When traveling, "What's for dinner?" is the inevitable question that prompts every parent to grit her teeth and squint her eyes before replying, "Something good," as she pulls out her phone to make a reservation or find great takeout. In an unfamiliar place, choosing where to eat with the family can be as challenging as a mogul field on 50-year-old knees. Not only does the food have to be edible, but the atmosphere should also be relaxing for parents and children, especially after a long ski day.
As the state with the highest number of children per family in the U.S., Utah is accustomed to accommodating kids from the ski slopes to sushi bars. Family dining here includes numerous fine dining, fast-casual and great takeout options. Many lists are searchable online, but some local friends and I recently discussed some of their personal favorites in Salt Lake and Park City.
“Is a vegetarian permitted to eat animal crackers?”
Photo Credit @foreverwithNicole
If you want a neighborhood gem-style restaurant, one where you can take the kids but the parents actually go there for the food, then listen to the local "moms who make the reservations" and head to Sammy's Bistro (which also offers takeout or delivery) or Twisted Fern (kids will like the crispy chickpeas and mocktails) or Five5eeds (breakfast and lunch until 3 pm) in Park City. In metropolitan Salt Lake City, the choices are, honestly, endless, but Provisions, in Millcreek (close to the Cottonwood resorts), consistently surprises out-of-towners for their quality, atmosphere and price. Chile Tepin located downtown is popular with local families serving traditional Mexican favorites and its mouth-watering steak, chicken and shrimp molcajete. This dish is large enough to serve two adults and is, like everything but the margaritas, available for takeout.
If you and the kids still have some gas in the tank after skiing and want to have a bit of fun with your food, then consider Billy Blanco's in Jeremy Ranch. A Bill White restaurant (which are all family-friendly, including comfort food Windy Ridge Cafe, Italian Ghidotti's, southwestern Chimayo and others) which calls itself "Motor City Mexican," Billy Blanco's entices with a south-of-the-border menu on the table and entertains with cars and motorcycles hanging from the ceiling. Younger and older car fanatics will amuse themselves throughout the meal watching the working garage around them.
If your family likes to eat and then play, be sure to make a reservation at Burgers & Bourbon at the Montage Deer Valley. Here, you can enjoy an incredible milkshake, luxe burger and fry trio overlooking the Empire Lift. Then, go downstairs to Daley's and challenge the littles (and definitely the teenagers) to a round of bowling and other games. If you prefer to do a little shopping or, no judgment, bribe the kids with a bit of shopping, Hearth and Hill in Redstone offers a great menu, large booths and a vast selection of shops to stroll to afterward, including nearby Backcountry or Outlets Park City.
"The age of your children is a key factor in how quickly you are served in a restaurant. We once had a waiter in Canada who said, 'Could I get you your check?' and we answered, 'How about the menu first?'"
If you're looking for something more...cooked, families also enjoy Fireside Dining at Deer Valley Resort. This prix-fixed four-course Swiss-inspired meal featuring its famous raclette served from one of five stone fireplaces is neither cheap nor fast, but families love it returning year after year. Similarly, nestled in scenic Millcreek Canyon in Salt Lake City is Log Haven, the place many kids counter-intuitively request when they want mom and dad to take them to a "fancy" or holiday meal. (Business casual or sweater and clean boots are welcome.) With low ceilings and tables scattered throughout the actual cabin's nooks and crannies, families can feel like they're dining at home, a rustic-chic home in the woods. However, if you're dreaming of its grilled quail and chocolate ganache tart but prefer to wear pajamas in your condo, it offers takeout and delivery, as well.
“The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out of his nose.”
Eating out with kids should be relaxing and enjoyable. Well, it should be pleasant. Be assured that Utah is very family-friendly when it comes to dining and friendly when it comes to everything else. So, accept a final bit of advice from Utah locals who love food and family: Have a wonderful time on the mountain and wherever you dine, enjoy regaling the tales over a great meal...together.