Parents, you know the struggle: Sometimes you just donât want to cook dinner, but going out can be a hassle, especially if your little eaters arenât satisfied for some reason. (Which could be anything at all!)
Fortunately, many restaurants âget itâ â and make sure to cater to kids in some way, while being a cut above fast food, which many of us grown-ups appreciate.
Here, I provide a roundup of many of the best places in Bellingham and Whatcom County to dine out with kids. Itâs by no means an exhaustive list but includes the input of many parents who responded to my Facebook inquiry on the subject.
310 N. Samish Way, Bellingham
Years ago, while hanging out at the childrenâs museum downtown, a mom said to me, âWeâre from out of town and my kids want chicken strips. Whereâs the best place to get them?â
I immediately knew the answer was Boomerâs because my kids were wild about them â and still is, for that matter.
Boomerâs kid’s meals come in cute classic car meal holders and include a burger, or those famous chicken tenders, plus fries, a drink and a Tootsie Pop. After all these years, Boomers is still my kidsâ top pick.
This mom loves Boomerâs too â I love the Bacon Guacamole Burger special, the fun-to-eat waffle fries and the milkshakes. Oh, the milkshakes. I could probably write a love sonnet about them.
The atmosphere at Boomerâs is fun, too. You can dine in your car, old-fashioned drive-in style or dine in, where the gas fireplace in the middle of the dining room is a special draw in the winter time. The decor is straight out of a â50s drive-in with the soundtrack to go with it.
If dining out is a rare treat because youâre watching your budget, be ready for Boomerâs anniversary sale in January and February, known as âBoomer-ary,â to stretch your dining dollar further.
6937 Hannegan Road, Lynden
The Rusty Wagon isnât in Bellingham, which is probably why it wasnât on my radar. Iâd seen the Rusty Wagon when driving along HanneganÂ on my way to Lynden, and was always curious about the funky, whimsical road-house style restaurant, but didnât stop until a number of Facebook friends recommended it as a fun, family-friendly establishment.
The second you pull into the parking lot, itâs apparent this is a great place for kids. Thereâs a âKids Corralâ outside with a small playground and lots more to do and see around the grounds. Itâs the perfect place to take your toddler to get the wiggles out when sitting at the table becomes too much.
Once inside, itâs just as fun. All sorts of country and western paraphernalia lines the walls. Thereâs not a corner untouched by color and kitsch.
The Rusty Wagon serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, everything from steaks to gourmet burgers to hearty salads.
We came for a last hurrah before school started, and we definitely indulged! First up, nachos. Loaded with chicken, tomato, onions, black olives and pickled jalepenos, plus generous sides of salsa, sour cream and guacamole, we were not going to go home hungry!
Then we split an enormous brownie covered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce. It was truly a delightful treat. And I think it lasted all of three minutes before the kids devoured it.Â (Motherâs note: This is not a usual dining experience for us! For dinner that night we ate a salad.)
1801 Roeder Ave., Bellingham
The Loft is hip and urban in appearance, and at first glance you might not think this waterfront destination is a kid-friendly kind of place. Appearances can be deceiving.
They do a great job with the classic color-able kidsâ menu, with a short but adequate menu of kid favorites, including fish ânâ chips and penne pasta with butter and cheese.Â Â The drink menu also includes an extensive number of non-alcoholic choices, beyond the regular soda.
(FUN FACT: Kids dine free on Mondays. As always, some restrictions may apply.)
While youâre waiting for your food, the kids can enjoy all the boats right outside the window docked at the marina.
Once the food arrives â ahoy, matey! â it comes in a jolly paper pirate ship, which keeps the kids delighted while they munch on some really good food.
Then when itâs time to leave, kids get to dip into the treasure chest to bring home a toy.
The Loft is next door to the Marine Life Center, so combining the two makes for a super fun and easy outing.
More Kid-friendly Best Bets
- Boundary Bay Brewing Co. â Known for its beer and itâs good food, this brewpub is family friendly and has a great kidsâ menu. During the summer, the beer garden is a wonderful family hangout while listening to live music.
- Filling Station â 1950âs gas station kitsch meets some mighty fine food. Friendly staff to boot.
- LaFiamma Wood Fired Pizza â A favorite with many of the kid crowd, not just for the pizza but also because kids get a mound of pizza dough to play with while they wait for their food.
- Red Robin â When my kids were toddlers, I remember how great the wait staff was â keeping our bottomless fry baskets filled until the food came on a busy Saturday afternoon. And the kids still love a trip to Red Robin for the choices on the kidsâ menu, yummy desserts and the arcade. As one friend says, âIf we let the kids pick, itâs always Red Robin.â