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GCIT's culinary arts students let staff reporter Carly Q. Romalino into the kitchen to watch the start-to-finish process of making a chocolate-strawberry dish. Carly Q. Romalino

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A balloon artist visits tables making colorful Disney princesses, animals, jewelry and much more for the youngest guests at SweetWater Bar & Grill in Cinnaminson on Mondays.

On this day, known as Family Fun Day, a kids meal is free with the purchase of an adult entree and, for Mom and Dad, bottles of wine are half price.

“We want families to have a lot of fun when they come here,” says John Kyrtatas, who owns the restaurant with his brother, George Kyrtatas. “Families get to sit down together, Mom doesn't have to worry about what she's going to cook or the cleaning up after the meal. They can just sit, relax, talk and laugh.”

More restaurants offer unique ways to keep children entertained during their visits, so parents can have a night off from kitchen duties without worrying about the kids' happiness.

Kyrtatas says SweetWater offers favorites like macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, chicken fingers and spaghetti and meatballs on the children's menu, but also focuses on healthier options such as a grilled chicken breast and vegetables.

“We love kids and want to give them options so they can choose what they like and be happy here,” says Kyrtatas. “We have healthier choices for children and we also take food allergies very seriously.”

Kyrtatas, who has been in the business for 30 years, says while Monday is SweetWater's Family Fun Day, children are always welcome. When they come, they can receive crayons and color on the kid's menus.

“We want parents and their children to feel comfortable when they visit,” he says. “I love when people call us the next day to tell us what a great time they had. It's very rewarding.”

At the Turning Point, which has locations in Marlton and Cherry Hill as well as Princeton and other S.J. locations, hungry children can munch on Cheerios and Fruit Loops cereals while waiting for a table to open. When they do sit down, they can complete many activities on the menu, including hangman, a fill-in-the-blanks story, Tic Tac Toe and more.

The menu features kid favorite foods with a creative twist, such as a French Toast volcano with whipped cream lava and S'mores hot chocolate with graham cracker crumbs.

“It's nice for families to switch it up and go out for breakfast together,” says Corrine Raleigh, assistant manager at the Marlton location. “Everyone has such a busy schedule, but if you go to breakfast you can have a family meal together and then still have time for afternoon play dates, sports or even errands.”

And, says Raleigh, taking kids to a fun restaurant for breakfast can save some work for Mom and Dad.

“Kids want different things, so Mom has to make pancakes, eggs, bacon, waffles or other items,” she says. “Then, after they eat, parents need to clean up all those pots, pans and dishes.”

At Rockhill in Cherry Hill, kids can make pictures on the back of their menus and then hand them over to be part of a giant collage at the restaurant. On Wednesdays, the restaurant offers a "kids eat free promotion,'' too. With the purchase of one adult entree guests can receive two free kids meals.

“As a father of twin 3-year-old girls, and another girl on the way, I am very cognizant of the difficulty of finding someplace with fresh and high-quality food that is also kid-friendly,” says Andrew Welder, owner of Rockhill. “Our mission from day one was to be a community restaurant. We want parents and their children to feel welcome.”

Welder says Rockhill's menu is created for the entire family, so there is something for everyone. The kids' menu features peanut butter and jelly with the crusts cut off, a turkey sandwich, cheeseburger, chicken fingers and pizza. Instead of chips, children can choose to have apple slices.

“Part of the reason I got into the food business was to help bring families together,” says Welder. “If we can take away the inconvenience of shopping, preparing and cleaning up, I think it leaves more opportunity for families to focus on each other.”

For parents wanting to put the oven mitts down tonight, try taking the family to one of these 13 kid-friendly restaurants:

Amy's Omelette House: Games, puzzles and coloring books are available for families to enjoy, and the menu includes kid favorites such as pizza bagels and deep fried macaroni and cheese. Kids who order milkshakes will be delighted to see them arrive in a cowboy boot mug. On Friday and Saturday nights, kids eat free at the Cherry Hill location. Amy's is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Sunday at 637 High St., Burlington. For more, call (609) 386-4800. The restaurant's other location is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at 302 Cuthbert Blvd., Cherry Hill. For more information, call (856) 488-9600 or visit youramys.com.

b.good – Upon entering b.good, children can read fun facts about local farms on a chalkboard and view photographs of farmers. The restaurant has table tents that share stories of area farmers. B.good also offers unique soda flavors that change seasonally such as beet ginger lemonade and orange mango. B.good is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. It has two local locations, The Promenade at Sagemore, 500 Route 73, Marlton and 26 Centerton Road, Mount Laurel. To reach the Marlton restaurant call, (856) 988-0275. For  Mount Laurel, call (856) 242-3713. For more information, visit bgood.com.

Bricco – Kids can make creative masterpieces with a ball of dough while waiting for their dinner at Bricco Coal Fired Pizza. The establishment also offers crayons to families, so kids can color and complete activities on their menus. Bricco is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Bricco is at 128 Haddon Ave., Westmont. For more information, call (856) 477-2233 or visit briccocoalfiredpizza.com.

California Pizza Kitchen – Connect the dots, counting and other fun but educational games keep kids busy at the California Pizza Kitchen, but most enjoy making their own personal pizza at the table while their parents' food is being prepared. The restaurant also will provide children with a small ball of dough to play with or sculpt into an array of favorite items. The California Pizza Kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. It is located at the Cherry Hill Mall, 2000 Route 38, Cherry Hill. For more information, call (856) 910-8121 or visit cpk.com.

Farm & Fisherman Tavern – Cafeteria-style trays with separate compartments help make children happy, as do the Etch-a-Sketch, Magic 8 balls, Wikki Stix and other games they can play while they wait for dinner to arrive at the Farm & the Fisherman Tavern. The restaurant focuses on healthier options for kids, and serves fruit and vegetables with their entree. The Farm and Fisherman Tavern + Market is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (856) 356-2282 or visit fandftavern.com

Nifty Fifty's – Step back in time at Nifty Fifty's and enjoy fresh cut fries, burgers, malts, milkshakes and '50s nostalgia. The Turnersville location offers a family fun center complete with games, activities and prizes for children. A miniature golf course is available, too, so families can play before or after their meal. The restaurant is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Saturday, and is located at 4670 Route 42, Turnersville. For more information, call (856) 875-1950 or visit niftyfiftys.com.

The Pop Shop – Saturday morning pajama parties, rewards for doing homework and numerous special events such as Disney week in March entertain families as they eat. The extensive grilled cheese menu features kid favorites and lets parents reminisce about their childhoods. The Pop Shop has two locations. The Medford facility, 1 S. Main St., is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (609) 975-6888. The Collingswood location, 729 Haddon Ave., is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (856) 869-0111 or visit thepopshopusa.com.

Recovery Sports Grill – This restaurant has a large arcade, game tables and many televisions that will keep families playing and talking. Kids meals are only $2.99 everyday – something mom and dad will enjoy. Recovery Sports Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and noon to midnight Sunday. It is at 109 Hancock Lane, Westampton. For more information, call (609) 702-3901 or visit recoverysportsgrill.com.

Rockhill – With items such as peanut butter and jelly with the crusts cut off and chicken fingers on the menu, parents will know Rockhill is a good place to bring the kids. The establishment also offers a "kids eat free night'' on Wednesdays and plenty of crayons are available for little ones to color their menus. When they are done with their artwork, they can add it to the collage that will be displayed in the restaurant. Rockhill is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant is located at 1800 Marlton Pike East, Cherry Hill. For more information, call (856) 424-4455 or visit eatrockhill.com.

Silver Diner – Choose a favorite song on the table top jukebox while waiting for a delicious dish to arrive. The diner hosts many kids nights and special events, so check the calendar often. The Silver Diner is open from 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.  It is located in the Hillview Shopping Center, 2131 Route 38., Cherry Hill. For more information, call (856) 910-1240 or visit silverdiner.com.

SweetWater Bar & Grill – SweetWater Bar & Grill is always an inviting and welcoming place for children. Especially on Mondays which is the establishment's Family Fun Day. On this day a kids meal is free with the purchase of an adult entree, and a balloon artist is available from 5 to 8 p.m. to make Disney princesses, animals, crowns or whatever else a child can imagine. SweetWater Bar & Grill is open from 10:45 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10:45 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is at 10 Route 130 N., Cinnaminson. For more information, call (856) 829-7458 or visit sweetwaternj.com.

Tortilla Press – Tacos and quesadillas are an easy sell for most kids. And free is a great sell for Mom and Dad. Kids eat free on Mondays at The Tortilla Press in Collingswood and The Tortilla Press Cantina in Pennsauken. Kids under 12 get a free entree from the children's menu for every full-priced adult entree ordered. Visit thetortillapress.com/

The Turning Point – French toast volcanoes that ooze whipped cream lava, S'mores hot chocolate with graham cracker crumbs and super berry smoothies will start the day off right for many children. While waiting for their meal, kids can grab a handful of Cheerios or Froot Loops in containers by the hostess stand or play the games on the kids menus – including a fill-in-the-blank story. Turning Point has two South Jersey locations, and they are both open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday through Saturday. The Cherry Hill Turning Point is at 606 Haddonfield Road. For more information, call (856) 320-4013. The Marlton Turning Point is located in Marlton Square, 300 Route 73. For more information, call (856) 988-1528 or visit theturningpoint.biz.

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