Best Restaurant for Kids in the Capital Region? Don’t Tell Me it’s Friendly’s, Red Robin, or Chuck E. Cheese!

by Sandra Foyt on April 10, 2011

in Food Adventures

Have you voted for the best of the best in the Capital Region yet? If you haven’t yet, might I persuade you to cast a vote to send a clear message about what we want?

We want delicious, nutritious food options in the Capital Region. We want a Trader Joe’s and we want a better restaurant for kids than Friendly’s, Red Robin, or Chuck E. Cheese.

In previous years, I have been sorely disappointed in the results of the readers’ poll. I don’t know a single person who would claim that McDonald’s is the Best Restaurant for Kids in the Capital Region, and yet voters in the annual Times Union poll have placed similar greasy fast food restaurants at the top of the list:

Best restaurant for kids 2010

1. Friendly’s, various locations

2. Red Robin, Route 9, Latham, and 1 Halfmoon Crossing, Halfmoon

3. Chuck E. Cheese’s, Latham Farms

Why? If you’re a parent, have you ever had the feeling that kids are getting younger every year? Sure, the youngsters are always growing up, but they just look younger, you know what I mean? That’s why it’s nice to see some stability in the world, as this category once again retains the same three restaurants in the same spots. What’s not to like in the offerings in terms of convenience and family-friendly prices and atmosphere?

Really? The 2010 results were a repeat of 2009? Capital Region, can’t we do better?

Long time readers of Albany Kid will already know what I have to say about these particular restaurants. Over the past year, we have sampled and shared our adventures at a number of area eateries that are much better candidates for best restaurants for kids. I could make a case for any of a number of these restaurants, but I have a better idea.

Actually, Daniel B. of FUSSYlittleBLOG has a solution that is going to help us break the two-year stranglehold on this election. He has put together a ballot to unite us in casting votes for restaurants that use superior ingredients.


As you may recall, I met Daniel B. for donuts at Bella Napoli a couple of weeks back, when I resolved to introduce him to my husband in a valiant effort to inspire him to higher culinary standards.

The introduction took place at the Jewish Food Festival last week, but I think my husband was too overwhelmed by the cornucopia of culinary delights to fully appreciate the subtle (and not so subtle) differences of the Better Butter Battle as demonstrated in a joint venture between FUSSYlittleBLOG and Noshing Confessions.


(For the record, we did discover clear winners in the butter taste test, Pamplie and Delitia’s Parmigiano Reggiano butter.)

It may seem a little anal to put so much energy into researching just one ingredient, but that’s the reason that I respect Daniel B.’s opinion on all things food related, he knows what’s good.

That’s why I’m supporting FUSSYlittleBLOG’s ballot in the 2011 Best of the Capital Region (in all food-related categories) and the vote for Chipotle as the best restaurant for kids.

Chipotle wouldn’t have been my first choice. I like it a lot, but it is a fast food restaurant and it’s not the most comfortable place to enjoy a meal. Rather than sitting on the hard seats, I usually pick up our burritos for take out. However, in the interest of presenting a united front to topple the inferior dining establishments that have won the best restaurant for kids category in previous years, I’m begging you to join me in voting for Chipotle in the Best of 2011 Survey.

Here’s Daniel B.’s pitch for Chipotle as best family restaurant:

I don’t know the last time you were in a Chipotle, but whenever I am there there is a disproportional number of young families with young kids.

The reason they come to Chipotle is because these parents care deeply about what foods they put in the growing bodies of their children. They want meat without hormones or antibiotics. They want cheese and dairy without rBGH. They want freshly prepared guacamole made by hand every day. They want wholesome ingredients like beans (which are getting to be increasingly organic).

Yes, it’s fast food. But the ingredients they use are superior to most fancy restaurants in the area. No joke.

And if kids get loud or make a mess, it’s no big deal. Plus they have finally printed up a kids menu, instead of just making off-menu items for the little ones. But they will also still do that, if you ask nicely and smile.

Below, I’m including FUSSYlittleBlog’s ballot for reference as you make your selections so that you can easily copy/paste the write-in items such as Trader Joe’s for best local grocery (see TJ’s explained.) I urge you to consider joining us in supporting a united front on food-related categories. As for non-food-related items, all bets are off.

My votes differed considerably from Daniel B.’s in several non-food-related categories, including these two that are near and dear to my heart:

  • Best used bookstore: East Line Books (This site has won my heart with inspiring writing classes, community drives, and events that engage authors and readers!)
  • Best regional ski resort: Jiminy Peak (Sorry, Daniel B., but take it from a family of skiers, Jiminy Peak is the better choice.)

Oh, and one more itsy bitsy item. Please consider these write-ins:

Here we go! Don’t delay, go and vote. Online voting ends April 22nd.

FUSSYlittleBALLOT Best of the Capital Region 2011:

Page One
1. Best Local Grocery Store – Write In: Trader Joe’s
2. Best wine store – Write In: Trader Joe’s

3. Best beer store – Oliver’s
4. Best Bakery – Mrs. London’s
5. Best Ethnic Market – Cardona’s
6. Best Farmer’s Market – Troy Four Season Farmer’s Market
7. Best Health Food Store (single location) – Honest Weight Food Co-op
8. Best Drugstore/Pharmacy – Crestwood Pharmacy
9. Best Men’s Fashions – Spector’s, Colonie Center
10. Best Women’s Fashions – Circles, Stuyvesant Plaza, 1475 Western Ave., Guilderland
11. Best hardware store (single location) – Write In: Pfeil Hardware, 63 3rd Street, Troy
12. Best nursery/garden center – Troy’s Landscape Supply, 1266 Loudon Road (Route 9), Cohoes
13. Best appliance store – John D. Marcella Appliances
14. Best pet store – Benson’s Pet Center
15. Best cigar shop – Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe
16. Best bookstore (single location) – Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza
17. Best used bookstore – Dove & Hudson Old Books
18. Best local hotel (single location) – Write In: Adelphi Hotel, Saratoga Springs
19. Best place in the region to gamble – Saratoga Race Course (flat track)
20. Best bank/credit union – SEFCU
21. Best jeweler – Frank Adams
22. Best auto dealer (single location) – Northway Toyota
23. Best auto service – Larry’s Foreign Auto
24. Best hospital – Albany Med
25. Best veterinary clinic – Parkside Veterinary Hospital
26. Best plumber – Farrell Brothers Plumbing Inc.
27. Best car wash – Broadway Auto Clinic
28. Best spa/salon – Write In: Townsend & Company Hair Salon and Spa
29. Best dry cleaner – Write In: Quality Cleaners of Albany, 1704 Western Ave
30. Best shopping mall – Colonie Center
31. Best two-year college – Hudson Valley Community College
32. Best four-year college – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
33. Best H.S. Teacher – Thomas McGurn, Albany High School

Page Two
1. Best restaurant to open in the past year – Garden Bistro 24

2. Best restaurant for kids – Chipotle

3. Best Hamburger
Swifty’s Deep Fried Buffalo Burger
4. Best pizza – Marino’s, Schenectady
5. Best sandwich shop Andy & Sons Importing Co
6. Best Chinese/Japanese/Korean restaurant – Ala Shanghai
7. Best Indonesian/Thai/Vietnamese restaurant – Kinnaree
8. Best Indian/Pakistan restaurant – Write In: Parivar
9. Best Mexican/Central/South American Mr. Pio Pio
10. Best Italian restaurant – Write In: Katrinella’s Bistro
11. Best ice cream – Crisan
12. Best hot dogs – Famous Lunch
13. Best sports bar Graney’s Bar & Grill
14. Best coffee joint (single location) – Caffe Vero
15. Best diner – Dan’s Place Two

Page Three
1. Best regional ski resort – Gore Mountain
2. Best gym/health club – Rudy A. Ciccotti Center
3. Best public pool – Victoria Pool, Saratoga Spa State Park
4. Best H.S. coach – Dave Doemel (Christian Bros. Academy basketball)
5. Best high school athlete – boys (include name and school) – ?
6. Best high school athlete – girls (include name and school) – ?

Page Four
1. Best concert in the past year – Neil Young, Palace Theatre
2. Best singer-songwriter
Matthew Carefully
3. Best band (pop/rock/country) – Sirsy
4. Best play or musical in the past year – To Kill a Mockingbird, Capital Rep
5. Best theater company – Capital Rep
6. Best local comedian or comedy troupe – Sandy Beach
7. Best art gallery – Write In: Kismet Gallery, Troy

8. Best museum – Tang
9. Best movie theater
Jericho Drive In
10. Best place for kid-friendly arts and culture – Children’s Museum at Saratoga

Page Five
1. Best TV news anchorperson – Lydia Kulbida, WTEN Ch. 10
2. Best TV newscast – WNYT Ch. 13
3. Best print journalist – Paul Grondahl, Times Union
4. Best radio personality – Laura Glazer
5. Best radio station
WEXT 97.7 FM
6. Best local Web site –
7. Best local blogger – Daniel B. at the
(if you please)
8. Best local tweeter

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| Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email:, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

Kameron April 11, 2011 at 10:20 am

I hate that those kind of restaurants get voted best for kids. I think people do it because tey are the loudest and people can take their kids there and not worry about them being quiet. You can enjoy better restaurants than those with your kids, you just ahve to know how to do it. I find that going to any reataurant around 5ish with kids is the best. There are usually not than many other diners in there at that time and you can get in and out before there are a lot of people there. Just my 2 cents!

Sandra Foyt April 11, 2011 at 9:57 pm

I totally agree with you! There are a number of ways to ensure a pleasant dining experience for your family and surrounding patrons, there’s no need to settle for loud restaurants serving unpalatable foods.

Colleen Pierre April 12, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I never take my kids to Friendly’s or those other restaurants. Why? I’ve attempted to raise my children in such a way that can be civilized and well-behaved in any style restaurant. I don’t go out to eat for them, I go out to eat for me! After all, who’s paying?
As I was reading the beginning of this post, Chipotle came to mind as one of our faves for kids. I love the fresh ingredients and the kids meals are wholesome, well-portioned and delicious. Thanks for posting this and I’ll be sure to vote!

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