After a full day of getting the kids (and ourselves) up and out the door, carpools, play dates, and not to mention, our own work responsibilities, it almost seems cruel that we have to cook dinner too. We have a simple solution to the daily 5:00pm witching hour, which always induces a “uh-oh what am I going to make for dinner” dread: go out to eat. Here are seven ideas for an ordeal-free (and apron-free) dining experience with your kids.

1. Indoor Farmer’s Market
Farmer’s markets aren’t just a resource to buy produce and ingredients. In fact, the best market eats are made fresh and ready to nibble on while your fam wanders the market aisles. We love Melrose Market because it operates year round, rain or shine. It’s an indoor market so a great place to visit on rainy days. With so many food options that include Homegrown Sandwiches and the Artisan Cheese Shop, it may be hard to focus in on one. But regardless of which eats you choose, we’re certain you and the kiddos will leave full and satisfied.

2. Fine Dining Restaurants
Are you in the mood for something a little more upscale than chicken fingers? Us too! Seattle is chock full of family-friendly restaurants for fine dining. While you dine on Dungeness Crab Cakes or Northwest Cioppinno, the kiddos can work their way through fish and chips. How does Moules Frites sound? Whether you or your little ones crave the classic French and Italian flavors, or steak from a classic steakhouse, everyone can partake in a bit of fancy-schmancy eats.

3. Family-Friendly Breweries
While indulging in a pint with your little mini-me’s in-tow may not sound like a great idea, us at Red Tricycle beg to differ. We’ve scoured the area to come up with a few breweries that are Red Tricycle certified to be kid-friendly and with utterly awesome food, and a good brew to boot. A lot of these places offer up classic pub grub like burgers, sandwiches, soups and in some of these breweries you can even find choices for vegetarians and vegans. The atmosphere is friendly and fitting for the entire family, and the best part is, you can get a lot of their beers to go.

4. Stop for Soup
Spring in Seattle can feel a lot like…well…winter in Seattle. Seattle natives know the best way to stay warm and full on rainy days is with soup, of course. But don’t go grabbing the Progresso or Campbells quite yet as these soup spots will fill you and your little ones up with a bit of cozy wintry warmth as well. From chowder to chili, these soup spots have the best bowls to bounce back on those dark rainy days with. Kids will love slurping up delicious soups like tomato or chicken noodle, and parents will love that their little ones are devouring healthy, veggie filled choices unknowingly.

5. Stopsky’s Deli
For those in need of a good variety of choices, Stopky’s Delicatessen offers up a menu stacked with authentic Jewish deli delights. Stopky’s fills the void of Jewish delis with classics like matzoh ball soup and fresh, homemade latkes. Kids go nuts for the crowd pleasing grilled cheese, and parents can’t leave without having the brisket-stuffed kreplach, or the dumplings in fried kale with caramelized shallot aioli. Of course, you could just satisfy your craving and get the reuben. Whatever jumps out at you for brunch, lunch or dinner, just don’t forget the dessert.

6. Mac and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is undeniably a classic staple for little ones all over. For parents who have exhausted every creative choice to make Kraft a new and exciting mac and cheese dish, you’re in luck. These local restaurants have got the American classic that’ll make kids and adults alike forget they even entertained the idea of the boxed stuff. The mac and cheese dishes come with caramelized onions, three cheese sauces, Cajun style and so much more.

7. Flying Squirrel Pizza
Ask a tiny taster what they feel like eating and chances are that somewhere in their top three is pizza. Of course as a parent, you think back to greasy and starchy pizzas that offer close to no nutritional value for the little ones, and regret ever asking in the first place. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Flying Squirrel is makes mouth-watering pizza with organic, hormone free and locally sourced ingredients. It’s a healthier answer to a once sodium and fat riddled arena of food. This warm pizzeria is family friendly with plenty of room for strollers, so come hungry with an appetite for healthy choices.

— Brian J. Helt

(Photo credit: Stopky’s Delicatessen)