Happy Hour & A Playground. Family Fun!

Exploring Austin’s food scene with kids brings interesting hurdles. Happily, places all over town are thoughtful and accommodating, with everything from playgrounds to healthy kid meals becoming more and more common. 

One of my favorite things on a weekend is to meet up with friends at a restaurant, order a tableful of snacks, and sip a margarita while the kids run to the playground to spin, slide and run. I get to catch up with my friends, the kids play with theirs, and we all get to enjoy the sunshine.

My contribution to this years AFBA City Guide is some of the places to do just that, without breaking the bank. So read on, and let me know your favorite in the comments!

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Central Market

  • 4001 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78756
  • Kid meals: $5. Reg menu:  $8-12

It’s a grocery store with a music venue! It’s a playground where you can fill a growler! It’s a park with the occasional movie night!  Central Market at XXX and Lamar is all of those things.  You can grab a meal at the cafe and let the kids run on the playground in the park that’s just off the dog-friendly deck.  There is a kid menu with the basics–spaghetti & meatball, chicken strips, cheese pizza, with the full menu having the basic sandwiches/salads/dinner plates.

Protip: There’s a kid table at the front of the store with fruit for a 25 cent donation, and the service counter will give you a balloon for the asking.


Doc’s Backyard

  • 5207 Brodie Lane Sunset ValleyTX 78745
  • Kid meals: $5. Reg menu: $4-15

A bit south, in Sunset Valley, Doc’s Backyard is a great way to let the kids run off the last of a day’s worth of energy.  Loads of picnic tables, with misters and umbrellas for the hot days, overlook a playground with equipment for toddlers to big kids.  The menu covers all the fried bar basics, with burgers, tacos, sandwiches and plates.  Kid food is standard fare,  there are televisions both inside and out, and happy hours daily.

Protip:  The newspaper Community Impact nearly always has a coupon for a free kid meal with dinner purchase.

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Misters up by the firepit have you covered for all weather!

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Waterloo Icehouse  

  • 9600 S IH 35 Frontage Rd
  • 6203 N. Capital of Texas Highway
  • 9600 Escarpment Blvd
  • Kid meals: $6. Reg menu: $4-$14

Once upon a time, Austin was called Waterloo and the icehouse is where folks went to grab a cold one because it was the only cold place in town. 

Now, Waterloo Icehouse remains a good place to grab a cold one.  There’s a good selection of beer along with a full bar, and all the burgers, fries, and snacks you’d expect.  The kid menu features a mini corndog basket that young ones will love.  The playground has picnic tables nearby for keeping an eye on the kids, and so they can run back and forth between lemonade refills.


El Mercado

  • 1301 S. 1st Austin, TX 78701
  • Kid meals: $4.50. Reg menu: $6-15

There are three El Mercados in town, but only the one on South 1st has a tropical back porch with a playscape for the younger set.  It’s a bit tame for all but the under-5s, but the palm trees, picnic tables and chips with fresh salsa can help keep everyone else cool and happy.

The menu is Tex-Mex, with a list of burgers for those not inclined towards tacos and enchiladas.  There is a full bar, and if you get a large margarita be warned, they’re not kidding.

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Add a steel drum band and it’s a mini-vacation!


Phil’s Icehouse/Amy’s Ice Cream


  • 5620/5624 Burnet Rd Austin, TX 78756
  • 2901/ S. Lamar Ave Austin, TX 78704
  • Kid meals: $5-6.  Reg menu: $8-9.50  ice cream: $3.25 & up.

Sometimes people come up with the best ideas.  Slapping a burger joint right up against an ice cream shop and putting a cow in the yard for the youngun’s to climb on might not have seemed like a leap of genius when they started, but Phil & Amy are laughing ’till the cows come home (that hurt to type, but one of the kids thought it was hysterical).

Phil’s got a burger for everyone in your gang, and Amy will happily sling a cup or cone with your favorite crush’in with style.  On weekends it’s a pile-up of families, so avoid peak mealtimes if you’re not a crowd family, and enjoy one of Austin’s great one-stop-shops!

That wraps up my favorite playground/restaurants with kids.  Below I’ve linked some other great bloggers’ kid-friendly Austin lists–check them out for more ideas!


50 Places to Eat Out With Kids, from Free Fun in Austin.

20 Great Kid Friendly Restaurants, from Austin Eater.

Top 11 Family Friendly Restaurants, from Do512Family

Guide to Kid Friendly Austin Restaurants, from Full and Content.  This one has a breakdown by type of food AND part of town, and is from a fellow AFBA blogger!





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