You’ve probably had those couple-friends. Back in the day, you had to ban them from beer pong — or at least put them on separate teams —because they won every game. You’d come to rely on their photographic recollection of every craft cocktail list in town. But then they seemed to disappear after the baby shower. Now, “craft” means safety scissors and dried macaroni.
Well, we have a secret: Your cool friends aren’t gone. They like local brew, brunch and patios just as much as before. Maybe you’ve even joined their ranks.
Our ancestors quietly suffered mystery meat and animatronic rodentia at the few places that willingly welcomed their climbing, singing, screaming, rambunctious offspring. No more. Parents need playdates, too. Here are spots to enjoy a grown-up meal or adult beverage while the kids act like children.
Hat Creek Burger Co.
Like so many Austin originals, this meaty place to meet friends started out as a food truck. Soon, founder Drew Gressett found himself father to three adorable little girls, and he saw an opportunity.
While emphasis had always been on making burgers with fresh, high-quality ingredients, Gressett parked Hat Creek at a permanent flagship location and put in a playground. Today, that’s the centerpiece of the company’s 10 locations, including newly opened North Texas outposts in McKinney, Rowlett and The Hill at Walnut Hill in Dallas. Others are expected to open this year in North Dallas, Sachse, Allen and Woodway (outside Waco), a rep says.
Locations vary slightly in style and layout, but most include indoor and outdoor picnic bench seating; think of the setup as a bit like Katy Trail Ice House, but here patrons are encouraged to run around, climb and slide.
Menus stick to classics. You’ll find burgers and fries, chicken sandwiches and nuggets, salads and fried pickles, plus add-ons like spicy sauerkraut, avocado and feta to keep it interesting. Breakfast is popular, too, providing an opportunity to run off energy early in the day. Served daily from 7 to 10:30 a.m., breakfast options include tacos, pancakes and egg platters.
Drinks for grown-ups include Austin-based favorite Cuvee Coffee, plus local craft beer, cocktails and wine. Drinks for kids (well, not just kids), include healthy ones like milk and juice and more indulgent options like build-your-own milkshakes.
Weekly specials include Family Night every Tuesday, with half-price burgers from 5 p.m. to close, and $1 draft beer every Thursday.
A cynical younger set might shy away from East Dallas as the place where people couple up and “retire” from nightlife when they turn 30. For the rest of us, it’s heaven on earth.
Children go to bed early. Here, “nightlife” can happen during the afternoon.
The Lot became an immediate hit when it opened in 2013. Located off the Santa Fe Trail near White Rock Lake, the expansive space features several patios with specific purposes.
Bigger, older children (and grown-ups) can play volleyball, washers, corn hole, foosball and other pick-up games in the Sand Lot. Smaller, younger children can make sandcastles and play gently in the Tot Lot. There’s also a dog friendly lot, a beer garden and area for live music, plus adults-only areas around the bar.
Good food and drinks are a big deal at the Lot, and the menu reflects the restaurant’s weighty size. It’s a great place for a quick bite or a full meal (not to mention weekend brunch), and the kitchen focuses on sourcing ingredients locally. (You’ll find offerings from Henry’s Ice Cream, La Mexicana Tortilla Factory and Emporium Pies, to name a few.)
There’s a solid kid’s menu to boot, with healthy options like a cashew butter and honey sandwich on grain bread and kid-approved fun like state fair-style Corn Dogs.
Drinks for grown-ups include craft beers, many local, plus cocktails and wine, with regular happy hours most days of the week.