family and I come here on weekends for lunch, most of the time after going grocery shopping next door. It’s always filled with Vietnamese families enjoying flavours that remind them of home.”
What to order: “Vietnamese beef noodle soup, grilled chicken with broken rice and fried egg. They’re Vietnamese staples and great dishes for sharing.”
Go-to spot #2: Ricci’s Pizzeria and Sandwich Shoppe
Why it’s great for kids: “Ricci’s means a lot to me as this was the first spot I took my son out to eat. He was so intrigued by the chefs tossing the pizza dough. It’s an overall easy go-to family spot for us.”
What to order: “The cheese pizza is a classic kid-friendly choice.”
Yeung is the chef and owner of Wonton Hut. He’s also the dad of three-year-old Cosette and 14-month-old Cody.
Go-to spot: Providential 9
Why it’s great for kids: “We love their dim sum as well as their dinner menu. The dining area and washrooms are very clean, which is an important factor when I’m choosing a restaurant to take my kids to. Dim sum is a family oriented tradition, and I think it can be an educational activity for the kids to learn table manners, how to share food and the names of their favourite dim sum. There are high chairs for small children and various private rooms to provide privacy—so we don’t have to worry about disturbing other customers when the kids are being loud. It’s a local gem.”
What to order: “Both of my kids love steamed buns, rice rolls and congee the most. Cosette has become quite adventurous in trying new dishes, though, and her new favourite is har gow.”
Olivier Le Calvez
Le Calvez is the executive chef at Casa Madera. He’s also the dad of 10-year-old Andres and seven-year-old Olivia.
Go-to spot #1: Tabule on Queen
Why it’s great for kids: “After nine years of being in Canada, we can always depend on the consistent recipes and flavours that Tabule offers. And—although they’re young—my kids can always tell if a recipe changes, so consistency is key for them.”
What to order: “Pita and hummus is a go-to snack or starter for both of them. Olivia has a more simple palate and is happy with chicken fingers and fries. Andres is a little more adventurous and likes to explore new types of foods and dishes. He loves the cauliflower, the tawuk and the garlic shrimp dish.”
Go-to spot #2: El Catrin Destileria
Why it’s great for kids: “They have a large, loud space that makes it easy for the kids to have fun without bothering other patrons. They also have a great kids’ menu and a giant patio, perfect for the warmer months.”
What to order: “My kids love the esquites, arroz con pollo and, of course, churros. They always turn to these dishes because the flavours remind them of Mexico.”
Regular is the executive chef and co-owner of Pai, Kiin, By Chef Nuit, Sabai Sabai and Sukhothai. She’s also the executive chef of Selva and mom to 15-year-old Marlee and 23-year-old Phai.
Go-to spot: Figs
Why it’s great for kids: “I always took the kids to this breakfast spot when they were younger, and we still go to this day. Jeff and I were usually working in the evenings at one of the restaurants, so we rarely got to go out together for dinner. Breakfast time was a special time that I got to spend with my kids. You always see different generations in the restaurant having breakfast together. And there’s the beautiful aroma of bacon and eggs frying, bread being toasted and fresh brewed coffee. It reminds me a little of my childhood, when I would go to the morning market with my mom.”
What to order: “My daughter usually gets scrambled eggs, sausage and rye toast with marmalade. My son typically gets something a bit heartier, like steak and eggs.”