Crusts off, absolutely no mushrooms and the different foods musn’t be touching: kids can be the fussiest food critics of all. With the school holidays stretching out ahead of us, we embarked on some research. Which restaurants do kids love the most? And what it is that swings the vote for them?
1890 Sushi House
This sushi and Asian food spot is a favourite of Rizzia (12). “She loves the sushi carousel and helping herself,” says her mom, Weg/Go! food editor Aletta Linvelt.
“The gardens are really nice there and I like to play in them while the food’s being ordered,” says Jason (7), son of The Greenhouse chef, Peter Tempelhoff. Jason’s little sister Zara (5) picks Willoughby & Co as her favourite, then changes her answer to Borruso’s, “Cos I like pizza more than sushi and all that stuff.”
Tyler (9), grandchild of food blogger Colleen Grove, says, “They make the best chicken burger, pancakes and crème brûlée and the hot chocolate fondant is to die for.” (There’s also a play area for kids).
Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly also takes her boys – Matthew (6) and Jack (12) – here for “amazing burgers ribs and pizzas and paper on tables and a bucket of crayons and a tot glass full of colored jelly beans with the bill”.
Dixie’s Restaurant and Bar
“They make very good pizzas, burgers and steak. And I love their milkshakes. You can sit outside and watch the beautiful ocean and boats sailing past,” says Tyler.
Liam (4) loves it here. “He’s an adventurous eater and he loves sushi! Can’t get enough of it,” says dad Chris Erasmus.
Another of Tyler’s favourites, “because it’s fun to watch the boats, and the calamari and chips is really fresh and good. The seagulls always wait for food.”
Knead at Wembley Square
Recommended by Kevin (2 years, 10 months). “Pizza is his favourite food – last time he ordered his own topping (chicken). At Wembley there’s a big toy car for kids to ride, and on Saturday mornings there’s a dedicated play area,” explains his mom, journalist and Eat Out reviewer Lisa van Aswegen.
“It’s always filled with smiling people and fast and friendly waiters. My favourite meal at Villagio’s is their Caribbean pizza,” says Chloe (12), daughter of blogger Nina Timm, whose blog My Easy Cooking won the award for Best Local Food Blog at the Eat In Produce Awards in 2012.
Jack (12) is a Royale fan. “He loves the vibe, the fact that the double thick malts are double in volume and the ‘mother son of a B@#%&’ sauce makes the burger really delicious. The malva pudding is soft and juicy,” says his mom, Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly.
Spiro’s Hout Bay
Rizzia (12) likes the relaxed vibe, play area for kids and the calamari, says her mom, Aletta.
Abigail’s boys give Franck Dangereux’s Noordhoek restaurant the thumbs up for its fantastic playground.
Willoughby & Co
“Sarah (9) goes for the Californian salmon fashion sandwich every time. She says it’s cool because they cut it smaller for her. And Elijah (7) always has the fresh battered line-fish with chips (and a bucket of tomato sauce),” says dad, Terroir chef Michael Broughton. Eat Out editor Abigail’s son, Matthew (6), is another Willoughby devotee. “He likes anywhere that makes sushi,” says Abigail.
This spot is great on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, according to Rizzia (12). “Outside the stoep is cosy and relaxed. Deer park is two doors down so she goes there and sits on the swings with her friends when she gets bored with the adults,” says her mom, Aletta.
Joseph (10), son of Steve Maresch of The Local Grill (winner of the Best Steakhouse in the 2011 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards), likes their bunny chow.
This is another favourite of Joseph’s, thanks to their breakfasts.
Jazz Maniacs Restaurant at the Soweto Hotel
“They make nice injaja and chicken mala and sometimes the musicians let me get on the stage with them. Last time I played a Valpré bottle and pretended it was a saxophone,” enthuses Josiah (5), son of Anna Trapido.
Twins Abigail and Aidan also love this spot. “There’s a bike track, state-of-the-art jungle gyms and they always make their own pizzas,” explains Alida.
Annayah (9), daughter of Sel et Poivre chef Coco Reinarz, loves the Hawaiian Pizza. “I really like pineapples”, says Annayah.
Alex also likes the Chinese food here.
Sel et Poivre
Annayah is also a fan of the pasta at her father’s restaurant.
Josiah says, “I like to dress up in a suit with my dad’s tie and me and my mum go out to dinner at the Silver Orange. She has champagne and I have a Fanta with a cocktail umbrella so that I look super grown up.”
Christopher (5) and Matthew (14 months), sons of Eat Out reviewer, Tracy Gielink, like this spot. “It’s in an old house, so there’s an area for smaller kids, plus an area where bigger kids can feed the animals. They make really good, wholesome food, like a gem squash filled with bolognaise,” says Tracy. Linda Burger, of Spice Restaurant, also brings her son, James (18 months), here. “It has a great kiddie play area with a small scale animal farm and lots of chicks running around”.
Circus Circus Beach Cafe
“It’s a great place for weekend breakfasts and there’s a play area for younger kids at the back of the restaurant. If you have older kids, you can sit out on the promenade and they can cycle up and down on their bikes and skateboards. You can also take your dog,” says Tracy.
Jack Salmon Fish House
Tracy’s son Chris loves the potato wedges here, which far overshadow the fish for him. “They’re about to introduce a menu for kids too, and Jason, the owner, is very sweet with kids.”
“All the food is very fresh, and there’s a lovely outside area with a water fountain. They do a really good lentil and sesame burger, and a good breakfast,” says Tracy.
This farm stall has lovely tables outside with space for kids to run around. Tracy says, “A whole community of shops has grown up around it, so there are also places for the children to do ceramic painting and the adults can shop for fresh farm produce (and visit the awesome wine shop)!”
Tracy explains, “This is a normal restaurant, not a family restaurant per se, but they have kids’ pizzas and Matthew had his first-ever pizza there. He just ate and ate. The kids can also run around the shopping centre.”
Christopher and Matthew also enjoy Sage. “The pizzas are really, really good and there are lots of activities for the kids to take part in, like face painting.” says Tracy. “Christopher is addicted to parmesan and we’ve trained him to say ‘parmesan per favore’.” Linda’s son, James, is also a fan. “They have a delightful tree house and a super baby slide and he chomps downs the avo and chicken from my salad.”
Colleen Grove’s grandson Jayden (5) particularly likes Golden River Spur “because they have a really good games area and they have good burgers and ice cream, and you get a toy with a special meal. Oh, and they do good birthday parties and sing and clap for you!” Spur also gets votes from Alida Ryder’s twins.
Anna Trapido’s son, Josiah (5), says, “Sometimes if I’m good and do all my maths homework, my mum lets me go to KFC for a pops meal. If I ask and ask, I get the pops meal before my maths, as long as I do one page of maths then eat one chicken pop, then do another page of maths.”
Coco Reinarz’s 9 year old Annayah loves the Oreo McFlurries.
Christopher (15), son of blogger Nina Timm, says, “I like simple food and I love that you can write on the table cloth (paper). I can be creative and hungry all at the same time.”
Katrin van der Merwe (13), Nina’s niece, says, “My favourite meal there is definitely the spaghetti carbonara. The most wonderful thing is the look of the restaurant and the friendly, vibey people.”
By Katharine Jacobs
Also read our list of child-friendly restaurants across the country.