Niko Niko's: What Urbanspoon Thinks Is Houston's Most Kid-Friendly Restaurant
"Screw this ball pit, guys. Let's go stand in a really long line and whine and squirm while our parents make futile attempts to quiet us by pinching the tender inner flesh of our upper arms!"
Photo by Peter Dutton
Now listen: I love Urbanspoon. I love that it links directly to professional food critics' reviews of restaurants, so that I have a real sense of a place when I'm in an unfamiliar city. I love the map feature that allows you to find restaurants in different areas of town. (This is especially handy on the iPhone app.) And I love that, unlike Yelp, its users don't seem particularly interested in blackmailing or extorting restaurants for free products in exchange for a good write-up. Urbanspoon is a trusted companion.
Yet I have absolutely no idea how it came up with Niko Niko's as the kid-friendliest restaurant in Houston.
I mean, technically I understand. Urbanspoon says so right in its press release on its new list of America's 100 Most Popular Kid-Friendly Restaurants. Houston only had one nod on the list (which is frankly fine by me, because as Nick Hall has so deftly demonstrated in his ongoing DEFCON Dining series, hell is other people's kids at the table next to you), which was compiled "based on a rating algorithm that includes blog posts on Urbanspoon, diner voting behavior, consumer reviews, critic reviews, and page views."
Have those algorithms never been to Jimmy Changa's?
Seriously: I love Niko Niko's as much as the next native Houstonian, but there is nothing about that place that screams "kid-friendly" to me. The long lines at lunch and dinner alone are enough to send a kid rocketing into boredom-induced orbit. Unless we're talking about the Niko Niko's in Market Square Park -- where your children can rip up fistfuls of grass or dunk their heads into the 9/11 Memorial Fountain or wander into downtown traffic or whatever it is your kids do when you're not watching -- I am kind of at a loss here.
Jimmy Changa's, on the other hand, offers a playground larger than the one at my elementary school, crayons and paper to draw with and even a soft-serve machine dispensing free ice cream in sugar cones as you leave. There's a whole section of the menu just for kids (Little Jimmy's) that I would have gone bonkers over when I was that age: Aside from the standards like chicken nuggets and quesadillas, it includes Kraft macaroni and cheese. The blue box stuff. The real deal.
This isn't the part of the blog post where I start naming off other restaurants that are also just as kid-friendly as Jimmy Changa's, because I (clearly) don't have children and wouldn't quite know what to do with them if I did. They'd probably be smoking Marlboro Reds and running off-track betting parlors at the age of five. But the point here is that I remember being a kid and I can't imagine begging my parents to take me to Niko Niko's.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.