Top family-friendly menus that aren't all red pasta
So the summer holidays are here – what bliss! You might think you are in for six or so weeks of McDonalds and soft play factories in retail parks but consider instead exploring city-centre Manchester. There are bags of museums and the library all offering amazing things to do, often for free.
Pack plenty of wet wipes and it will all be fine
With staycationers in mind, we've compiled a list of restaurants in the city centre that offer reliable and reasonable children's menus and are also places adults would love to eat even if not on a family outing. Possibly in this hypothetical child-free scenario, there would be more cocktails involved but let's leave that fantasyland aside for the moment.
There is some debate that kids don't have to be restricted to a menu of pizza and the infamous "red" pasta and you should take them to places without a kids' menu to encourage their palates, while we love that in theory we also know getting kids to eat new things can be really stressful, especially in that tricky 3-8 years old zone (who are we kidding it's all tricky). That's not what you want when trying to enjoy some quality times.
Horizons open up a bit with teens - popular choices include Archies, Tampopo and Rudy's - as appetites increase. Unfortunately, they also are less likely to want to be seen with their boring old parents, plus they know exactly what is cool and will tell you so, so we think we can leave it to them.
In reality, any restaurant should be overjoyed to see kids and there are plenty in Manchester that don't have dedicated children's menus that still welcome families with open arms, so if it's not on this list it doesn't mean it's not suitable - if it appeals to you give it a whirl. What's the worst that could happen? Pack plenty of wet wipes and it will all be fine.
However, if you are still feeling a bit uncertain, read on for our top ten places in Manchester city centre to eat out with kids...
Almost Famous is probably best known for it stacked burgers and slightly racy marketing. The OG pile ‘em high burger spot also does a pared-back cheeseburger or crispy buttermilk chicken burger all served with regular fries for £6 on the kids’ menu. Ideal for a family where teens and adults might like to go full-on loaded while younger kids can keep things more on the plain side if they so wish.
100-102 High Street, Manchester M4 1HP or Great Northern Warehouse, Peter Street, M3 4EJ
Bill's might be a bit of an obvious recommendation for families but what we love about this market-inspired restaurant is that it has you covered for any meal of the day. Breakfast is particularly strong - a buttermilk pancake stack is £3.50 or a kids' full English is £4.95. Vegans are sorted with soy yoghurt and granola (£3.50). The all-day menu includes faves such as mac 'n cheese or sausage and mash in the two courses for £5.95 deal.
3 Hardman Square, Manchester M3 3EB
Beers and ‘babs are the first thing that comes to mind when discussing German kebaberia Doner Haus - so not exactly child-friendly right? Well, there is a secret kids’ menu featuring mini versions of doner and currywurst and, while they leave off the pints for the pint-sized, there are some cracking milkshakes. Doner Haus is located in the Corn Exchange with an "outside" Garden Bar so it's handy for a post-Football Museum refuel.
Corn Exchange, Manchester M4 3TR
While not offering food specifically tailored to children, the beauty of a food fair such as Grub is that there will always be something that they like. At any one time, there will probably be pizza, cookies, noodles... Oh God, I've jinxed it now, right? Chips are failsafe though? No? Sorry. Very welcoming to families with loads of outside space for roaming around and a dedicated kids' play area that unfortunately is not always open right now due to COVID, although it is now back full use. Every Friday during August is "Family Friday" - with gardening activities, street food, a kids' film screening in the cinema and play activities. With the tagline "grub, booze and other things for parents to enjoy", we are sold.
Redbank Project, Cheetham Hill, M4 4HF
Hip Hop Chip Shop
Another hipster favourite has made the smart move of recognising that parents might still want to loaf around groovy Ancoats - even if they have to be home by six for bath time. An early tea of all the Hip Hop favourites such as battered halloumi and chips or vegan fish and chips in "me" and "mini-me" sizes might just satiate those cravings for a social life for now, plus the whole family will love the soundtrack. Kids' versions of all the main dishes are £6.50.
44 Blossom Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6BF
Elite Bistro Kala might not have been the first place you thought of for a family outing but it’s got a short but sweet kids menu that looks so good the adults might want to get involved with it too. The sticky braised beef (£6) and honeycomb ice cream (£3) get our vote. There is a scaled-down version of the roast beef available at Sunday lunch too. All in all a great introduction to grown-up dining.
King Street, Manchester, M2 4LQ
As noted above, children's menus can veer into the safe pasta, fish-fingers and pizza zone. While that is very handy because, dammit, kids can be fussy sometimes, there are also plenty of little ones with broader tastes. If you've lucked out with a mini adventurer then Mowgli might be up their alley - butter chicken, paneer and temple dahl all sound tempting. We are all about the ice cones though. Pink Himalayan salted caramel? I'll take an adult size please.
37 Corn Exchange, Manchester, M4 3TR
Open Kitchen MCR
We’ve already had a look at the ethical slant Open Kitchen is bringing to everything it does down at the People’s History Museum but we are also sold on the straightforward and very reasonable kids' menu. Seriously, mac 'n cheese or pizza for £2 while a sandwich meal deal is £3? That’s quite the bargain. We wouldn't expect anything less at the inclusive PHM. The museum is kid-friendly too so you can make a day of it for not too much outlay.
People's History Museum, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3ER
The Refuge is perfect for a special celebratory family meal - something to suit everyone on the menu and beautiful surroundings too. Kids can choose from cod croquettes or crispy chicken wings, and of course, the essential Refuge Sundae from the £6.95 children's menu, though more adventurous palates might consider graduating to the grown-ups' menu. We are also hoping the Refuge team will bring back their excellent family days (pictured above) which have the same laidback vibe as the more grown-up nights, but with more gluesticks. Probably about the same amount of glitter though.
Kimpton Clocktower, Oxford Street, Manchester M60 7HA
Yard & Coop
Yard & Coop has that all-round kid-friendly vibe. Staff like ‘em (or are good at pretending), fun interiors, a decent chance of a free mini-egg. The children’s menu of chicken “nugz”, amaizeballs (the veggie option) with mash, salad or mac n cheese plus ice-cream to follow all for £5 is a very decent option if you're in the Northern Quarter.
Yard & Coop, 37 Edge Street, Manchester M4 1HW
Read now: Joshua Brooks reopens with a £200k revamp and new Cuban menu
Read again: Not just for beer geeks: Manchester Craft Beer Festival 2021
Don't miss out
Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email.