Monday, March 22, 2010

Eating Out With Kiddos -- Part II

So I've written about this topic before, but recently we've had a couple of experiences (one bad and one fantastic) that has firmly put me in the camp that believes you can have a great meal out with kiddos in tow.

First up our bad experience...a horrendous meal at a chain restaurant on our way down to Austin a couple of weeks ago. I won't tell you where we ate, as I dont' want to be a meanie girl (as Millie would say), but suffice to say it was very bad food...and it wasn't cheap. It had all the hallmarks of a "kid friendly" restaurant -- loads of crayons, a gimmicky menu, plentiful high chairs, but the food, oh the food was bad. Even the girlies knew it, which was actually the high point of the meal, the fact that we've gotten to the point with them that they know when they're eating crappy food. So that's the upside I suppose.

Now cut to our great experience. We took the girl's to Tillman's in Bishop Arts this past Friday night, which we'd only been to with other adult friends and on date night. This place is by no means "fancy", although I doubt many would categorize it as "kid friendly" either. But I was certain deep down that if we went early enough, the kids would love this place, and that it would be totally appropriate to bring them (they serve table-side s'mores for goodness sake...with homemade graham crackers and marshmallows, natch.)



We rolled in at the embarrassingly early 5:30 to find several other families with the same idea, and it was a huge success. The food (as always) was outstanding, the kids loved the fun, interesting, cool atmosphere, and they were totally accommodated. Tillman's has the loveliest kid's menu I've ever seen, filled with cool drawings and activities + the girl's meals were served on little wood grain print melamine plates and, of course, the s'mores were a rousing success.

The key, I've discovered, is embracing that embarrassingly early hour. I'm convinced (now) that we can take the girlies almost anywhere if we're willing to eat early (which truth be told, I'm always willing to do...) Now I'm busy working up a list of all the places we want to try with them. I'll report back here on all our successes.

Do you guys have any favorite "grown up" restaurants where you love taking your kiddos? Maybe we can pull together a little list of great spots across the U.S.

19 comments:

  1. Blue Water Grill in Grand Rapids, Mi is great with little kids (our three year-old calls it "our favorite restaurant") and specializes in really fresh, local food.

    We also really loved Scoozi in Chicago. On Sunday evenings kids can make their own pizza (and get an apron and chef's hat to do so) and the food is really yummy.

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  2. I love taking my daughter to La Tavola in Atlanta. Lyla gets to see her Dad (the chef) at work and the wonderful staff always keeps her entertained while I get to have a little adult chit-chat of my own!

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  3. We too try to avoid chains in favor of local restaurants, but there have a few times that this siren song is just too tempting to pass up. Logan's Roadhouse has a great deal on Monday and Tuesday nights- 2 meals (entree, 2 sides) for 13.99 and kid's meals for 2.99. This place also boasts deliciously dangerous yeast rolls with honey butter before the meal and all the peanuts you care to shell (and throw onto the floor) and eat. Keeps the 3-yr-old quite content.

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  4. Now that my kids are teenagers and can pretty much eat anywhere, I'm all about finding dog-friendly restaurants. My favorite in Pittsburgh: Church Brew Works. Anybody know any dog-friendly restaurants in Berkeley? (We'll be spending two months there this summer.)

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  5. lauri -- so berkeley is a definite! YAY! we're still trying to figure out how to get out there to see you guys...

    i bet there are a lot of dog friendly restaurants there...just a hunch ;-)

    xoxo

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  6. oops, I lost my comment.
    that restaurant rocks...gooey smores! I have discovered that it is much easier to take the kids to nicer eateries as the kids get older...plus i live in the sf bay area so the options are endless...raising foodies one meal at a time.

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  7. The Bay Area is filled with great places for kiddos which include incredible food! One of our favorites is Cavallo Point ~ the kid's menu ROCKS! A small tasting plate of organic macaroni and cheese, organic fruit, and a free-range mini burger. Dessert follows which is a chocolate mousse in the shape of a mouse! Poggio, FISH, Cibo, Salsalito Taco Shop...on and on it goes. I think a list of places around the states is a grand idea

    And Lauri ~ Berkeley is MEGA-dog friendly! In fact, most of the Bay Area welcomes dogs with open arms. If you get a chance, you should head to Carmel-by-the-Sea for a day trip or long weekend....DOGS rule this charming beachside community!

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  8. We have all but ditched the chain restaurants and mostly take the kids to ehtnic restaurants that use fresh ingredients to make things I don't know how to make at home.

    We eat dinner at 5:30 every night - no kidding - and happily join the senior citizens during "Early Bird Special" time when we dine out.

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  9. Sweetwater Tavern in Sterling and Chantilly, VA

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  10. There's a great one in Utah, about 45 minutes south of Salt Lake, called The Blue Lemon. Healthy, inexpensive, unique, delicious, and a great kids menu! The restaurant itself is real kid-friendly too.
    http://www.bluelemonutah.com/

    I really miss it! If anyone knows of good kid-friendly restaurants in South Florida, by all means, email me!

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  11. so glad to hear of your successful outing! (and now I'm dying to eat some s'mores)

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  12. So true about going early. That's the secret, the bonus is that we can actually get into some places that are otherwise too impossible during peak dining hours.

    Some of our favorites for family dining (with really great food) here in SF: Nopalito (higher-end Mexican), Udupi Palace (South Indian), & Tong Kiang (for Dim Sum)

    -Stacie

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  13. We don't eat out too often. Maaaybe, once a month or so.

    We always go early and I usually grab a few pieces of fruit, one container of playdough and some crayons. That way, if the kids only eat bread and hummus (like last night) I can supplement. Playdough seems to keep them engaged for quite awhile.

    Also, I look up the menu before we go so I have an idea of one appetizer that we would all like and that we can order as soon as we sit (see aforementioned hummus and pita bread!)

    I also look to see what I want because I never have enough uninterrupted time to really peruse the menu.

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  14. i was blog hopping and landed in your world over here. so glad i did. yum yum!!!

    i'm hosting a giveaway i think you might like i hope you'll check it out:
    http://www.wild-and-precious.com/2010/03/whimsey-giveaway.html

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  15. So we have three year old triplets who are farrrr from foodies and we have had nightmare within a nightmare type experiences eating out. I actually kind of like the peak dining hours in loud--as in beer guzzling, radio playing loud--restaurants. Atmosphere-loud is good so our loud doesn't get noticed. :)

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  16. Cindy -- that's a good point...sometimes it *is* better to go late when everyone else is drunk ;-)

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  17. My family would go out regularly when I was a kid, always at 5:30 (or sometimes 5!) to the point that when I got to college I could not believe that anyone would want to wait until 6:30 or (GASP!) 7 PM to eat dinner. It's amazing how quickly changes in schedule become routine. How great that you are trusting your kids and giving them that experience!

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  18. Two of our favorite places to take our daughter are Bottega Cafe and Chez Fonfon. Both are owned by Frank Stitt, who has a fine dining restaurant, Highlands Bar and Grill, that is up for the James Beard award this year. They are Italian and French bistro food respectively. Lil's favorite thing to eat at both places is a huge order of mussels.She's just kinda grown up eating at places that probably aren't meant to be child friendly, but are for us. Part of having an only child I guess. A box of crayons and a moleskine notebook will entertain her for hours.

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