Best feel-good favorites for families visiting Charlotte
Charlotte may be in the heart of the South, but family dining here is all about walking that fine line between healthy and hearty to offer feel-good favorites served up in new ways. From pizza and pasta to burgers, tacos, and that oh-so-famous Southern comfort food, there’s something for everyone, even your pickiest of eaters.
Photo courtesy: Big View Diner
1/Pike’s Old Fashioned Soda Shop
1930 Camden Rd.
Pike’s Old Fashioned Soda Shop offers a modern twist on the classic diner. The menu has all the soda shop favorites - burgers, sandwiches, milkshakes, and sundaes - but it doesn’t stop there. It also serves up traditional meals like meatloaf, fried chicken, and pork tenderloin along with beer and wine. There’s no kids’ menu, but there are so many options that your kids definitely will find something. Anywhere I can get chicken tenders and fries for my daughter is a win. But if you want something a little healthier, the menu has soups, salads, a dinner entree called a vegetable plate, and fruit as a side. My family tries to eat as organically as possible, so I love the fact that all of the meat here is vegetarian-raised without hormones or antibiotics. $$
1535 Elizabeth Ave.
After a day of playing and exploring the city, there may be nothing that you want more than a place to sit down and enjoy a sweet treat. Elizabeth Creamery is a family-owned and operated shop that makes homemade ice cream. Here, you can find all your favorite flavors and even some that you’ve never even heard of like Smurf, ginger or green tea. My preschooler really enjoys the bright and colorful atmosphere. Closed on Mondays. $
3/Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
4150 Yancey Rd.
I always thought taking kids to a brewery would be a bad idea, but Olde Mecklenburg Brewery changed my mind. Although it’s the largest locally-owned craft brewhouse in the state, beer is not the only thing that you’ll find. There’s an inside kitchen, plus outdoor ordering stations, serving sandwiches, burgers, and German-inspired entrées. Best of all, there’s a large outdoor space with picnic tables and a side yard for kids to run and play. $$
4/Big View Diner
16637 Lancaster Way
The Big View Diner makes families a big priority. The menu has lots of options for even the pickiest eaters. Whether you want a burger, crab cakes, chicken pot pie or shrimp and grits, it’s all here, plus Greek dishes, salads, and all-day breakfast, too. And let’s not forget about the diner classics like milkshakes, ice cream, cake, donuts, and pie. If you are gluten-sensitive, choose one of the gluten-free options. Tuesday Night is Family Night where you can get three courses served family-style for about $40. $$
Fuel Pizza truly has the best of both worlds - good food that’s good for you. I love that the restaurant uses fresh ingredients and has a Field-to-Fork program that promotes healthy eating choices for children. And your kids are bound to love the make-your-own-pizza party for $7/child. Gluten-free and vegan choices available. $
7/Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
4310 Sharon Rd.
Whoever thought that there would be one restaurant that serves both burgers and sushi? Enter Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. The concept along with the vibrant and casual atmosphere creates a unique experience for kids. Not only can the dishes be served separately, if you have adventurous eaters, they can try items with the two fused together! However if, like my daughter, your kids aren’t quite ready for that, there are still great sandwiches and a kids’ menu with chicken chunks, PB&J rolls, mini burgers, and more. $$
8/Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar
At Bad Daddy Burger Bar, it’s all about food and fun in a laid-back atmosphere. Burger and sandwich options, including sliders, abound here. You can even request custom burgers or salads. Although the kids’ menu is not listed on the website, it does have one that doubles as a coloring page, which is always a plus with an impatient preschooler. $$
9/Mama Ricotta’s Restaurant
601 S. Kings Dr.
Mama Ricotta’s boasts the most authentic Italian food in Charlotte. The restaurant doesn’t have a kids’ menu, but the lunch and dinner menus are filled with traditional Italian dishes that are sure to satisfy. You also can order family-style entrees that feed up to 12 people off the group menu. The only drawback is that you have to make those requests 24 hours in advance. $$
KidTripster Tip: To avoid a wait, I’d recommend making a reservation online.
10/Three Amigos Mexican Grill & Cantina
2917-A Central Ave.
Admittedly, my daughter, again my picky eater, isn’t a fan of Mexican food. But at Three Amigos Mexican Grill and Cantina, I can order classic tacos and margaritas while she opts for hotdogs or chicken tenders. It’s a win-win. And you can have it all at a very affordable price. $
Claresa Smith is a former news producer who grew up in the Charlotte area. These days, she’s happy to be back in her hometown with her husband, exploring the city as the mom of a preschooler and a baby boy on the way.
This writer received some complimentary meals for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.