Can we get a collective sigh of contentment and relief for outdoor summer dining with kids?
Even with kiddos far past the baby and toddler years, we at FFTC are crazy about the Twin Cities eateries who understand that dining out with children can be the opposite of a relaxing meal. Summer brings patios and green spaces, places where it’s generally OK to turn up the volume just a little, even corners where kids can create just a little distance from the adults. And as these locations are outdoors and seasonal, they are without exception within walking or easy driving distance to countless classic Twin Cities attractions. Here are ten of our summer favorites:
1. Malt-T-Melt Malt Shop | Veterans Memorial Park, Richfield
Mmm…grilled cheese and malts with a side of 18 holes of mini golf. Need the kids hear more? That’s what Malt-T-Melt has in store for you should you stop by on a sunny summer day. Plan to make a day of it at Veteran’s Memorial: Start the morning by shopping at the on-site farmers market (family activities scheduled most Saturdays, 7am-noon). Hit the links at Adventure Gardens Mini Golf, then perhaps take a spin in a surrey available from Wheel Fun Rentals. Finally, fuel up with gourmet grilled cheese and a chocolate malt to cap off a stellar family day in the park.
2. Sea Salt Eatery | Minneapolis
Within a stone’s throw of the inspiring Minnehaha Falls, the splash-happy Wabun Picnic Area, numerous playgrounds and side trips to historic sites, Sea Salt is a sublime summer destination for an outdoor meal. There’s a boatload of fish on the menu, and we realize that might not be a kid’s choice night out, but the location is hard to beat. The outdoor patio is a blessing for those blessed with squirmy kids on beautiful summer days.
3. The Drive-In Restaurant | Taylors Falls
After exploring 6 Things To Near Taylors Falls, it’s time to head to the Drive-In for some sustenance. It’s possible the joint hasn’t changed noticeably from its opening day in 1956. Carhops outfitted in poodle skirts serve up baskets of burgers and fries, the root beer is brewed onsite, and the music piped in takes you back to a different era. If your kids are old enough, they might play a round of Adventure Falls Mini Golf (also onsite) while you savor a sundae at the outdoor counter and reflect on all the family fun packed into this Minnesota-Wisconsin border town. Everybody wins with a trip to Taylors Falls.
4. Tiny Diner | Minneapolis
There’s nothing tiny about our admiration for this eatery + urban farm in Minneapolis. If dining on a summer day, pick the outdoor patio to enjoy your locally-sourced meal. The gardens have been designed as a pollinator habitat and kids who don’t relish staying seated will love exploring the flowers, herbs and hiding places. Also appealing to kids (and their parents!) is a lineup of pay-what-you-can summer camps and delicious $5 meals – including all-day breakfast – for diners 12 & under.
5. FIKA | American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis
We’re already big fans of ASI and their attention to family-friendly exhibits. Their eatery FIKA takes our love one step further by offering a sunny courtyard to enjoy their meatballs and gingerbread in. Plenty of green space for kids to explore and a play cart stocked with bubbles, hula hoops and other lawn games adds to the fun. Open Tues-Sun, find hours here. There is no admission charged to eat in the cafe or to play outside on the lawn.
6. Two Pony Gardens | Long Lake
What’s better than really terrific pizza? How about really terrific pizza chock full of the freshest ingredients served outdoors and straight from a woodfire grill? That’s what you can sink your teeth into at one of the many pizza farms scattered on the outskirts of the Twin Cities. We love how Two Pony Gardens hosts themed pizza nights that appeal to families with nature walks, farm baby encounters, live music and puppet shows with Open Eye Figure Theater. Bring your blankets, dishes and utensils, beverages and side dishes to complete possibly the most unique outdoor family dining experiences of the summer!
7. Minnesota State Fair | Minneapolis-St Paul
The Twin Cities’ final summer bash is, in our opinion, the ultimate destination for seasonal outdoor dining with the kids. For one thing, much of the grub is highly portable (over 80 options come on-a-stick). For another, there are a staggering nearly 500 menu items packed along the sunny streets between exhibits. Definitely something for every taste in your family from the pronto pup to the deep-fried alligator. And did we mention the fantastic people-watching to be had while scarfing your fare? To find a new favorite, try the State Fair’s Fabulous Food Finder (live in July). To find some fun between all that “fare”, try our list of 50 Things To Do at the Minnesota State Fair.
8. Twin Cities picnic sites
Eating out of doors doesn’t have to be anything fancier than throwing a meal of sandwiches together and grabbing a blanket to park it on. We feel nearly everything tastes better out in the fresh air. And we also feel super fortunate to live in an area bursting with beautiful spaces for picnics. Local blogger Alice Seuffert of Dining With Alice has put together a lovely list of the Twin Cities Best Picnic Spots and made sure to include all the family fun you can soak up before and after your meal!
9. Food Trucks
Chances are, if you’re out exploring one of the many urban attractions in the metro, there’s a food truck parked nearby at the ready. They are usually quick, convenient and make for great spontaneous picnics at downtown parks like Rice Park in St Paul and Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. We’re huge fans of all the ethnic and inventive foods offered by these cuisine-mobiles, but understand that often times kid-sized palates are hankering for something a little more classic. We’ve rounded up a list of Twin Cities Kid-Friendly Food Trucks to take on their summer appetites.
10. Bread and Pickle | Lake Harriet, Minneapolis
In the summertime, Lake Harriet — one in the lovely Minneapolis Chain of Lakes — beckons families with dozens of activities. Beaches, parks, pedal boats and bike rentals, and trolley rides, just to name a few. Make a day of it exploring the lake, then head to Bread and Pickle, adjacent to the Lake Harriet Band Shell, for picnic supplies before catching an outdoor concert or movie as part of Minneapolis Music and Movies in the Park. No patiently coaxing the kids to remain seated here!