Ten Unique (Kid-Friendly) Restaurants in Madison


Crema Cafe

Madison has so many things going for it, including a vast number of real-food restaurants that can please even the well-traveled foodie.  After having my eldest daughter and going through dining-out withdrawal I have made it a personal mission of mine to scope out and find kid-friendly restaurants in the Madison area.  Thankfully this city is packed full of places that won’t kick you out for dropping food on the floor or crying before your meal comes.  YOU are no longer banished to the fast food chain or your kitchen table.  So get out there and give one of these a try.  I would love to hear of your favorite kid-friendly restaurants.

Crema Cafe, located at 4124 Monona Dr (near Happy Bambino).  This adorable cafe has been a favorite of mine for years.  Serving breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch on the weekends. Great food (using many local sources), coffee, smoothies, bakery goods and toys for kids to take to their table and play with.  I love the kid’s menu because all items come with FRESH seasonal fruit.  They have a diaper changing station in the bathroom (this is critical information, am I right fellow diaper changing mamas?).  They also have a good supply of highchairs.  I could go on and on about this place but I’ll let you try it for yourself.  PS. Try the bluebird sandwich, you won’t be sorry.

Yola’s Cafe, located at 494 Commerce Dr.  This is another great breakfast and lunch place.  Or even just to grab a cup a coffee with a friend while your kiddos are entertained in their play area.  Yep, I said play area.  I know, I had you at play area.  They have many homemade foods on the menu including Belgium waffles.  They have a kid’s menu and all kid’s menu items come with a bowl of fresh fruit. They have highchairs and the bathroom has a diaper changing station.

Dumpling Haus, located inside Hilldale Mall.  This is a fun place for lunch or dinner that your kids will love.  Don’t be afraid to try something out of the box with your kids, mine always surprise me at what they like (or at least try).  The owners are kind and welcoming and always compliment on how cute your baby is (or at least they did mine).  They serve traditional and authentic dumplings and noodle dishes (they have gluten-free noodles, too).  My girls love the dessert dumplings filled with custard (custard bao) and I love the homemade honeydew green ice tea.  They have highchairs and the bathroom (located in the mall, not too far away) has a diaper changing station.  A blend of modern and traditional, this place is a must-try in my opinion.

Liliana’s, located at 2951 Triverton Pike Drive, Fitchburg.  Named after the owner and chef’s daughter this place is a wonderful combination of good food and family friendly.  Serving New Orleans cuisine the kid’s menu states “all kid’s meals are made from scratch with fresh whole ingredients”.  I love this.  Too may times restaurants take the time and effort to develop a unique adult menu then have a kid’s menu consisting of boxed mac and cheese and heated frozen food.  Not this place.  In fact I credit Liliana’s for me discovering Bianca liked raw peppers at age 2.  I had no idea until they brought her some raw veggies and she gobbled them up!  They have an awesome family night on Sunday’s where a meal from the kid’s menu is free (for kids 12 and under) with the purchase of an adult meal.  They have highchairs and the bathroom has a diaper changing station.

Madison Sourdough located at 916 Williamson st.  A cozy little cafe with mis-matched wood chairs and tables that serves a fantastic breakfast and lunch menu using local and seasonal ingredients and their fabulous bread.  The kid’s menu items are served with fresh fruit.  The coffee is wonderful and served in glass mugs.  They have highchairs.

Roman Candle Pizzeria located at 1054 Williamson St. – Madison, 1920 Parmenter St. – Middleton, 2685 Research Park Dr – Fitchburg.  A go-to place for pizza with a unique menu, organic milk boxes for kids, chocolate shoppe ice cream and both Fitchburg and Middleton locations have play areas with kid’s toy and games.  Personally I feel Fitchburg is the best set up for family dinning with a huge playroom that you can literally keep eating and chatting while the kid’s play.  Sometimes they even play movies on their projection screen.  Kid’s can choose from pizza or pasta with side options like carrots and fresh fruit.  They tote a huge list of local ingredients and now offer Gluten-Free crust available in small size pizzas (I have yet to try).  I’m not sure about the Willy street location but both Fitchburg and Middleton have highchairs and a diaper changing station in the bathroom. PS. they have beer and wine (for the grown-ups)!

Ella’s Deli, located at 2902 East Washington Ave. This fun and unique place is a historic treasure in Madison.  The have a very extensive menu (the dessert section is literally PAGES long).  They make their delicatessen style food from scratch and offer sit down waiter service or counter service for ice cream or dessert.  The decor is eclectic and animated and will keep the kids entertained.  You will need to get them past the toy, trinket and candy counter but all you need to do is entice them with the outdoor carousel (open spring-fall).  My girls adore the carousel, in fact Ella’s was Bianca’s first carousel ride ever.  They have high chairs and diaper changing station in the bathroom.

Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace located at 2009 Atwood Ave.  A fun little taco joint perfect for families.  They make their food from scratch and have a fun menu (including many vegan and gluten-free options).  My girls loved the kid’s quesadilla with avocado that came with fresh fruit.  The guacamole is wonderful but a little spicy yet that did not deter Iyla a bit, she polished off all of mine.  They have highchairs and the bathroom has a diaper changing station.  They also have an extensive craft beer and tequila menu (for the grown-ups)!

Novanta located at 8452 Old Sauk rd.  A fun, new place by Cafe Porta Alba offering authentic Neapolitan pizza fired in a wood stove imported all the way from Italy.  The quick service location offers white and red pizza options, salad and desserts.  My husband and girls loved the pizza and the garbanzo salad is my favorite.  The service is so quick that I have yet to even check out the restrooms (this is shocking I know) so I cannot say if they have a diaper changing station but they did have highchairs.


Crema Cafe


Yola’s Cafe


Yola’s Cafe


Yola’s Cafe


Yola’s Cafe


Yola’s Cafe


Dumpling Haus


Dumpling Haus


Dumpling Haus


Dumpling Haus




Madison Sourdough


Madison Sourdough


Roman Candle


Roman Candle


Ella’s Deli


Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace


Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace


Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace


Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace


Footnote: I received no compensation for this review.  We paid for our meals ourselves.


25 Responses to Ten Unique (Kid-Friendly) Restaurants in Madison

  1. Andrea Olson September 19, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    Do you think Novanta is more kid-friendly than Cafe Porta Alba? How do they compare?

    • Tara
      Tara September 19, 2013 at 9:36 am #

      Andrea – I think Novanta can be as it’s counter service and very fast. Cafe Porta Alba is table service and a little more upscale. I have taken my girls to Cafe Porta Alba and it was good, they even gave Bianca a lump of dough to shape then fired it in the oven. It all depends on what mood you and your kiddos are in:)

  2. Andrea Olson September 19, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    Also in the HIlldale area, the Great Dane and Pasqual’s have been great with our almost a year old baby!

  3. Alisa
    Alisa September 19, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    What an awesome post – we’ve tried a few on your list, but can’t wait to check out the rest! Thanks so much for posting this!

  4. Emily October 4, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Cafe port alba only has one high chair!!!! So not twin friendly!

    • Tara
      Tara October 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

      That’s a bummer to hear! The last time I was there they had a couple but maybe they got rid of some (it’s been awhile). I would suggest calling them and telling (a manager) you would like to eat there but they only have one highchair and so it won’t work for you. Many places are willing to make changes when we speak up:)

  5. Lindsey February 25, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

    Love this post! I can’t wait to try all the new suggestions. Thanks Tara!

    • Tara
      Tara February 26, 2014 at 8:05 am #

      Thank you:)

  6. Angela b February 25, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    I loved the article. Was sooo surprised you left Cool Beans on the east side off the list. Great healthy food and a great play area too !

    • Tara
      Tara February 26, 2014 at 8:04 am #

      Thank you!

  7. Laura February 25, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

    I am shocked you left Cool Beans off too…a 100 times more kid friendly than 1/2 the places listed here.

    • Alisa
      Alisa February 26, 2014 at 6:34 am #

      Laura, Thanks for your comment. This particular list is all an ‘opinion’ of our writer who has been to many restaurants in the Madison area (with her kids). She may or may not have been to Cool Beans yet, but we are always looking for new ideas and value the opinions from our readers – so thank you for letting us know about this family friendly restaurant. I’ll be sure to go check it out soon.

    • Tara
      Tara February 26, 2014 at 8:04 am #

      Isn’t it wonderful Madison is such an awesome place to live with so many unique kid-friendly restaurants! I actually did do a review of Cool Beans a few years back: http://www.yummysprout.com/2010/09/cool-beans-restaurant-review.html
      This list was not ranked in any way according to kid-friendlyness …just a list people may or may not know about. Cool Bean just may be on the next list:)

  8. Kari July 9, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    Tara-Thank you SO much! My hubby and I dislike the chain places, but sometimes feel it is the only choice with a 15 month old. Thanks again!~

    • Tara
      Tara July 9, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

      You’re welcome Kari! I know the feeling:) We are so lucky to live in a place that (mostly) celebrates childhood and has so many great options:)

  9. kristin July 18, 2014 at 2:53 am #

    Thank you for this list! Great info. FYI, the owner/chef of Crema Cafe has many children of his own, 5 or 6, I believe. They home school their children, which I am always in awe of and think is noble. They are also anti-vaccine. They do not vaccinate their children, which Steven the owner has discussed and debated about on his Twitter account. His food is exceptional, from what I understand. I’m sure they are health conscious when it comes to food and all other aspects, but they do not believe in the importance of vaccines for all. My father had polio as a child. He survived. The importance of vaccines have been lost on many in a generation of people who haven’t had to live through devastating epidemics. Just want others to be aware, whether they agree or disagree.

    • Tara
      Tara August 5, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

      Kristin- Thank you for your comment:) I don’t know the owner very well but have talked with him a few times, very nice. I am not sure about his opinion on vaccines but I think there is quite a split in this city. I do personally vaccinate my children (for most vaccines) on a spread out schedule but I am sure at any given time I am eating next to others at a restaurant that choose not to vaccinate. It’s definitely a complicated issue but personally I feel quite comfortable with Crema and will continue to give them my business. I respect your opinion and am glad you commented.

  10. Amanda March 19, 2016 at 7:33 am #

    Just went to Roman Candle in Fitchburg this week and the play structure is broken. We used to love going there with our 5 and 3 year old, but there was NO LADDER (it had broken off) to get up on the structure, so it is really only okay for older kids. They also removed most of the other small toys, so the only option was nervously watching my littles try to climb up the rock wall side or hoist themselves up on the window which was, I’m afraid, pretty dangerous for my little one, in particular. Would not recommend right now for kids under 6.

  11. Trish Grant March 19, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    One more for your list: AJ Bombers downtown! Kids eat free all day Sundays. Excellent food for all ages – and good beer too. 🙂 Peanuts in shells are delivered to each table in a “bomb” that is slid from the bar to each table. Very cool! Peanut shells can be thrown right on the floor when you’re done. Also, there are markers everywhere and you are allowed to write on anything – tables, walls, etc. Kids meals are great – and come with a cookie! One of the side options with kids meals are mandarin oranges – which my kids gobble up as soon as their food arrives!

  12. Megan March 19, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

    I’ll second Lilliana’s. We sat next to the fountain which my kids loved. And they had raw zucchini with their dinner. My one year old loved it. I never would of even knew people ate zucchini raw!

  13. Jen March 19, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    We love Tex’s Tubbs. We often go for dinner on Fridays before 6 and it’s almost all families with young kids. I agree that they have a lot of dairy free options and they’re also peanut free so a good place if dealing with allergies.

  14. Linda Prin June 9, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    I love that you offered healthy options in each of these family friendly restaurants! My husband and I want to go to Wisconsin on business (I’m hanging with the kids till he’s off work), but we don’t know much about how family friendly it can be for us. I find the detail in changing stations so useful and thank you again for suggesting things that won’t hurt your check book either. Best wishes.

  15. Caitlin April 17, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

    Zuzu Cafe has a cute little kids play area indoor, and a sand pit outside! Great place to eat with kids.

  16. Araceli April 26, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    Thank you for this! I have a 5 month old and husband and I weren’t sure of where we could take the little guy other than chain restaurants. They’re definitely not the ideal choice for us. We’ll have to check some of these places out the next time we’re in Madison!

  17. CK January 18, 2018 at 7:01 am #

    Buevenutos in Fitchburg. Kids eat free on Mondays, too.

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