No Babysitter Necessary: Six Locally Owned Restaurant That Are Surprisingly Family -Friendly

Picture this, parents: You’re out to dinner with your toddler, who has apparently ingested gallons of caffeine because she’s acting crazier than usual.

She’s crawling under the table or jumping on the booth seats or putting her grimy little kid hands on the nearby windows or all of the above.

You desperately try to control the situation, but your child’s activity level cannot be tamed, leading you to believe that a demon has taken the form of your darling daughter.

The hostess continually peeks around the corner to nonchalantly see if you’re going to leave yet. You can feel your face reddening, and it has nothing to do with the wine you just gulped down.

The waitress keeps telling you, “It’s not a problem,” but her annoyed tone of voice leads you to believe otherwise.

This situation is not limited to “bad” parents.

It’s something all parents deal with because – whether you can believe it or not – kids have minds of their own.

However, the unpredictability of children certainly doesn’t condemn you to a world of beige food and casual chain establishments.

Here’s a list of just a few unexpectedly kid-friendly restaurants right here in the mid-state.

These are places that my 3-year-old daughter, Audrey, and I know and love.

Take our word for it – especially hers because toddlers are real know-it-alls.

Alvaro Bread and Pastry Shoppe

236 Peffer Street, Harrisburg, (717) 238-1999

Upon entry, you’re immediately transported to southern Italy as the smell of fresh-baked everything wafts through your nostrils.

Alvaro’s serves BYOB dinners Friday and Saturday nights, offering traditional Italian cuisine served family style.

This corner spot is tucked neatly in Olde Uptown with an unassuming façade and a delicious spread of homemade breads, pastries, pizzas, pasta dishes, paninis, gelatos and desserts. In other words, this is heaven for your children – and for you, too.

The relaxed vibe and fantastic prices make it a great place to bring your little ones.

“I don’t know what I like best because I want all of their food,” says Audrey.

Apparently a lot of people agree, so make sure to make reservations. This tiny spot fills up quickly.

“I can eat marshmallow for dinner!” exclaims Audrey.

Black N Bleu

6108 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg, (717) 458-8105

This West Shore counterpart to the East Shore’s Firehouse boasts the slogan, “Black Tie. Bleu Collar. Come as you are.”

With a motto like that, it’s obvious why Black N Bleu is a great option for families.

Conveniently located right off the Carlisle Pike, it offers a wide range of casual American cuisine and has its own kids’ menu.

They also have plenty of family-pleasing options beyond the choices specified for children.

Have you ever wanted an excuse to shovel marshmallow dip into your mouth in public?

Then order Sweets & Fluff, Black N Bleu’s appetizer that provides crispy sweet potato fries to dip into a creamy marshmallow sauce.

“I can eat marshmallow for dinner!” exclaims Audrey.

What could possibly be more exciting than that?

Chalit’s Thai Bistro

5103 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg, (717) 695-9889

Chalit’s food tastes unbelievably fresh.

They get produce from local farms in season and allow that wholesomeness to speak for itself, never drenching a dish in too much sauce or seasoning.

Chopsticks offer something fun for little ones to experiment with during downtime and mealtime alike.

If your child is a soup fan, try some Wonton Soup, complete with homemade dumplings in a chicken broth.

Rice is always fun to eat, whether it’s Jasmine white rice, fried rice or Chalit’s homemade brown rice.

Pad Thai is a fantastic dish for noodle-lovers to slurp.

My daughter and I often start by splitting a tapas dish like the Chicken Satay, which includes chicken skewers seasoned with cumin, peanut sauce for dipping and a cool cucumber salad.

Audrey loves this appetizer, exclaiming, “I love the chicken because it’s chicken!”

Then we’ll move on to a serving of the mixed vegetable stir-fry.

We’ll add on some chicken or tofu and get an extra side of rice since Audrey usually hogs it all.