Mike Sutter's Top 10 kids eat free deals in San Antonio – San Antonio Express-News

The kids’ menu includes a cheese enchilada with rice, beans, ice cream and a drink at Nicha’s Comida Mexicana on Northwest Loop 410, one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
“Octopus! Yummy for my tummy!”
That was my 4-year-old daughter a ways back, sitting down with us at a Vietnamese seafood restaurant. They didn’t have a kids’ menu with chicken tenders and tater tots. Didn’t matter: We fed the kids whatever we were eating, and it happened to be octopus that night.
I’d like to say we were motivated by some grand civilized desire to educate the kids on the cuisines of the world. Maybe a little. But mostly, I worried that if we fed the girls nothing but fried food from the kids’ menu, they’d never break out of that vicious junk-food cycle.
So when it came time to rank the best kids-eat-free deals in San Antonio, I didn’t just evaluate by how much money they saved (usually not much; 5 to 7 bucks) or how much food you get (again, usually not much), but by variety, by taste, by joy quotient  — by almost anything but the same old chicken nuggets. In other words, food I’d feed my own kids.
Parents, a few rules: If your kid’s voice has changed? Not a kid anymore. The age cutoff is generally 12, but a few skew younger. Most all these deals require you to dine-in and buy an adult meal for every free kids’ meal. No field trips with 10 kids and one adult. And they have to order from the kids’ menu, so no rib-eyes or deluxe combo plates. 
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Rome’s Pizza on Potranco Road is one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
EZ’s Brick Oven & Grill on West Bitters Road is one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations.
Acadiana Cafe on the West Side is one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
Windmill Ice House in the Northeast Park neighborhood is one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
Nicha’s Comida Mexicana on Northwest Loop 410 is one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations.
Sea Island Shrimp House on Northwest Loop 410 is one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations.
The Cove in the Five Points neighborhood is one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
Luby’s on North Main Avenue is one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
Cafe Vida at Gold’s Gym in Rogers Ranch is one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
Jim’s Restaurant on Blanco Road at Loop 1604 is one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
Finding 10 good deals wasn’t as easy as you’d think. Outside of chain restaurants and freebies for toddlers, there aren’t a ton of locally based options for feeding the kids for free. But here are the Top 10 kids-eat-free deals I found in San Antonio, from breakfast at Jim’s to lunch at Luby’s to dinner at EZ’s.
I tried to mix it up: a burger, some pasta, a pizza, a little barbecue, some shrimp, a few pancakes. But no octopus. And yes, some chicken tenders. Because sometimes a kid’s gotta just be a kid.
READ MORE: Mike Sutter’s Top 10 taquerías in San Antonio
The kids’ menu includes pepperoni pizza at Rome’s Pizza on Potranco Road, one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
The deal: Kids 9 and under eat free from the kids’ menu Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. at all locations with each adult entree purchased. Drink not included.
The endorsement: Pizza’s a natural for a kids’ menu, and this one is just the right size: Flour little slices from an operation where pizza is the name of the game. Not too spicy, not too greasy, with a sturdy crust for handheld ease Other options include penne pasta alfredo and spaghetti with meatballs. 10038 Potranco Road, 210-680-5000, more locations at romespizza.com
The kids’ menu includes pasta with marinara, steamed vegetables and a drink at EZ’s Brick Oven & Grill on West Bitters Road, one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
The deal: Kids 12 and under eat free from the kids’ menu on Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m. at both locations with each adult entree purchased. Drink included.
The endorsement: Along with mini burgers and personal pizzas, EZ’s puts together a solid bowl of rotini pasta with marinara sauce. No fork-twirling required. Sides include the usual mac and cheese or fries or apple slices. But I went with steamed broccoli and carrots. Call me a dreamer. 734 W. Bitters Road, 210-490-6666, ezsrestaurants.com. Also at 6498 N. New Braunfels Ave., 210-828-1111.
The kids’ menu includes fried chicken tenders with lemonade and a side of red beans and rice at Acadiana Cafe, one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
The deal: Kids 6 and under eat free from a limited kids’ menu every day with each adult entree purchased. Drink included.
The endorsement: The only all-day-every-day freebie on this list, Acadiana believes in bringing your little kids to watch you eat gumbo, jambalaya and etouffee. The full kids’ menu goes up to 12 years old and includes fried catfish and popcorn shrimp. But the free deal only applies to 6 and younger, and it’s just PBJ, grilled cheese and chicken tenders. But good chicken tenders, freshly breaded and fried, with sides that range from green beans to chicken and dumplings to red beans and rice. 1289 SW Loop 410, 210-674-0019, acadianacafe.com
The kids’ menu includes a chopped brisket sandwich with a side of macaroni and cheese at Windmill Ice House, one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
The deal: Kids 12 and under eat free from the kids’ menu on Wednesday with each adult entree purchased. Drink not included. Limit two.
The endorsement: This Hill Country barbecue operation chops brisket to order for the kids’ slider, with full grownup salt-and-pepper bark and flashes of smoke ring. The sides range from collard greens to corn pudding, but what kid doesn’t want a big paper boat of shells and cheese? There’s also a big yard for them to run around. 2769 Nacogdoches Road, 210-714-0630, windmillicehousesatx.square.site
The kids’ menu includes a cheese enchilada with rice, beans, ice cream and a drink at Nicha’s Comida Mexicana on Northwest Loop 410, one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
The deal: Kids 12 and under eat free from the kids’ menu on Monday from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Northwest Loop 410 location with each adult entree purchased. Soft drink and ice cream included.
The endorsement: Every San Antonio kids’ list should have a cheese enchilada, one of life’s most perfect foods. It’s a hot plate (they have to learn) with rice, beans, a drink and a little cup of ice cream. Let them eat some of your chips and salsa. Let them know your frozen margarita is NOT a mangonada. 5059 NW Loop 410, 210-680-4420, nichas.com 
RELATED: Fred’s Fish Fry vs. Sea Island Shrimp House
The kids’ menu includes fried shrimp bites with a hushpuppy, a side and a drink at Sea Island Shrimp House on Northwest Loop 410, one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
The deal: Kids under 12 eat free from the kids’ menu all day Thursday at all locations with each adult entree purchased. Drink included.
The endorsement: Fried shrimp is usually priced out of the kids-eat-free market, but Sea Island serves a generous pile of hot, crispy shrimp bites — not just minced shrimp and filler — along with a hushpuppy, corn on the cob and a drink. 5959 NW Loop 410, 210-520-3033, more locations at shrimphouse.com
The kids’ menu includes a cheeseburger, fries and a drink at The Cove, one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. Lettuce and tomato can be added for a small extra charge.
The deal: Kids eat free from the kids’ menu Tuesday after 5 p.m. with each adult entree purchased. Drink included.
The endorsement: Most kids’ burgers are little dry hockey pucks, because that’s how kids usually like them (even me, when I was in short pants). But let’s show the kids why we like burgers, especially burgers from The Cove. This is a nice juicy beef patty, a little smaller, but with a good toasted bun and melted American cheese with some of the city’s best french fries and a Capri Sun. Add lettuce and tomato for 75 cents each. Also: The Cove is famous for the playscape in its big, shaded, parklike courtyard. 606 W. Cypress St., 210-227-2683, thecove.us
The kids’ menu includes half a portion of fried fish with two sides, a roll, milk and Jell-O at Luby’s on North Main Avenue, one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
The deal: Kids 12 and under get a free kids’ entree, two sides, bread, drink and Jell-O all day on Wednesdays and Saturdays at all San Antonio locations with each adult entree purchased.
The endorsement: First off: Yes, Luby’s is still open, with six in San Antonio alone. The kid’s meal is practically a LuAnn Platter, with a half-size entree and the same pick-your-sides cafeteria experience the grownups get. I recommend the crunchy fried fish so many of us grew up eating, along with green beans and mac and cheese. I’ll admit I hoarded the Jell-O and drank the chocolate milk myself. 911 North Main Ave., 210-223-1911, more locations at lubys.com
The kids’ menu includes M&M pancakes with bacon, eggs, fruit and juice at Cafe Vida, one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations. 
The deal: Kids 12 and under eat free from the kids’ menu Tuesday from 3 to 8 p.m. (until 6 p.m. at the Blanco Road location) with each adult meal purchased. Drink included. M&M pancakes $1 extra.
The endorsement: The Treble Creek location is tucked inside a Gold’s Gym, but you don’t have to be a member to enjoy this full-on cafe, with lots of breakfast options, Latin-inspired entrees and a big menu of sandwiches, burgers and smoothies. With 11 options, it’s the most comprehensive kids’ menu on this list, with quesadillas, a burger, sandwiches, a hot dog, a full breakfast and this: M&M pancakes with scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh fruit and juice. Fun to look at, fun to eat, worth the $1 upcharge. 2711 Treble Creek at Gold’s Gym, 210-265-1449, Facebook: Cafe Vida. Also at 19179 Blanco Road, Suite 109-1, 210-310-3269.
The kids’ menu includes a breakfast with an egg, hashbrowns, bacon, toast and juice at Jim’s Restaurant on Blanco Road at Loop 1604, one of San Antonio’s best kids-eat-free destinations.
The deal: Kids 10 and under eat free from the kids’ menu Sunday and Monday from 5 to 9 p.m. or earlier depending on hours at all San Antonio locations except 4108 Broadway. Valid with each adult entree purchased. Drink included. 
The endorsement: It’s hard not to love Jim’s, with old-school diners all over San Antonio and not one, but two kids’ menus: one for breakfast, one for everything else, both served all day. You can do silver-dollar pancakes, sure. But there’s also a full breakfast with an egg, bacon, toast, hashbrowns and orange juice that feels like the right way to get their day — and their better habits — started right. 18155 Blanco Road, 210-493-5143, more locations at jimsrestaurants.com
 [email protected] | Twitter: @fedmanwalking | Instagram: @fedmanwalking
Mike Sutter is the Express-News restaurant critic. Before joining the Taste Team in 2016, he served as restaurant critic for the Austin American-Statesman and editor of FedManWalking.com. He’s appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” ABC’s “To Tell the Truth” and written for The Guardian, Bon Appetit and The Wall Street Journal.

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