Niko Niko's: What Urbanspoon Thinks Is Houston's Most Kid-Friendly Restaurant

Categories: DEFCON Dining

Photo by Peter Dutton
"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!"
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.

Mr. Gatti's? Yes. Sweet Mesquite? Yes. The Downtown Aquarium? ARE YOU KIDDING ME YES. Niko Niko's? No.

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Location Info



Niko Niko's

2520 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Landry's Downtown Aquarium

410 Bagby, Houston, TX

Category: General

Jimmy Changas

5144 Center St., Pasadena, TX

Category: Restaurant

Gatti's Pizza

16607 El Camino Real, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Sweet Mesquite

1570 S. Dairy Ashford St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help

I'm guessing Urbanspoon really confused "real" with "play".   Niko Niko's sponsors the play diner at the Children's Museum of Houston.  The "diner" is actually called Niko Niko's -- but is all pretend.


lupe tortillas


My four year old daughter loves Niko Nikos' gyros...she yells "more meat!"

She loves to eat lamb.  Give kids some credit.

gossamersixteen topcommenter

Yeah my child just screams for a lamb shank, and stuffed grape leaves... (not)...


Urbanspoon has determined this list based on overall popularity. Popularity is determined by a variety of local voices consisting of blogger reviews, critic reviews, and diner votes. Many of the restaurants listed have many family friendly features including but not limited to: Open for all meals (breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner); lively and fun environment; and menus geared towards family style dishes and comfort food. Urbanspoon's goal is to highlight the restaurants our locals support.

Chris Chang
Chris Chang

Ample parking lot to leave kids in the car.


Algorithms like children need adult supervision. I wonder if they have a local human editor who could have caught this?


@lgsren That's the funniest thing I've read nailed it. 

kshilcutt moderator editor

@lgsren OMG. I didn't know about this. (Quick story: They really don't like it when you try to come to the Children's Museum without children.) But what kid wouldn't love that play diner? I would have driven my mother crazy as a kid, begging her to take me to the Niko Niko's play diner every weekend.


@gossamersixteen To be fair, when I was a kid, I would eat the HELL out of dolmades,  Mom would get me the tins of them at Antones, and I would scarf them down like they were fast food. 

Not that my feelings have changed about them since, but just sayin' that the cuisine ain't necessarily the issue. 


@gretchen99 "Urbanspoon's goal is to highlight the restaurants our locals support."

I would have thought the goal to be something more like "convey accurate and helpful information to consumers looking for restaurants in a particular market".... I dunno, I guess they could say it's one of Houston's most popular restaurants;  but 'most popular kid-friendly restaurant'? That's a stretch even for a yogi.

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