Eating out with your kids can be fun—or at the very least free. Here's a run-down of some of the top chain restaurants where kids' meals are on the house.
Many a parent who's actually taken the family out to eat knows there's no secret sauce to complement a public meltdown, no side dish that will enhance your little one's Jackson Pollock-inspired splatter of red sauce on his shirt (and yours), and no dessert that can make other diners un-see the grilled cheese carnage that your 2-year old has strewn across and around her high chair. And, let's face it, spending money on these shenanigans is sometimes like adding insult to injury. The good news is, you may not have to.
We've rounded up our favorite family-friendly restaurants where you can feed your little ones for FREE (or almost free)! Pair our picks with a little practice, advance planning, and quick thinking, and next time you dine out you may even be able to avoid that steaming plate of this-may-have-been-a-mistake along with a side of get-me-out-of-here.
For each chain, offers may vary by location, so be sure to check with your local restaurant.
- Applebee's: Select franchises of this "good in the neighborhood", all-American chain offer free kids meals (with the purchase of an adult entree) on certain weekdays.
- Bennigans: After a long absence from the casual dining scene, Bennigan's has relaunched its 40-year old American brand. The reconceived neighborhood pub invites kids to eat for free on Tuesdays with the purchase of 1 adult entree.
- Bob Evans: This family-friendly chain serves farm-fresh American classics with a country feel. Kids eat free on Tuesdays after 3 p.m. with the purchase of an adult entree.
- Cici's: Featuring all-you-can-eat pizza, pasta and desert buffets, Cici's offers a variety of kid-centric bargains. At many of their restaurants, kids eat free on Tuesdays with purchase of an adult buffet. And, depending on the location, kids under 3 eat for anywhere from $0.99 to $1.99 every day.
- Denny's: Depending on the location, children under 10 eat for free once a week at this classic diner/coffee shop with the purchase of an adult meal. Offer available from 4-10 p.m with the purchase of one regularly priced adult meal.
- Dickey's Barbecue Pit: If your family enjoys barbecue, head to Dickey's Barbecue Pit for house-smoked meats, stuffed baked potatoes, and classic sides. Kids eat free all day on Sundays! Dine-in only. 12 and under. Must order from the kids menu.
- IHOP: Breakfast for dinner is always a fun way to get the family together. IHOP frequently offers "kids eat free" promotions, with no charge for a child's meal when you purchase an adult entree. Specific offers vary by location, but typically freebies are Monday or Tuesday from 4-10 pm; offered to kids 12 and under.
- IKEA: At some IKEA locations, kids eat free on Tuesdays at the store's Swedish-themed restaurant, with purchase of an adult meal. Check with your local IKEA for details. All IKEA locations offer free baby food for every adult meal purchased in the restaurant.
- Melting Pot: This popular fondue chain offers something fun for school-aged kids. At select locations when kids earn straight A's at school they can bring in their report card to receive a complimentary 3-Course Petite Feast when they dine with someone who orders a 4-Course Experience. The offer is valid each marking period for students K-12th grade. Check with your local Melting Pot for more information.
- Piccadilly: At this predominantly Southern cafeteria-style chain, kids under 12 eat for just $1.99 all day Thursday and Saturdays from11 a.m. - 4 p.m., with the purchase of an adult entrée. Kid's meals include an entrée, two sides, a drink, and dessert.