Babies are known to turn people into homebodies. It’s just such a mission to go anywhere. You need to bring so much along for your kid – nappies, wipes, bum cream, toys, change of clothes… the list seems to just go on and on. I know so many people who hardly leave the house once they spawn. However, Dean and I like going out for a drink. We like eating a meal out of the house sometimes. And it really is a lot easier than you might think. We often frequent Hogshead – we sit in the non-smoking section and they are absolutely lovely to us. That said, there are some really easy and nice places to go with your baby and even toddlers or kids that don’t include the likes of Spur.
I’m not trying to knock Spur – it’s certainly got its place. However, I generally prefer to support smaller businesses, local restaurants and pubs rather than chains. I also want a place where the kid can be happy but the adults can also enjoy above average food/drink. So, here are my picks for the best places to eat with a baby in Joburg (or with a toddler or small kid), just in time for school holidays where you might be wondering where on earth you can go with your munchkins. Please feel free to comment with your picks, too – I certainly haven’t managed to try all the places, so these are just the ones that have impressed me so far.
State 5, Free Range center, Witkoppen (Fourways)
From the outside, this place looks like a dump. No, literally. It’s an outdoor building and garden center and seriously looks dodgy from the road, like a place to buy sand or bricks or something. However, once you actually drive in, there are a ton of nice decor stores and other cool things. But best of all, there is State 5. They have a fantastic selection of craft beers and other trendy drinks, as well as a delightful menu. Their breakfast is great, but honestly my favorite things were the trinchado and the flat breads – skip straight to lunch and enjoy!
There is a huge play area for kids, with different play sections for 0-3 year olds as compared to the older kids. There’s also a craft store inside, so if you little one wants to paint a box or decorate a picture frame, they can do that, too. Plus, the bathrooms are complete with a changing areas for babies that is really quite lovely.
State 5 employs a ton of child minders, too, and they are top notch. You will want and need to tip them, but they are worth every cent for the opportunity to drink your coffee while it’s still hot.
Papachinos, Broadacres Shopping Center (Broadacres)
Apparently, this is a chain, so I might already be breaking my rule. However, it really is fantastic. The food is pretty good, the ambiance is fun and the staff are seriously nice and friendly. The kid’s play area is enormous, including the options for kids to decorate their own pizzas, play mini-cricket, ride on merry-go-rounds and so, SO much more. Each activity does seem to cost money, though, so be prepared to bring plenty of cash so your little one can be entertained for a while. Plus it seems to cater more for bigger kids, although my little one was able to scream and have fun without irritating too many people thanks to the music and vibe of the place.
I was blown away by the kids’ changing area, though. There’s a lovely changing section in the same stall as a toilet and baby toilet. So, once you get in with your kid, you can also have a pee and encourage them to try, and then wash hands or change nappies as needed, all from within the same stall in the bathroom. Obviously, this does mean that you might have a bit of a wait for that specific stall, though.
Annica’s Designer Cakes (Ferndale)
I adore Annica’s, mainly because it feels like an undiscovered gem. While State 5 and Papachinos can get very full and super busy, Annica’s always seems manageable. The parking is limited, but I’ve always found a spot, and I’ve only ever encountered one or two other families with small kids. The play area isn’t massive, but it’s quite serviceable, complete with swings (Harley’s favorite), slide and jungle gym set up. Plus there’s plenty of grass for a little one to crawl or run around on.
While your kid is busy, the food is great. Their coffee is amazing and I adore their breakfast offering. Even their kids’ breakfasts are nice – I’d know thanks to “sharing” Harley’s french toast. Plus the staff is quick and attentive without ever feeling overbearing.
There aren’t childminders at Annica’s, though, as it really is a quiet place. I’d particularly recommend it if you’re meeting up with a fellow mom with small kids – you can take turns watching the kids play and even bring your cappuccino along with you to the swings while pushing your little one.
Where else do you suggest?? I’ve recently tried the cafe in Fruit and Veg City at Hillfox and I wasn’t too impressed. Have you found other hidden gems with nice food that also work with your tiny people?
Mike’s Kitchen Bryanston
I wasn’t expecting to like this place. To be honest, I’ve only really ever heard bad things about Mike’s Kitchen, and I was worried this would be the same. I was so wrong!
My friend and her little one joined me and Harley under a tree in their beautiful outside area. There was a jumping castle for the older kids, as well as a fabulous jungle gym with slide and plenty of games and videos indoors as well. The childminders were on the ball, helping the little ones play and easily returning them to our table if they seemed unhappy.
The menu is also excellent, with a variety of breakfast and lunch options on offer, and a cheap but fantastic children’s menu. We managed to have a very affordable breakfast, with entertained kids, and plentiful great coffee. If you go later in the day, there is also a decent wine list and some interesting sounding food options.
Over and above everything else, the service at Mike’s Kitchen was phenomenal. Multiple waiters and managers checked on us, ensured that our little ones were happy, our coffees were full and our food was perfect. It’s rare to find such excellent service at a family-oriented restaurant, so it’s worth going there just to feel taken care of.
This cafe is actually nestled in the Garden Shop and Reptilians on Main in Bryanston. It’s such a joy to be able to sit somewhere and not have to look at your car, or at a car park. Instead, you can check out all the beautiful plants for sale, sit outside and enjoy a lovely day. The coffee and food are very good, although it’s the play area that is the main draw of Munch.
Where the actual cafe is, the play area is clearly built for older kids. They also had a setup when I was there for the children to do crafts, painting and other activities. There was only one childminder, but the kids are obviously meant to be much older in this area.
After we finished eating, we wandered along the play area and eventually found a truly fantastic toddler play area, complete with swings, slides, sandpit and all kinds of climbing aparatus. It’s one of the best play areas for kids that Harley has enjoyed – I just wish that it were closer to the actual cafe and had childminders. Still, Harley had a blast playing with her friend, and my friend and I were able to get takeaway coffee and watch them play. Plus, when they seemed to be getting tired of the swings and slides, we could walk around the garden shop and they could check out the water features.
Antonnio’s Kitchen (part of Let’s Meat in Lonehill)
This one came as a real surprise for me. After a couple friends had events in the Lonehill park, I found Antonnio’s Kitchen because it’s the way into Lonehill center from the park. It looked like a decent enough restaurant from walking through it, so I figured I’d give it a try with Harley. I have since been there twice because I love it so much.
The pizzas are so fresh and really unique – oval shape and paper thin with the best tomato base and incredibly soft and fresh cheese. Plus Harley loves their chicken strips and fries. There are a variety of beverages on offer, including exclusive craft beers. Plus, again, you can sit outside and overlook the park, which is a nice change from sitting indoor or in a parking lot.
What’s truly wonderful, though, is the play area. There’s a bike path with plenty of push bikes for the little ones, as well as a toddler-sized jungle gym and a bigger kid jungle gym. They also have a jumping castle and arcade games. Best of all, their childminders are seriously on the ball. They were so good with Harley, helping her play with all the things so that I could sit and eat my amazing pizza in peace. The menu is a tad pricey, but worth it for the excellent service and stellar play area with a breath of fresh air from the park.
Please feel free to send me more of your recommendations. I’ve also recently tried Smile Cafe in Cedar Square again and was really not impressed. They served Harley her breakfast on a plate that was too hot to touch, the childminders seemed pretty disinterested and the food was only average. Maybe they were having an off day, or perhaps I didn’t order the best stuff they have on their menu, but it’s not a place I’d put on the recommended list compared to these other gems.