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Spring is in the air and that means taking the family on day trips to enjoy the fresh air and statewide attractions.
Springfield, MA is my city and a popular tourism destination. When it comes to food, however, nobody wants to eat like a tourist; we all want to eat where locals eat. This challenge grows when we have kids in tow. As a local mom, I want to make family-friendly dining in Springfield as easy for our visitors with kids as it is for us.
The following list is where my family expects great kid-friendly food and service.
Tucked into 201 Worthington Street in Downtown Springfield, Theodore’s Restaurant is famous for its “Blues, Brews and Bar-B-Que.” Local kids in the know will also tell you it has the best macaroni and cheese in Western Mass. The owner, Keith Weppler, has young kids of his own and he has used this competitive advantage to hone a family friendly atmosphere and menu.
When you walk in the door, you are happily greeted and seated at a table covered in brown paper with crayons for a family mural project. Draw a little, order some great barbeque and cornbread, check out the great artwork on the walls, and bam – your food is served. Theodore’s is not only friendly and yummy, it’s quick, too. For the price, it’s a no-brainer. While appropriate for any age child, Theodore’s might fit in the cool category for your tween/teen traveler.
Red Rose Pizzeria
Photo: All smiles at Red Rose Pizzeria by Jen Garutti
Pizza is one of those foods that every parent seeks out while on the go with kids. In Downtown Springfield, Red Rose has been feeding local families for decades. The restaurant is huge, so the wait for a table is short, if there is any wait at all.
Got a baby? Red Rose is perfect. The large space produces a hum of conversation that literally drowns out any fussy child. No mean stares in this place. The menu is typical Italian and offers something for everyone. Parking is available in the back of the 1060 Main Street building. Red Rose is located close to the MassMutual Center and is an especially great dinner destination for families traveling to events at the convention center.
Crepes Tea House
Photo: Crepes Tea House by Jen Garutti
The Crepes Tea House is a West Springfield hidden gem. Any trip to the Eastern States Exposition (the Big E) should be paired with a meal at the Tea House. Step inside and you’ll feel transported to a Russian café; the television plays Russian music videos and the language is often heard at the “tea bar” or from groups sitting on the comfy black leather sofas.
The Crepes Tea House is family friendly for a few reasons. First, kids love to sit at the sofa tables and experience a nontraditional eating environment (regular tables are available, too). Next, the crepes menu is really dessert. Chocolate, nuts, bananas, whip cream… you get the picture. Of course, there is also a huge menu of healthy and very affordable Russian specialties. Kids will enjoy breakfast food served all day (the bacon is like ambrosia) and adults will enjoy fresh blended teas (there is a 10-page tea menu), along with tasty foods like fish soup, healthy “build your own” crepes and salads. While the staff at Crepes Tea House is always friendly and helpful to families with small children, the teen set might particularly enjoy the cultural experience of Crepes Tea House. Parking on site at 261 Union Street, West Springfeld.
Photo: Snacks and Tea at Crepes Tea House by Jen Garutti
“But Mom, I want a burger and a milkshake!” Burgers and milkshakes are the house specialty at Max Burger, located at 684 Bliss Road in the Longmeadow Shops in Longmeadow, MA. Max Burger is a relatively new restaurant and the most family friendly member of the highly acclaimed Max Restaurant Group.
The menu has PB&J milkshakes for kids (and adults with no calorie restrictions) and phenomenal craft brew selections for adults. The burgers are ridiculously good and the healthy selections are all tasty (my favorite is kale salad with citrus dressing and tuna). Max Burger has a fun atmosphere that is playful and very family friendly. No dress code, no sideways looks for bringing your kids. For a busy dinner night, use call-ahead seating or stroll the Longmeadow Shops and receive a text to your phone when your table is ready. Need to work off some PB&J milkshake? Bliss Park (complete with a six-foot Mr. Potato Head and huge play structure) is a block down the street. Perfect!
Photo: Preparing Food at Frigo’s Gourmet Foods by Jen Garutti
Six Flags, Basketball Hall of Fame, Seuss Sculpture Garden, a romp through Forest Park…exhaustion. Sometimes the kids are just too tired to sit through a restaurant experience. And who wants to cook after a long day of fun? Nobody. Enter Joe Frigo and his centrally located Frigo’s Gourmet Foods at 90 William Street in Springfield. See the Starbucks next to the highway? Grab your afternoon caffeine jolt on East Columbus Avenue and turn right on William Street. Park on site and enter a world of prepared food heaven.
Frigo’s has something for everyone – meatballs, pasta, sandwiches, steak tips, salads, macaroni and cheese, and the list goes on. Need dessert, snacks for the drive home, or wine for later? Frigos has you covered with aisles of food that are portable and healthy (and some not so much) and a well chosen wine selection for every palate and price range. The entire staff of Frigo’s is friendly and helpful. Joe Frigo himself is often behind the counter, giving out cheese samples or warm smiles. If you are a “foodie” you must check out Frigo’s homemade sopresatta and cheeses. Frigo’s is family friendly travel dining made easy.
Photo: Preparing Cheese Samples at Frigo’s by Jen Garutti
Katie Stebbins is a former Springfield city planner and current Springfield resident. Katie is a mother of two and the publisher of BYOFamily.com, a guide to family friendly destinations in the Springfield, MA metro region. To learn more about Springfield, email Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org.