Can we get a collective sigh of contentment and relief for outdoor summer dining with kids?
Even though we aren’t New York or Chicago or even Seattle, the Twin Cities is full to the brim with great venues to eat outside weather it’s our local Applebee’s or one of our many breweries. Just this past weekend, I enjoyed a meal on the rooftop terrace of Cossetta’s. As we chatted and watched the sunset, I was reminded of why I love Minnesota.
Outdoor Summer Dining with Kids
Summer brings an outdoor dining experience to patios and green spaces, places where it’s generally OK to turn up the volume just a little. Some eateries even offer their visitors a corner where kids can create just a little distance from the adults. Our kiddos are far past the baby and toddler years, but 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.
And as these locations are outdoors and seasonal, they are without exception within walking or easy driving distance to countless classic Twin Cities attractions.
1. Malt-T-Melt Malt Shop | Veterans Memorial Park, Richfield
Mmm…pizza 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 yummy personal pizzas and a chocolate malt to cap off a stellar family day in the park.
Open 10 am-9 pm (May 21, 2022-July 24, 2022, hours change on July 25, 2022) It is walk up counter service and dining is done outside.
2. Sea Salt Eatery | Minneapolis
4801 Minnehaha Ave S, 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. While we realize that might not be a kid’s choice night out, the location is hard to beat. The outdoor patio is a blessing for those blessed with squirmy kids on beautiful summer days.
Open 11 am-8 pm No online orders
3. The Drive-In Restaurant | Taylors Falls
572 Bench St, Taylors Falls
- The Drive-In Restaurant
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.
The Drive-In is open and currently offering takeout and curbside pickup.
4. Tiny Diner | Minneapolis
1024 E 38th St, 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.
Open 8 am-8 pm
5. FIKA | American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis
2600 Park Ave, Minneapolis
- FIKA at the American Swedish Institute
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.
Open Friday-Wednesday 11 am- 3pm, Thursday 11 am- 7 pm
6. Two Pony Gardens | Long Lake
1700 Deer Hill Road, 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, and live music. Bring your blankets, dishes and utensils, beverages and side dishes to complete possibly the most unique outdoor family dining experiences of the summer!
Two Pony Gardens Pizza Events to be Announced in June.
7. Minnesota State Fair | Minneapolis-St Paul
1265 Snelling Ave North, St. Paul
- Outdoor Summer Dining at the Minnesota State Fair
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.
12 Days of the Minnesota State Fair August 25-September 5, 2022
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 surrounded by greenery. And we also feel super fortunate to live in an area bursting with beautiful spaces for picnics. We’ve put together a spot of the top picnic sites in Minneapolis 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 classic bites of food. 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
4135 W Lake Harriet Parkway, Minneapolis
- Lake Harriet
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!
Bread & Pickle is currently open. 8 am-close
If you are looking for a place that offers both indoor dining and outdoor seating, sign up for some of your local restaurants’ newsletter. They will let you know when they offer al fresco dining. Many restaurants in local neighborhoods have added or increased their outdoor dining options due to health restrictions in the past few years. Whether they have set up picnic tables in the backyard or created sidewalk seats out front (like Hazel’s in NE Minneapolis), it’s not uncommon to find an outdoor seat at the rooftop bar or in a tent.
Tell us what outdoor space you enjoy dining at with your family.
Tips for Eating Out with Your Kids
1. Don’t go too late in the day. Try to head out for an early brunch or an early dinner. Hungry kids are crabby kids. And crabby kids are loud–sometimes embarrassing and sometimes irritating and sometimes both.
2. Bring a snack for each child under the age of 6 to tide them over until their food arrives. If you can make it something that you can ration out like fruit snacks (or healthier) that may make it last longer.
3. Order kid-friendly food. Even check out the menu before you arrive as to know what is available. We’ve learned things like cheese and tacos and tots are really great options if the restaurant has them. If they don’t, go as basic as possible.
4. Dining out with small children is not the ideal time to get cocktails. They are fairly expensive and when you are focusing on your kids, it’s hard to take a moment to enjoy the artistry of your drink. Stick to something on tap like local beers or ciders–even wines though not on tap–if you are interested in consuming alcohol.
5. Take a moment to sit back and enjoy the weather, enjoy the meal, enjoy the company. Smile at your kids. They aren’t always trying to be naughty. And they are learning how to conduct themselves in public. They will not learn early if you don’t take them out and try it. So great job, Mom. Fabuloso, Dad. You got this, Grandpa!