Anybody who has spent money on a kids’ meal only to watch a child play with the food can appreciate this: Sometimes there IS a free lunch, or at least free dinner for your child at a metro-area restaurant.

Kids-­eat-free offers have been a staple at restaurants for decades, but fewer seem to be offering the promotion these days, so parents looking for a break as we head into fall may not know where to turn. Here are a few options from local restaurants eager to show how kid-­friendly they can be. Most recommend checking with your server about any restrictions.

1. The Promenade at Chenal restaurants, 17711 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock (501) 821-5552

The upscale shopping venue The Promenade has six restaurants that have partnered to give a free kid's meal on Monday between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.  Meals must be entrees from the lunch and dinner kid's menus. Kids must be 12 and under, accompanied by a paid adult, limited to 1 kid's meal per adult entrée. Drinks are not included. Not valid with any other discount or offer. See restaurants for details. Participating restaurants are: A. W. Lin's Asian Cuisine, Big Orange, Bravo! Cucina Italiana, Local Lime, The Tavern Sports Grill and YaYa's Euro Bistro. 

2. Shorty Smalls, 11100 N. Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock (501) 224­-3344

This Little Rock mainstay backs up its family-­fun reputation by offering up to two free meals for children 12 and under for each paying adult from 4 p.m. to closing on Mondays. With a child’s menu featuring grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, mini corn dogs, burgers, cheese pizza slices and even a kiddie catfish plate, Shorty’s is sure to please your hungry horde.

3. Denny’s, 310 S. Shackleford Road, Little Rock (501) 224­-8264

A reliable standby in the kids’ night sweepstakes, Denny’s offers the promotion two nights a week, Tuesdays and Saturdays from 4 to 10 p.m., for children 12 and under. It makes two kids’ meals available for each paying adult, and choices include pancake plates, junior French toast, chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, pizza and spaghetti. “For Denny’s, the reason behind offering a night where kids eat free is simple: Denny’s is a family-­focused diner that knows the importance of sharing a meal together,” said spokesman Scott Moody. “By offering a night where kids eat free, Denny’s gives parents an even more affordable way to come together to enjoy a meal.”

4. Dickey’s Barbecue, 13503 Crystal Hill Road, North Little Rock (501) 851­-8000

The Dickey’s location north of the river confirmed that it offers one meal for children 12 and under for each paid adult meal all day on Sundays. Known for its smoked meats and iced tea, the Texas-based chain advertises its kids-­free policy on its website, offering chicken nuggets, a meat plate or a sandwich plate served with a kid’s drink and side. The site suggests asking your local store for more details.

5. El Porton, 5021 Warden Road, North Little Rock (501) 753-4630
5507 Ranch Drive, Little Rock (501) 868-7333
12111 West Markham, Little Rock (501) 508-2288

This Mexican food chain, with three locations in the metro area, offers a kids’ meal with every adult meal purchase on Mondays. Menu options include taco, enchilada, mini burrito, quesadilla, chicken fingers, fries, and rice and beans. Chips and salsa are free to the entire family.

6. Texas Roadhouse, 2620 S. Shackleford Road, Little Rock (501) 224-­2427

While the west Little Rock Texas Roadhouse location doesn’t technically have a kids­-eat-­free night, it does offer a promotion that results in free kids’ meals. Diners eating at the restaurant on Tuesdays can get a “Kid Coin” good for a later kids meal any day of the week. The offer is good for the Roadhouse’s kids meals but not the larger Ranger Meals. Chad Perry, manager of the Shackleford location, says that if you can’t come in on a Tuesday or if you lose your Kid Coin, ask for Chad and he will be happy to give you one. The offer is available only at the west Little Rock store. The menu includes hot dogs, junior chicken tenders, mini cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese.

7. Romano's Macaroni Grill, 11100 W Markham St, Little Rock (501) 221-3150

This popular Italian-food chain is offering a free kids meal with each adult entree on Mondays and Tuesdays, meaning that kids can color all they want on the paper tablecloths without breaking their parents’ budget. Kids meals include spaghetti pomodoro, spaghetti and meatballs, pepperoni pizza, mac and cheese, cheese ravioli, grilled chicken and pasta, fettuccine Alfredo and more. The offerings exclude Romano’s Kitchen Counter lunches, dinner meals and three-course lunches. The chain describes the promotion as a limited-time offer.