The Most Fun Family-Friendly Chain Restaurants in NJ
New kid-friendly boredom busters are popping up at these great dinner destinations.
When you think of a restaurant your kid will love, does your mind immediately go to Chuck E. Cheese’s? A place where a kid can be a kid, sure, but adults are forced to sit in the middle of a crowded arcade and eat mediocre pizza? We’ve found a few chain restaurants that have found a way to meet parents and kids in the middle, so everyone can relax and enjoy dinner.
Known for their inventive hamburgers and bottomless fries (which are not to be underappreciated), they’ve also started putting cool artwork on the ceilings in some locations (the Secaucus location is pictured below). Combining photos, pop art, landscapes, adorable animals and funny quotes, these are a fun distraction while you are waiting for meals. They’ve got kid-friendly drink concoctions (and boozy milkshakes for the grown-ups) and are currently offering a Tower of D’oh Rings, a stack of cronuts for dessert with a variety of dipping sauces.
Chili’s has upped their bar food game with some deliciously inventive burgers, and guacamole made tableside. Kids love to watch the waiters make it in front of them! And they’ve found a way around the bored kid issue with interactive touch pads at the tables. For 99 cents you can get unlimited apps (games, not food) and tackle trivia or games while waiting for dinner to come. It’s like family game night, where you can play together, instead of everyone ignoring each other which is what happens when you let the kids play on their own electronics at dinner.
From the infuriating little triangle peg game that is impossible to win, to playing checkers in oversized rocking chairs while you wait, this place has a sweet country charm and is a good place to go if you’ve got a craving for fried chicken. And we admit that we’ve found some of our favorite unusual gifts hiding in their general store. The only downside is if the kids beg to go wild in the old-fashioned candy counter.
Joe's Crab Shack
A seafood restaurant (with more than just crabs), where the staffers randomly start doing the Cuban Shuffle and Macarena in the middle of the restaurant, and usually try and bring the kids up to dance with them. They’ve got kid-friendly meals (chicken fingers and mac & cheese) and what kid won’t light up when they see a bib that says “I’m so crabby” on it?
This place was a favorite as a kid, and is making a comeback in a big way. The location in East Windsor has bowling, and has nights where they offer the classic, “Pay What You Weigh” option for the kids. Not a bad deal if you are on a budget. It’s mostly sports bar food, but they do have a great bar. And while much of the old stuff has changed, they still give you popcorn instead of bread while you are waiting for your meal, which is such a fun twist, and there are TV’s at the table for entertainment (if the kids get really restless).
Dave & Busters
Technically not a NJ chain, as zoning laws are still keeping this out of state (for the moment), but there are locations in Pennsylvania, New York City and the Palisades Mall (just over the NJ border in NY), which are fun options for now. It’s got an arcade, but thankfully they keep keep the dining room and the games separated (or we’d never get the kids to eat). They’ve got a big menu with lots of options, a great bar, pool tables and the arcade with skeeball and other fun attractions. Just bring a decent amount of cash for games, as your kids will likely desperately want to play more in order to get extra tickets for prizes.