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!





$10 Dinner, Mostly Happy & Very Healthy

This meal is from a while back, but the sales it’s based on roll around pretty regularly. My basic formula of meat/fruit/cooked veg/raw veg/starch is still how I tend to think about pulling a meal together, since 2/5ths of the family would very much prefer foods not touch.

(I Daydream of Casseroles.  That’ll be the name of my parenting book.  Chapter titles include: Shoes: How to Keep Track of the Suckers, Snot and the Removal Thereof, What’s that Smell?, and How to Poop Alone. )


Kid Meal


Normal Person Meal

  • peaches                   $1.55
  • pasta, 16oz.             $0.99
  • blueberries               $0.88
  • 2 cloves garlic          $0.12       (~70c/bulb, 12 cloves/bulb)
  • tomatoes                  garden!
  • basil                         garden!
  • butter, 2 T                $0.22        ($3.49/lb for 32T)
  • half an onion            $0.11        (8 onions, 3lbs, for $1.79 = 22c/onion)
  • chicken, 1 lb.           $1.99
  • spinach                    $2.50     (half of a 1lb box for $5)

Grand Total:                  $8.36

Clearly, not everyone has a garden, so the extra spent there would but you right about $10.  This meal had everyone happy with the pasta, chicken and fruit, the kids not excited about sliced tomatoes with salt or the steamed spinach, and me glad to have a healthy meal in about 30 minutes.

Stay tuned for the next $10 dinner! Cheep cheep!

Monday Night Goal Post

I’ve been pondering my Internet Dinner Accountability Plan.  Initially, the goal was for the family to sit down every night at the table for a meal.  I’d read a couple of books that were big, big fans of this and had many pretty photos and suggestions.

After a few weeks, I adjusted the goal to accommodate the fact that we aren’t often all home until 8pm, which is late for dinner.  So, I started shooting for a majority of people eating a meal I’d planned for us to eat.  That was a better goal, and writing the Goal Post and Dinner Score posts got me in the habit of planning the week out. Overall, this is an improvement, if not the one I’d originally hoped for.

We also eat out slightly less.  DH and I have a bad taco habit, but having the groceries for a meal already in the house made my frugal self too guilty to go out even if DH offered. Sometimes. Queso knows me by my name.  

I think I’ve made all the gains on this front that I’m going to, though.  With our schedules, storage and budget, I feel this is an even keel.  It could be better.  It could be more frugal. I could stick to my plan more.  But I know what perfect looks like because I read those books, and Chez Cheepie was never going to get there.  Here is nice and here we’ll stay.

Added Bonus:  The kids are now really good at asking if I want a photo of their meal before they start eating, a skill that will serve them well in life, since it seems like half the internet is photos of food and the other half is cat videos.

Final Dinner Score:  12 points

Perfect Mon-Thurs, and then we went out on Friday.  Instead of having buffalo chicken legs (why legs? because thanks to crazy sports bars, wings are more expensive than legs. though I didn’t really have a solid plan. was I going to deep fry chicken legs? bake them?), we all went out for pasta and a visit to the bookstore.

  Prince Spaghetti Day!

Prince Spaghetti Day!



   Taco Tuesday!

Taco Tuesday!

Just like a Friday in 1997, but we have small people tailing us that want us to pay for their stuff.

I’m calling the Dinner Accountability plan over, and I appreciate all the feedback that I got.  Stay tuned for the next CheepieAustin project!

Cheep Cheep!

Dinner Score, Week 23

Jumping right in–

  • Mon: navy beans and escarole with sausage
  • Tues:  grilled chicken thighs on sticks, rice, carrots & bell peppers, garden salad, oranges, corn on the cob
  •       many food groups represented!

    many food groups represented!

    Wed:  mac and cheese, cucumbers, blackberries

  • Thurs:  Chinese Take-out!
  • Fri: Date Night and Leftover Buffet!
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light is odd, it was NOT that orangey!

I’m not even putting the scores up there. It’s nearly six months into the Internet Accountability Project. You know what the score here is–two good days, one half-assed day and two days completely off the rails.  That’s an 8 point week, and we all know it.

Here’s the original plan:

  • Mon: sandwiches, and white beans with escarole & sausage
  • Tues: chicken pot pie, fruit and garden salad
  • Wed: bbq chicken mac and cheese, fruit & veg
  • Thurs: baked deviled eggs, garden salad, grits
  • Fri: Taco Tuesday on Freedom Friday. 

I did start amazingly well.  That’s what happens when your neighbor shows up with a huge sack of escarole.  You have to eat things your neighbors give you. It’s a rule.  DH has a rule that if a toddler offers him food he has to eat it, in order to reinforce the idea that sharing and being thoughtful of others is a good thing (also that food is good. the man is a fan of food).  I have a rule that if a neighbor shows up with something they grew, it’s getting eaten.

Unless it’s that weird death fruit. I’m not eating that. Even Andrew Zimmern spit out durian, and he is the grown-up globetrotting Mikey of the Food Channel.  He’ll eat anything.

Truth be told, I was the only one that ate the beans/escarole/sausage for dinner on Monday. Everyone else opted for a sandwich. But they gave it a try first, and that’s fine with me.

   this was really good

this was really good

I think the end of the week derailed due to a combination of me making a plan that I knew might not be received well (the baked deviled eggs thing is something only I like, for some mysterious reason) and us hitting another stretch of weeks that have a lot of socializing/sports/activities.  Opening my fridge right now would show a lot of takeout containers and leftover Chinese food.  But we all got to see friends and get our activities done, so that’s the upside.

Also a fun point? WordPress doesn’t think ‘escarole’ is a thing, so it keeps trying to suggest other things.  Mostly ‘estragole’ which looks like this:

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and not really like the leafy stuff in the bowl over there. Though it is in some leafy thingsLooking at you bay and tarragon!

See you tomorrow for the meal plan! Cheep Cheep!

Monday Night Goal Post (yes, it’s Tuesday morning, but how nitpicky do we really need to be here?)

This week I am really trying to work out of the pantry and freezer because I’ve got a quarter of a cow showing up here soon and need the freezer space and my pantry is a shambles.  Boy was recently pondering our storage possibilities and told me he thought we could toss the entire pantry because ‘it’s full of stuff we never eat, so let’s put other stuff there’.

Sure. Let’s do that.  Lego with marinara will surely work out.

This week’s plan, barring remodeling:

  • Mon: sandwiches,leftovers, and white beans with escarole and Italian sausage
  • Tues: chicken pot pie, fruit and garden salad
  • Wed: bbq chicken mac and cheese, fruit & veg
  • Thurs: baked deviled eggs, garden salad, grits
  • Fri: Taco Tuesday on Freedom Friday. My kids swear this is funny. I don’t get it.

Things I’m using that are on sale are the Italian sausage, chicken thighs for the pot pie, lettuce and tomatoes for the salad, and the eggs are Easter eggs that the kids can finally start to part with.  Yes, we’re weirdos that eat the dyed eggs because we can. 

That’s how Cheepie rolls. Let me know how you’re rolling this week!

Dinner Score, Week 22

 I hear you. I know. Where’s Week 21? How can I just leave it back there, unscored and unloved?  What kind of cruel mayhem is being wrought?

In the interest of looking forward I’m just abandoning it. The Internet Accountability Project has survived larger hits than this, and I know we’ll muddle through somehow.  We’ll just put it down to Spring Fever and get on with our bad selves.  The Complaint Department looks forward to your letters.

Here’s the goal, as a reminder:

  • Mon:  baked chicken leg quarters, grapes, broccoli, spinach salad with strawberries, potato salad
  • Tues: fried rice, egg drop soup, apples, frozen veg.photo 1
  • Wed: fresh pasta with sausage, onions and peppers, Caesar salad, fruit, 
  • Thurs: BBQ chicken wings, rice, peas, fruit
  • Fri:  pizza, fruit, salad

The actual:

  • Mon: see above (benefits of writing after eating. 3 points.

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    Look how pretty!

  • Tues: pork fried rice, carrots, apples, cooked spinach. 3 points.
  • Wed: ziti with peppers and sausage, Caesar salad, grapes. 3 points.
  • Thurs:  P Terry’s. 0 points.
  • Fri: Leftover Buffet! 1 point.

The end of the week was a bit of a mistake, but I rocked the beginning of the week.  

Everyone ate the pasta dish on Wednesday, even though there were vegetables touching meat touching noodles!  Tiny wasn’t thrilled about it, and separated everything, but I was a happy camper.  One pot dishes are my favorites. Along with crockpot dishes. And things grilled in foil packets. And casseroles.  I may have a problem in this area, so we’ll just agree I like a lot of things and move on to the scoring.

10 points is a good week. A solid B- or so. I was happy with the meals, and even Friday was a plus to me because we’d stacked up a lot of leftovers and it’s nice to not cook for a night.  It was also a frugal week because nearly everything was either in my house already or was a sale item. Cheepie is a fan of weeks where that happens!

I’ve slipped a good bit on the goal of having Boy and Tiny each take a night to cook dinner.  The effort required to walk them through it at the end of the day was a drain at the end of the day that had me losing my patience, which wasn’t helping them learn how to put a meal together but more learning how to get out of my way.  While that is an important skill, it’s not the one I was hoping they’d learn. So we’ll keep trying, and I’ll note when they are involved and how it worked out.

Cheep Cheep!

Monday Night Goal Post

I’m doing the plan post before the score post–just this side of criminal behavior. But I really didn’t want to let the plan post get to Tuesday again. It’s so cheating when we’ve already eaten the plan.

So, quick and dirty, here it is:


lemon pepper thighs cooked up nicely!

Mon:  baked chicken leg quarters, grapes, broccoli, spinach salad with strawberries, potato salad

Tues: fried rice, egg drop soup, apples, frozen veg.

Wed: fresh pasta with sausage, onions and peppers, Caesar salad, fruit, 

Thurs: BBQ chicken wings, rice, peas, fruit

Fri:  pizza, fruit, salad

Sale items I’m using this week are the chicken leg quarters, grapes, strawberries, potatoes, and sausage.  Shopping the sales this week had me pondering whether I should get my act together and write up a grocery budget.  It’s one of those things I always mean to do, but never get around to. Like printing out a weekly schedule so we all know what’s happening every day–it’s smart, not too tricky, and should happen, but I just don’t do it.

Do any of you work with a weekly grocery budget? Monthly? Do you plan out meals, or do you plan on shopping sales and then making plans? I’d love to hear how you deal with this. I know my ‘shop sales when I have time and also then buy bread and milk’ plan is not the most effective!

Monday Night Goal Post

In a crazy switcheroo, I’m planning the meals before we’ve eaten even one. It’s possible I’m doing so just because the Walking Dead finale upset me so much that I’m galvanized into action. 

He’s trapped in a car surrounded by zombies, but he’s thinking about the $1 pork butts at HEB.

It’s also possibly because seeing commercials during the Walking Dead finale for not only some abomination of a movie called Poltergeist, but also another Terminator movie, made it hard for me to get to bed last night.  Its kind of a lot to cope with given I was already dealing with Daryl trapped with Happy Camp Counselor Dave in a zombie-surrounded car.

Remaking the movie with the scariest clown ever, and putting your new version of that clown in the commercial? You’re doing Poltergeist all wrong, Movie People. Wrong wrong wrongity wrong.

So, here we go. A week of meals before we’ve eaten any, none of which will involve anything clown-colored or tinfoil shiny:

  • Mon: Cajun stuffed chicken, roast potatoes, garden salad, fruit
  • Tues: soup, salad, sandwiches
  • Wed: pork chops, pasta with garlic and herbs, spinach, fruit
  • Thurs: Leftover Buffet!
  • Fri:  Lasagna, salad, roasted vegetables, fruit


***Note: I did write this early on Monday, but due to technical issues I didn’t get it published until today.  Getting distracted by making myself a cheese sandwich is a technical issue for our purposes. 

Dinner Score, Week 20

Twenty weeks of the Internet Dinner Accountability Plan!  It’s been adapted quite a bit, but I think having the weekly plan laid out helps me feel like I’ve got a grip on dinner time and is keeping us from eating out quite so much.

I do plan to get better at indicating the sale items I’m using each week–after all the point of Cheepie is to get you those deals, and then have you eat them, not hide them in the freezer or find them moldy in the crisper later.  This week the pork and chicken were from sales, and the watermelon was from last week’s sale.

The plan:

  • Mon: pork blade steak, macaroni and cheese, watermelon, green beans
  • Tues: Taco Tuesday!
  • Wed:  Prince Spaghetti Day!
  • Thurs:  night out
  • Fri:  stir-fry beef, rice, egg drop soup

The real-life meals that happened:Stack Of Sliced Watermelon Stock Photo

  • Mon: spot on. 3 points.
  • Tues: leftover pork, grilled chicken, beans & rice, tortillas, cheese, lettuce & tomato, carrot sticks and cucumbers. 3 points.
  • Wed: stir fry beef, rice, salad, peaches, snap peas and carrots. 2 points.
  • Thurs: Dinner at the OG  (Olive Garden). 2 points.
  • Fri: Refrigerator buffet, featuring OG leftovers. 1 point.

11 points! Another solid B of a week! I’m happy. 

Things went mostly according to plan, though I still haven’t gotten the egg drop soup I’ve been wanting to make. Now it’s practically summer, so I’ll likely just switch to listing gazpacho every week.  I love me all kinds of soup, but with the family not as big of fans as I am it’s a hard sell, despite it being my favorite frugal food ever. Maybe this summer I win them over? We’ll see if tomatoes from the garden can be the turning point.

Weekly Plan, Slightly Delayed

I’ve gotten Monday’s 3 points locked in before writing the plan, as is practically tradition at this point.  This week is a back-to-basics week, with both Tuesday and Wednesday sticking with the weekly outline, and a night out built in. 


Monday night, winning!

This week should be a gimme, but by typing that I’ve tempted fate and will now find myself somehow feeding the kids ramen every night, I’m sure.

  • Mon: pork blade steak, macaroni and cheese, watermelon, green beans
  • Tues: Taco Tuesday!
  • Wed:  Prince Spaghetti Day!
  • Thurs:  night out
  • Fri:  stir-fry beef, rice, egg drop soup

The Happy Ad Wednesday post will be up in the morning, so get have your shopping visor at the ready! What? You don’t have a shopping visor? Just me? Okay, then.

Cheep Cheep!