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Your A-to-Z guide to family-friendly dining in the Boston area

Hot dogs from Hot Doogy in Natick.Handout

There’s a month until school is over, and I’m just done. Between soccer or baseball every night (in either 70- or 40-degree temperatures; who knows?) and end-of-year festivities (why did I volunteer to chaperone a zoo field trip? To spy, of course), I’m spent. Guessing you are, too. So here’s an A-to-Z list of excellent restaurants that will feed your bedraggled, hungry, tired-of-takeout family. Keep it handy all summer long: Many have patios!

Dining options from A-to-Z
WATCH: In the dog days of summer, you might be too hot to even think about cooking. Correspondent Kara Baskin has you covered with family dining from A-to-Z.

Some notes: Almost all take reservations unless very casual. (Why on earth would I send you somewhere to wait?) Most have adult beverages. I did not pick restaurants that are stereotypically kid-friendly — chicken tenders and fries — but, rather, businesses that have universally good food and where kids will find something to enjoy. After all, maybe your child adores caviar and smoked pineapple. Far be it from me to assume. Most have noise levels where a child will blend in seamlessly, but not deafeningly. Good luck!

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Aceituna Grill: The fourth location of this low-key mezze parlor just opened in the Back Bay. It’s a welcome, kid-friendly pit stop if you’re out strolling, and less scene-y than other Newbury options. Grab falafel, hummus, fries — and for grown-ups, sip from a cocktail list created by the late, great Boston bartender Brother Cleve. Various locations,


Buttermilk & Bourbon: I will forever sing the praises of B&B’s Watertown location because you can make reservations for their huge patio instead of standing around with squirmy kids, waiting and hoping. It’s next to tons of other stores (Marshalls! Old Navy!), so you can fold in errands. There’s a fire pit. The fattening, festive food comes out fast. And it’s so good! My kids devour the fried chicken, glazed biscuits (bring wipes of some kind), and beignets. There’s also a Boston branch, but this is the child-friendly one. 100 Arsenal Yards Blvd., Watertown,


Code 1 BBQ: If you’re in Wilmington, and why wouldn’t you be, this is your place. Actually, it’s your place if you’re anywhere within a 10-or-so-mile radius of the Burlington Mall. Mac-and-cheese, a pork belly sandwich dripping with cheese sauce that tastes like a Big Mac, mashed sweet potatoes that would fool even the finickiest kid: What’s not to love? 211 Main St., Wilmington,

Seared octopus at Dali in Somerville.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Dali: Oh, Dali. As storied Somerville restaurants are dying by the day, somehow, pioneering tapas parlor Dali endures. It opened in 1989, when many of you were eating Hoodsies. And it retains that old local charm, with neighborhood characters mixing with sangria-swilling students. While not exactly a kids’ restaurant, it’s kid-appropriate, because it’s fast, atmospheric, loud, and shopworn in the best possible way. And: You can make reservations. 415 Washington St., Somerville,

El Peñol: An East Boston family institution for 25 years, now with branches in Revere and Brookline. This is your Colombian haven for budget-approved turnovers, juicy-spicy empanadas, huevos rancheros, and a kids’ menu under $7, washed back with papaya juice for them and a mojito for you. Authentic, cheap, divine. Various locations;

Flavor Boom: This is your spot when you’re tired (or ashamed) of your takeout habit. Flavor Boom — named by owner Jim (Jun) Tao’s kids — serves speedy spins on gourmet rice bowls from around the world (Tao is also a world traveler). Get family-, individual-, or kid-sized bowls (with a toy!) of braised beef, shrimp curry, tamarind chicken, veggie stew, and lots more, spiced assertively but not off-puttingly for picky eaters. Various locations;


Spicy chicken Karahi at Flavor Boom on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Grendel’s Den: Ah, a slice of old Harvard Square, served with a side of soup: Where else in the neighborhood can you get an enormous tuna melt and chowder for $8.95 (at lunch, anyway)? Unpretentious, cozy, well-located since 1971. 89 Winthrop St., Cambridge,

Hot Doogy: Your child-friendly refuge on Route 9. Took my kids here after getting fitted for skis and they didn’t know what to do with themselves. Top your dog with cheese, bacon, pulled pork, steak-and-cheese, mashed potatoes … and give in to a mind-numbing array of sodas and shakes, including one made with Ovaltine (remember Ovaltine?). 1300 Worcester St., Natick,

Il Casale Belmont: You’re meeting your parents for dinner, and they don’t want anything “weird.” You’d love to go out but can’t find a babysitter. Your sobbing colleague needs a glass of wine and pasta — tonight — but you need to get home quick. Belmont’s Il Casale has that magical combination of last-minute availability, indoor-outdoor dining, and good food (arancini especially). 50 Leonard St., Belmont,

Puttanesca pizza at Jinny’s Pizzeria in Newton Centre. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Jinny’s: Sophisticated yet accessible pizza in Newton Center, from the trustworthy team behind Little Big Diner and Sycamore. The crusty-chewy pies are Neapolitan-ish in nature, but what seals the deal is that they offer sides of buttermilk ranch dressing for dipping. No shame. 1231 Centre St., Newton,


Kong Dog: After browsing the obscure comic-book wares at Davis Square’s Comicazi, blow your kids’ minds and bring ‘em to Kong Dog, where they can enjoy corn dogs rolled in Cheetos, Doritos, and fruity pebbles. You’ve done worse things as a parent. 236 Elm St., Somerville,

La Brasa: Ever since I saw a toddler banging on a piano in the entryway of this raucous carnivore’s den in East Somerville, I started recommending it to friends who wanted a tasty (if loud) night out en famille. Expect wood-fired ribs, steaks, tacos, all from L’Espalier veteran Daniel Bojorquez, served in an industrial-chic atmosphere with lots of families trying to leave before 8 p.m. 124 Broadway, Somerville,

Monica’s Vinoteca: Just ate here on Mother’s Day with my family, partially because it’s one of the few top-tier North End spots that takes reservations (we couldn’t envision waiting outside Daily Catch for two hours), but also because it’s just so good. Fresh pasta comes from their namesake shop; I’m still thinking about the mussels and fettuccine in a spicy, garlic-bombed tomato sauce. My kids split an enormous, shoe-shaped sausage pizza. Improbably, they also have excellent margaritas. 143 Richmond St., North End,

The Neighborhood Restaurant: Bow Market might be trendy, but the Neighborhood Restaurant was actually in the neighborhood before it became cool. A kids’ menu, $6.99 Belgian waffles, lunches that actually come with soup and dessert, and plenty of Portuguese seafood specialties: This place is a find. “Treat your customers like it’s the first and last dollar you’re going to make. I embed this in our girls. If I hear one ‘I don’t want to be here today’ attitude, you’re never going to be here again,” is how owner Sheila Borges-Foley once described her hospitality ethos. Maybe introduce her to your toddlers? 25 Bow St., Somerville,


Ovenbird: This sunny, lovable Belmont cafe (formerly Vicki Lee’s) has many of Vicki Lee Boyajian’s classic sweets, with fresh touches from new owner and longtime employee Jason Reed: ham-and-pimento breakfast sandwiches, big roast chickens to go, matcha lattes. A good place to steal a half-hour with coffee while your child is taking some kind of lesson nearby. 105 Trapelo Rd., Belmont,

The pizza knots at Parm in Burlington.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Parm: Sure, it’s from New York, and it’s at the Burlington Mall (also at Copley), but I like it anyway. You can sit outside. The service is fast and forgiving. There’s a kids’ menu. There are pizza knots. There’s the most divine rigatoni in pink sauce. The food is actually similar to that of Back Bay sister restaurant Contessa, where you could dine for thrice the price. Plus: Reservations! Various locations,

The Quiet Few: They call themselves top-shelf low-brow, and it’s true: Here, caviar comes alongside hot dogs; you can drink fine whiskey aplenty but also slurp frozen margaritas. There are burgers, fried chicken, and a big bowl of Grillo’s Pickles (somehow, my Kindergartner’s favorite snack; he has the palate of a pregnant woman). 331 Sumner St., East Boston,

Rubato: My kids love bao, especially stuffed with buttery, silky barbecued pork. Rubato serves these fast and furiously. Plus: peanut butter-stuffed French toast, and Hong Kong and Cantonese classics like steamed rice rolls and pork chops with tomato sauce over rice. Owner Laurence Louie used to work at Oleana. (His favorite dish is the fried chicken bolo bao.) 412 Hancock St., Quincy,

Sichuan Gourmet: Sichuan native Zhong Li founded this family of Greater Boston restaurants (we go to the Burlington branch), where my kids devour the well-done basics, like scallion pancakes and boneless spare ribs — and where I can find endless treasures on a separate Sichuan delicacies menu: sinewy beef tendon; wontons dribbling forth with a brown-sugar-scented chili sauce; and ma po tofu that has sustained me through several sinus headaches. The dining room is cacophonous, though efficient. Various locations,

The Chengdu spicy dumplings at Sichuan Gourmet.Joanne Rathe

Tenoch: Fast-casual tortas, tacos on corn tortillas, and lots more: My kids do enormous pork quesadillas (they can split one for under $9), while I prefer the deeply smoky mole enchiladas or maybe a beef tongue taco from their Medford or Davis Square branches. The menu is bigger than your average fast-casual Mexican restaurant, and there’s even breakfast. Various locations,

Ula Cafe: The coffee and pastries are nice, but this is also a great spot for teaching kids a lesson in kindness: Buy something for a neighbor, and Ula will post it with a sticky note on their “Pay It Forward” wall for someone who needs it. Pick your donation, and the recipient can visit the wall to choose their treat. 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain,

Via Cannuccia: This brand-new Dorchester trattoria serves Roman food in a tranquil setting by night, but by day, it’s a carb haven from accomplished Italian baker Stefano Quaresima. Depart from Dunkin’ next weekend and try his croissants and doughnuts instead. 1739 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester,

Baked goods at Via Cannuccia.Handout

Winsor Dim Sum House: There’s a teensy location in Chinatown, but the vast Quincy branch is the dim sum parlor of your chaotic dreams: Tick off what you’d like from a seemingly endless menu (and you’d like steamed pork buns and clams in black bean sauce), then wait for 30 seconds before platters clang down on your table, one after another, until chili oil dribbles down your chin and you’re grinning like an idiot. We’re in and out, stuffed and satisfied, in under an hour and off to sports or a nap. 706-708 Hancock St., Quincy,

Project X Street Pizza: Nestled within the uber-techy Revolution Hall in Lexington (one of those places where you order with a QR code and fill your own wine glass from a machine), you’ll find next-gen pizzas topped with vegan jackfruit, buffalo chicken and ranch, and even chocolate chip cookie dough. Your kids can play ping-pong. 3 Maguire Road, Lexington,

Yellow Door Taqueria: Quality, unusual taco pairings in the South End, Lower Mills, and Mission Hill: Their scallop frito taco, with a creamy jalapeno-celery mayo and pear molasses on fresh, warm corn tortillas, is something I long for every day at lunchtime before microwaving my Trader Joe’s frozen taquitos. Very kid-friendly; easy to make reservations. Plus: queso. Need I say more? Various locations,

ZaZ: Glorious Caribbean-Asian fusion in Hyde Park (and now at Boston City Hall) founded by one-time aspiring dentist Olrie Roberts that hits every craving: jerk chicken and shrimp, Thai basil fried rice (his favorite), salmon hush puppies, and a mountain of chicken and waffles — this is gluttonous, gorgeous food that transcends kid-versus-adult palates. It’s just good. 1238 River St., Hyde Park,

Kara Baskin can be reached at Follow her @kcbaskin.