Family-Friendly Restaurants in Toronto: No Happy Meal Required

Your kids may be more inclined to sippy cups than fine glassware, but that doesn't mean you are stuck in the land of ketchup soaked dinners until they hit 18. Toronto definitely has enough kid-friendly restaurants to get you through the picky years without making you have to sit next to a clown. 

So your kids like pizza. Why not get them used to the real, authentic, neapolitan style pizza at Pizzeria Libretto? The pizza is doughy and wonderfully simple for your kid who only likes cheese and doesn't like vegetables. You may even be building a globe trotter or a gourmand through the excursion.

Or perhaps your kids like sports and television. Make the eye-glueing a bonding experience at Wayne Gretzky's. Raucous and fun, it is a great place to have lunch with the kids and let them blow off some steam all in the name of being a fan. And yes, there are chicken fingers (and bar drinks for you).

If your kids are more into hamburgers and hot dogs, let them expand their meaty repertoire with a visit to Roncesvalles' Barque Smokehouse. There is a kids lunch and brunch menu, where kids can try the brisket wrap and drink their milk out of a plastic cup with a straw. They will also have their own play dough, which was the original Fidget Spinner.

Expand your family horizons and let's chow down together.



High Park/Roncesvalles
The Ace
Photo courtesy of Meghan McKnight

It is a unique experience to take a kid to a hipster bar, but The Ace in Roncesvalles is more than accommodating to its pint-sized customers. The 12 and under set get their own special menu with the Ace's famous burger on it, alongside the typical grilled cheese and spaghetti. Mac and cheese sneaks in some cauliflower florets and sides are not just French fries, if you have the kind of kid who will eat broccoli at a restaurant. Adults get their choice of some of the finest cocktails in the city alongside beautiful dishes like flat iron steak with red wine jus or lamb shank with creamy polenta.

If you have a sports-loving kid, the right thing to do when you are visiting Toronto is to stop over at Wayne Gretzky's in the heart of the entertainment district. Wayne's has 32 high definition televisions that play "all sports, all the time." A great selection of beers, along with martinis that sometimes use Wayne's personal ice wine as a flavour enhancer (who better to create ice wine than a hockey player?) are the perfect refreshment for the adults in the group. Food also serves as a tribute with "The Great One's Burger" with the number 99 (his jersey number) seared onto the bun. The kid's menu includes hockey trivia, a drink and tried-and-true favourites like grilled cheese and fries, which they dub "The Goalie."

Fancy Franks Gourmet Hot Dogs
Photo courtesy of Fancy Franks Facebook page

Sure, you could go and indulge in some street meat. But if you want a hot dog that deviates from the trinity of ketchup-relish-mustard, you must give Fancy Franks a try. To start, they have all premium beef hot dogs, rather than a generic shoulder-shrug of ingredients. The toppings also warrant the $6 price tag with dogs like the Frankaphone, with smoked gruyere, horseradish cheddar, squeaky curds and honey dijon mayo. Or earn the "fancy title" with Fancy-aano dog, with prosciutto, reggiano cheese, balsamic and arugula. You can almost add it to the category of salad. If your kids are fixed on peanut butter and jelly, there is a PB&J dog. Even if you are stuffed, try their amazing mini doughnuts, a steal at $5 a dozen, with flavours like lemon curd & powdered sugar.


The Old Spaghetti Factory has been a landmark in Toronto for 40 years. Originally a blacksmith shop from 1898, the old warehouse was converted into a restaurant in 1971 with high ceilings, European stained glass windows and an 100 year old carousel. Many people happily recall their childhood memories while bringing their own kids to continue the tradition of wearing spaghetti. Adult meals include soup or salad, sourdough bread and spumoni ice cream for dessert. The prices are definitely reasonable for a belly stuffing family excursion. The kids menu runs for under $10 and kids will be delighted with their free ice cream.

West Toronto

If you are looking for a hip restaurant to take your kids, Pizzeria Libretto is your answer. This is the real deal kind of pizza. You may find yourself enthusiastically affirming the taste of real Neopolitan Pizza at Pizzeria Libretto in Italian. Or, if words fail you, "Mmmm" works well in most languages. This pizza has a soft chewy crust that is beautifully blistered by the piping hot oven. Each pizza is made as a single serving and is not overwhelmed with toppings. Cheese and toppings such as duck confit or house made sausage merely accent the pie, allowing it to be melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Crayons and an activity sheet will magically appear in front of your child. Pizzas take just 90 seconds to make, which is just about right for a toddler's attention span.

High Park/Roncesvalles
Barque Smokehouse
Photo courtesy of Jill Chen

If you are a person who hears the words "baby back ribs" and salivates, you must make a trip over to Roncesvalles for a spectacular meal. Owners and childhood friends Jonathan Persofsky and David Neinstein left the corporate world to dedicate more time to their passion of genuine pit BBQ. Every piece of meat is treated like a work of art, and the word succulent doesn't even begin to do it justice. Nosh on the complementary popcorn with dipping sauces as you wait for the meal, and try your best not to drink the homemade BBQ sauce. Kids are immediately handed play dough and colouring books to keep them busy, and simple foods like chicken strips, fresh fruit and fries will keep them as happy as you are with that dipping sauce.

The Beet Organic Cafe

The Beet is a lovely restaurant in the Junction area of Toronto, which supports local farmers, buys fair trade when possible and is proudly 99% organic. You would think that such a model is kid friendly, but you have to enjoy a place that offers things that kids like outside of tater tots. Little ones can choose from bite-sized pieces of tofu or chicken, as well as avocado, cheese or PB&J. Even babies aren't left out, as The Beet will puree banana, applesauce, avocado or sweet potato. There is a sizeable solids menu for adults, including tempeh tacos, rice bowls and an avocado stuffed with brown rice, veggies and topped with spicy peanut sauce and pesto. The whole family can be happy.

Lazy Daisy's may be a modern restaurant in Toronto, but it was built on a long lineage of people who have been caring about where their food has come from. Local farm-fresh food is served to busy coffee guzzlers and leisurely families alike. Kids don't only get to succumb to the pleasures of grilled cheese, but there is also a train table and a basket of books to allow you the chance of a dinner where you are not shovelling your food in your mouth. There is a new kid breakfast every single day, which keeps things simple for developing palates. Adults will enjoy the wide variety of fresh, local food including an egg sandwich served on a country biscuit and a chili made with naturally raised beef from "Farmer Frey."

Piano piano is the rare family-friendly restaurant that is sophisticated, classy and not at all turned off by the antics of your children (which are likely far from sophisticated and classy). The bright look evokes a playful Alice in Wonderland vibe. Adults will be delighted with dishes like eight hour ragu heaped upon made-from-scratch pasta. The kids menu was designed by Chef Victor Barry, Nikki Leigh McKean and Certified Nutritionist Danielle Binns. Trays for picky eaters include crackers and guacamole, blueberries and mozzarella cheese cubes. There is also pasta and pizza, served on a cheerful, silicone "happy mat" which you can buy and take home. After the kids order, they can go to the play room, or battle over a vintage Pac Man game or classic games like dominoes and Go Fish. Going out to eat just became fun again.


Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney