With child-friendly (but not children’s menu) food, wonderment-inducing settings and ample distractions, these restaurants are perfect for the whole family.
Honey’s Sit N Eat
This Southern/Jewish brunch mecca opened in Northern Liberties back when Northern Liberties was a sketchy neighborhood few Philadelphians bothered to explore.
Now, NoLibs is booming, and Honey’s has had so much success there, it spawned an offshoot a couple years ago in the family-centric Graduate Hospital hood. This is the one to bring your kids to; it’s big and bright and open all day. The updated diner-style menu includes plates like breakfast quesadillas, matzo ball soup, towering Reubens, tuna melts and a deep-fried banana split featuring battered bananas, chocolate syrup, toasted pecans and fresh whipped cream. Keep in mind: Honey’s is cash-only. 2101 South St., 215.732.5130; 800 N. 4th St., 215.925.1150
North Bowl and South Bowl
These bowling alley brothers sit on either side of town. The original is in Northern Liberties on a strip lined with restaurants and shops; the latter, newer complex is down in deep South Philly by the UPS headquarters. Both have gleaming lanes, pool tables, vintage arcade games and full kitchens serving stuff like Korean-glazed wings, avocado hummus, pretzel bites and fresh takes on TV dinners. 909 N. 2nd St., 215.238.2695; 19 W. Oregan Ave., 215.389.2695
Expect your wallet to recoil in pain, but it’s hard to beat the Moshulu in terms of a dramatic setting that kids—especially nautically inclined ones—will, ahem, go off the deep end for.
Built in Scotland in 1904, the Moshulu is the largest and oldest square rigged sailing vessel still afloat—and the only one that houses a full-service restaurant. After a long history transporting lumber, steel and grain to and from San Francisco, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Norway, Ireland and everywhere in between, the ship eventually settled on Penn’s Landing, where it opened as a restaurant in 1975, closed after a fire in ’89 and reopened in ‘96 following a full restoration.
The menu mixes continental throwbacks (iced seafood plateaus, surf and turf) with more on-trend attempts like house-made charcuterie, Rohan duck and kale salad. But really, you’re here for the ambiance. Especially for kids who can be antsy in white-cloth restaurants, the Moshulu provides lots of opportunity for distraction. Take a stroll on the decks between appetizers and entrees, for example. The staff is used to the kind of wonderment and exploratory instinct this big old ship can inspire. 401 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd., 215.923.2500
The Lai family, refugees from Vietnam, came to Philadelphia in the late 1970s: mom, dad and eight kids. They opened a little grocery in West Philly in 1982 and two years later, a dignified sit-down called Vietnam that has become a linchpin in the Chinatown restaurant community.
Benny Lai took over the family business in the late nineties and in 2009 opened Vietnam Café, a casual, joyful offshoot near the original West Philly market. Candy-colored lanterns dangle from the ceiling and mutli-generational families gather at group tables. This is a favorite place for Penn and Drexel students to bring their visiting parents.
Vietnam Cafe is the perfect place to take kids who are slightly adventurous. Though the cooking is authentic and delicious, it’s less hardcore than what you’ll find in South Philly. Think beef-stuffed grape leaves, vermicelli bowls and brisket pho. Order a flaming tiki cocktail (for you, not the kids) for a theatrical thrill. 816 S. 47th St., 215.729.0260
Bing Bing Dim Sum
Funky, unorthodox dim sum gets the neighborhood’s graphic artists, indie film producers and jewelry designers in the door at Bing Bing, but it’s actually one of the most family-friendly restaurants on the Avenue. Kids will love the honey-glazed caterpillar bread, hot dogs swaddled in steamed bao and the big booths fashioned out of Chinese wedding beds. Parents will love the soup dumplings, slow roasted short ribs over congee and tiger-strength cocktail pitchers. 1648 E. Passyunk Ave., 215.279.7702
Stephanie and John Reitano have long been known for outstanding gelati and sorbetti at their chain of scoop shops, Capogiro. Now, the couple has set its sights on pizza with Capofitto, a sweet little pizzeria in a former paper factory. Society Hill nannies and roving British tourists pack the dining room’s fire-engine-red chairs and rainbow loom banquettes bathed in the glow of the wood-burning oven. The pies that 900-degree beast produces are peppered with toppings ranging from classic to exotic. Think guanciale, Piennolo tomatoes, ‘nduja and other Italian delicacies—or a straightforward, perfectly executed Margherita. After dinner, little ones will love picking out their gelato from the glass case up front. We suggest chocolate or coconut for them, Campari-grapefruit for you. 233 Chestnut St., 215.897.9999
Marra’s Cucina Italiana
One of the longest-tenured restaurants on East Passyunk Avenue, this wood-paneled red-gravy hall dates back to 1921 and oozes old-school South Philly charm. Listen carefully, and you can hear the thwack! of the chefs pounding veal cutlets for gigantic parmigianas over the been-there-forever waitresses who will happily coo over your kids. And for moms and dads: The cocktail list has changed so little, it doesn’t even realize its Rob Roys and Rusty Nails are back in style. 1734 East Passyunk Ave., 215.463.9249