Time Out Kids magazine picks 20 of the best restaurants for treating children.
Where to take your kids for a treat – if your children have a favourite food, there’s sure to be a restaurant serving it in Dubai, as recommended by city mums..
Every parent knows that the trick to enjoying a meal out with kids lies in keeping them occupied, preferably with nutritious food they like enough to actually eat, a task infinitely more easily said than done. The good news is that if you’re looking to satisfy both your sophisticated palate and your youngster’s finicky one, Dubai is full of options. Check out these hot spots where both you and your little ones can indulge in a little culinary debauchery.
Your kids want Chicken Nuggets Go to:Chili’s There’s nothing pretentious about this family favourite, and the food is all feel good. Kids will love the thick chicken strips and fries, but beware – they arrive scalding hot, so be prepared to keep your kids entertained while their dinners cool. The service goes just as far towards feeding the soul. Marina Taute of Dubai believes the atmosphere here also makes it a winner. ‘The waiters at Chili’s are always very friendly and joke with the kids,’ she says. And if you don’t mind being the centre of attention (or being sang to), the waiters will make all the fuss you could possibly want on your birthday – or any other special occasion, for that matter.
Chili’s, Garhoud (04 282 8484); BurJuman Centre (04 352 2900); Deira City Centre (04 295 9559); Jumeirah (04 344 1300); Mall of the Emirates (04 341 3355). Open Sun-Thu 11am-12 midnight, Fri 1pm-1am.
Next best thing: Beachcombers or Planet Hollywood Technically a Polynesian restaurant, Beachcombers (Jumeirah Beach Hotel, 04 406 8999) is a good choice, with a view of the Burj Al Arab, a large play pen and range of kids’ dishes. Also try Planet Hollywood (Wafi City, 04 324 4777). With its explosion of sensory input – from the music to the videos to the movie kitsch – it promises kids a fun experience, even if the food is sometimes hit and miss.
Your kids want Burgers & fries Go to:Johnny Rockets Step into Johnny Rockets and you’ll be looking for James Dean and Buddy Holly. A 1950s-style diner – complete with lunch counter and bar stools – this rocking joint isn’t just a pretty face – something you’ll discover with the stellar burgers. ‘Johnny Rockets has a fun, bright atmosphere and very pleasant staff,’ says Debbie Magee, coordinator of Dubai Adventure Mums. ‘It’s a good experience for kids.’ Even if your children think the hip tunes and killer décor are lame, they’ll love the food. With a basic menu sporting substantial treats such as juicy hamburgers, homemade onion rings, hand-dipped shakes and malts, your little carnivores are sure to find something they like here.
Johnny Rockets, Marina Walk (04 368 2339); next to The Village Mall, Jumeirah (04 344 7859); Mall of the Emirates (04 344 7859). Open 12 noon-12 midnight daily.
Next best thing: Fuddruckers or Café Céramique Burgers at Fuddruckers (Garhoud, 04 282 7771) need at least two hands to eat, and there are an array of fresh garnishes to be found at the salad bar. Add a touch of pottery painting at Café Céramique (Mall of the Emirates, 04 341 0144; Jumeirah Town Centre, 04 344 7331), where the creativity will keep minds as well as bellies busy.
Your kids want Pasta & cheese Go to: Romano’s Macaroni Grill One of 240 locations worldwide, Romano’s boasts grilled and seafood dishes, crisp Italian salads, brick oven pizzas, and a host of pasta dishes, all created in the open kitchens. And if child-free adults find themselves compelled to scribble on the paper canvas laid before them, imagine the fun your uninhibited children will have. ‘Romano’s is excellent for kids,’ raves Bonnie Scott-Laws of Mirdif Mums (050 654 8953, www.mirdifmums). ‘They have a hearty children’s menu, and because they don’t use a lot of additives and preservatives, they’re perfect for kids with allergies like my daughter.’ Romano’s are also flexible about meeting your kids’ preferences.
Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Dubai Festival City (04 232 6001). Open Sun-Wed 11am-12 midnight, Thu-Sat 11am-1am.
Next best thing: Johnny Carino’s or Cucina’s With an Italian farmhouse-themed décor, Johnny Carino’s (BurJuman Centre, 04 351 4411) satisfies those who like their pasta simple but tasty. Another good pasta spot for kids is Cucina’s (JW Marriott, 04 607 7977; Courtyard by Marriott, Green Community, 04 885 2222), with singing waiters at the Deira location, spaghetti ice cream, and free food for children who can prove it’s their birthday.
Your kids want Fish & chips Go to:The Irish Village There are few better ways to pass the time than sitting in the sun, listening to live music and enjoying quality pub grub while the kids entertain themselves on the wide grass lawn and chase ducks from the pond. ‘The Irish Village is perfect for kids,’ says Natalie McNicholl of Emirates Hills. ‘There’s plenty of room for them to run around, and they love the fish and chips.’ Children are allowed in the Irish Village until 8.30pm, after which time it can get a bit rowdy. The service isn’t always the fastest in town, but your kids will love the chance to roam outside, and the fresh air will do wonders for their appetites. They’ll need to come hungry too, as the portions are very generous.
The Irish Village, The Aviation Club, Garhoud (04 282 4750). Open 11am-1.30am daily (children allowed until 8.30pm).
Next best thing: Sea World or The Fish Supper Sea World (Safest Way Building, Sheikh Zayed Road, 04 321 1500) offers a good selection, and the prices are reasonable for a family. Also try The Fish Supper in Rashidiya (Bin Sougat Mall, 04 286 1789), run by the Kennedy family and delivering top notch grub.
Your kids want Pizza Go to:Pizza Express Pizza Express avoids heavy crusts and excess toppings, and won’t damage the wallet either if you go for the Dhs30 buffet from 12.30pm-3.30pm, Saturdays to Thursdays – and on Fridays the buffet is free for kids. Looking for a unique party idea? Let your children express their creative pizza dreams. ‘Kids can build their own pizzas,’ manager Ashwin Unni explains. ‘A chef will teach kids how to make a pizza with the ingredients we provide, and then they eat their creations.’ The build-your-own pizza offer is available to school groups, or parents can call ahead to book (minimum of 10 children per group).
Pizza Express, Atrium Centre (04 355 2424); Al Safa Centre (04 394 5616); Bin Sougat Centre (04 285 2393); Ibn Battuta Mall (04 285 2393). Open Sun-Thu 12.30pm-12 midnight, Fri 1.30pm-12 midnight, Sat 12.30pm-12 midnight.
Next best thing: Pizzeria Uno or Chuck E Cheese Pizzeria Uno (Deira City Centre, 04 294 8799) offers both razor thin and deep dish pizzas, as well as sandwiches, burgers and pasta. Or try new opening Chuck E Cheese (Dubai Outlet Mall, 04 367 9600). With a cacophony of sound and lights, games and music, the kids will have a fabulous time and are sure to sleep well later.
Your kids want Quesadillas Go to:Go WestIt’s hard to take a restaurant seriously when you’re sitting in a booth that resembles a chuck wagon, but your wannabe cowboys will eat up the Wild West regalia as much as they will the Tex-Mex. The quesadillas provide just the right blend of crunchy plus gooey for little hands to hold, and parents can dive right into the decadent fajitas. As if eating with your hands weren’t good enough, the live country and western band adds even more to the ranch-style atmosphere. ‘My kids are all about the Wild West theme,’ says Julie Matthews of Bur Dubai. ‘After living in Dubai for so long, the country music is a real change of pace.’
Go West, Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 348 0000). Open 6pm-12 midnight daily.
Next best thing: Cactus Jack’s or Cactus Cantina The quesadillas and fajitas at Cactus Jack’s (Millennium Airport Hotel, 04 282 3464) can be pretty good, but for the discerning parent there’s not a lot in the way of healthy choices. Or head to Cactus Cantina (Rydges Plaza, 04 398 2274), where kids can be entertained by the sight of their parents salsa dancing – yes, we mean you.
Your kids want Noodles Go to: The Noodle House The wiggly wobbly nature of noodles makes it great fun for kids who like to entertain themselves with their dinners, and it can also make a reasonably healthy choice. Selma Ganchi of Emirates Hills says of her favourite, the Noodle House: ‘The food is very good and my kids love it. I only let my children eat healthy food, so the Noodle House is a good choice for us.’ If your kids can rise to the sometimes mature atmosphere, they’re sure to enjoy what they find on their plates. And if you think a particular dish may be too spicy for your little ones, ask the waiter to prepare it without the hot stuff.
The Noodle House, Jumeirah Emirates Towers (04 319 8757); Deira City Centre (04 294 0885); Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 8888). Open 12 noon-12 midnight daily.
Next best thing: Sezzam or Wagamama At Sezzam (Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates, 04 341 3600), kids can watch the chefs at all three separate restaurants – Flame, Steam and Bake – creating a huge range of dishes from around the world. Plus there are clowns and bouncy castles. Wagamama (Crowne Plaza Hotel, 04 305 6060; Dubai Marina 04 399 5900) is another good spot for mini noodle lovers, and you can even take home their cookbook.
Your kids want Ice cream Go to:More Café A step above your basic waffle cone or paper cup, More Café – famous for its giant, delectable mains – dishes up the freshest in frozen delight. Ice cream connoisseurs will lavish in the gourmet selection on offer. Lori Kojok of Emirates Hills loves the unique flavours on offer. ‘I especially love the lemon and mint sorbet. All of their flavours are quite yummy, and they’re homemade too,’ she says. Whether you’re looking for the perfect ending to a perfect meal, or you just need a breather, More Café is a funky spot to get in some face time with your kids.
More Café, Garhoud, behind Welcare Hospital (04 283 0224); Al Murooj Rotana Hotel, off Defence Roundabout (04 343 3779). Open 8am-11pm daily.
Next best thing: French Bakery or Cold Stone Creamery More home-made ice cream awaits at French Bakery (Sheikh Zayed Road, behind Shangri-La Hotel, 04 343 6444), and it’s also open 24 hours. Or try the Cold Stone Creamery (locations at Dubai Festival City, Dubai Outlet Mall) – a fun spot for kids with free entertainment, as crew members sing, joke, dance and juggle while they prepare their ice cream dishes.
Your kids want Milkshake Go to:Baskin Robbins Whether you’re a milkshake purist or you like to go wild with premium toppings like Oreo cookies or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Baskin Robbins can whip up a shake to suit. Mix and match any of the 31 flavors, throw in a few extras, and voila. Kate Weaver of the Gardens says she bribes her kids with this super-thick, decadent treat. ‘For a tough day of grocery shopping, nothing keeps my kids in line like the promise of a strawberry and banana milkshake,’ she reveals. And if you’re very creative, you can even give your milkshake masterpiece points for falling under the ‘dairy’ section of the nutrition chart. Several locations around Dubai, including
Baskin Robbins, Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Festival City.
Next best thing: Starbucks or Applebee’s You’ll find something for the kids at Starbucks (locations all over Dubai) if you’re popping in for a coffee. Just be careful with the calorie count – a 16oz Blueberries & Crème Frappuccino Blended Crème may pack less than a Big Mac, but it’s probably best suited as an occasional treat. If you’re near Sheikh Zayed Road, popping into Applebee’s (04 343 7755) to try an Oreo cookie milkshake should raise a few smiles.
Your kids want Cake Go to:The Lime Tree Café There’s plenty on the Lime Tree Café menu that is sure to please kids – just look at the famous lolly pizza cake for starters. From the decadent chocolate brownie to camel-shaped cookies, you’ll find dozens of ways to reward your kids with something yummy. Though the stand-in-line service can be slow, Terence Newton of the Greens swears by the Lime Tree Café. ‘My toddler goes to town on the carrot cake – it’s a big hit,’ she says. So whether you’re looking for absolute indulgence or something a bit lighter, these luscious treats will surely satisfy your youngster’s cravings. And maybe the promise of a sweet treat can convince them to try a salad while they’re at it.
The Lime Tree Café, Jumeirah Beach Road, near Jumeirah Mosque (04 349 8498); Ibn Battuta Mall (04 362 1900). Open 7.30am-6pm daily.
Next best thing: Mugg & Bean or THE One There’s a reason the folks at Mugg & Bean (Al Ghurair City, 04 222 5222) display their cakes by the main entrance – one look at these sky high creations and you’ll find yourself saving room. Another great cake spot is the café at The One (Jumeirah Beach Road, 04 345 6687), even if you may spend a goodly portion of your time ensuring your children leave the store brand furniture the way they found it.