Kids’ Menus – A Few Good, Most Not So

I am usually dissappointed by kids’ menus at restaurants.  Why is it that the restaurant can serve fresh, organic, delicious food on the adult menu, but the the kids’ is an afterthought with a choice of who’s who from the freezer section?  Why offer a kids menu at all if you’re stooping to offer a steamed hot dog and boxed macaroni and cheese?  When did people get the idea that kids will only eat hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta with butter and chicken strips?  And even if the kids’ menu is decent, why does everything have to come with fries?  If your restaurant makes pasta for adults, make pasta for kids (just not such an overwhelming size).  If my family is going to a mexican restaurant we’ve decided we want mexican food, not a burger and fries.  If you have salads for adults, why not a small salad or some fresh, raw veggies for the younger set?  And what about milk?  Some kids are only offered soda, juice and chocolate milk.


Seems easier to use same ingredients and cooking techniques too.   I rarely offer my kids what’s on these menus other than the games and pictures to draw (although harder to edit now that my son reads).  We prefer to order a smaller or shared portion from the main or appetizer menu.  Or we pay for two adult size portions and take food home.


OK…Enough of my ranting.


I was impressed on two recent occassions when dining out with my family.  First, we went to  San Luis Obispo where we had a lovely breakfast at Big Sky Cafe.  The kids’ menu did have a drawing to color but the offerings were actually made from the same fresh organic ingredients as the regular menu, just smaller portions.  A stack of blueberry pancakes just wasn’t stacked so high.  A make your own omelet only came with 2 eggs and the steel cut oatmeal was appealing for every age with a selection of dried fruit and fresh berries.  I wish we were staying for lunch and dinner too.  Anyone for a petit filet with potato croquettes?   Mind you this was not a high end restaurant, as everything was under $18 for dinner on the main menu, under $10 on the kids’ menu.


Another great local find with a good kids’ menu is Piatti Ristorante.  There are 9 locations in all – most in California, but also in Colorado, Washington and  Texas.  This is a good italian trattoria for family and friends to gather as well as a date night spot when the kids are at home with a sitter.  Each location’s menu reflects the local taste and season.  Their bambini menu is the largest I’ve ever seen with a selection of antipasti, pizza, primi (pasta), secondi (salmon, chicken, steak), verdure (broccoli, mixed veggies) and dolce (gelato, panna cotta).  They started with an antipasti of salami, mozzarella, veggies and olives (so much we brought some home). My daughter loved her spinach and cheese ravioli as did my son appreciate his tomato gnocci.  This was higher end for the main menu but everything on the bambini  menu was a bargain at  less than $10.


So, yes.  It can be done.  Any place you care to share with a good children’s menu?


The Dish on …Dish (restaurant review)

When my husband and I lived in San Francisco we loved going to all the restaurant hot spots.  I still like to read about what’s new and up and coming, but we get to those places later and less often (not as many date nights as a family of four).

Now when I hear about a new restaurant or food spot closer to home that may be kid friendly, my radar is peaked.  I felt so current this weekend.  I had seen signs for a new local eatery in Mill Valley called Dish, which was opening to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I was thinking of where to go before the Memorial Day Parade and thought we’d check out the new place.  I even went online and saw the menu.  I was excited about the local, sustainable, organic ingredients and the reasonable prices.  However it was by complete accident that we were the first paying customers to order and sit down.

When we walked in we noticed the chic, yet comfotable urban decor, yummy looking baked goods and bottles of wine above the bar/counter.  My husband and I thought this looked promising and asked how long they’d been open.  The answer was “about 2 hours.  People have been in for coffee and muffins to go, but you are the first to order and sit”.  Wow.  We scooped everyone! 

The menu was limited for the first day, but we all found favorites and sat down to wait for our order with a berry, bran scone.  It was funny how much it tasted like the ones I make at home (perhaps the use of butermilk?).  The kids loved the look of my cappucino with foam “feather”.  Yes, with each bite and look around the room, we were more and more pleased.  Dish is built and operates quite green too.  As we waited for our food and played “eye spy” we noticed reclaimed wood and recycled items everywhere.  So the kids got a bit impatient, but I had to explain this was the first time (well almost) people were cooking in the kitchen, taking orders and bringing food in this space.  I equated it to the first day of school where everyone and everything is new and you have to get used to things.  They understood.  They thought it was pretty cool they were the first people to sit at our table.  I also explained that we liked everything so far and that this could be a favorite spot for us, so we needed to give it a chance and wait.

When we did get our order (with big apologies from the owner), the food was just as we’d hoped – great.  Homemade granola and yogurt with berries for my daughter (notice she got her’s before her brother).  French toast with fruit for my son.  Huevos Rancheros for my husband.  And a leek tart for me.  So while I’m happy to spread the word, and did to all our friends at the parade that day;  I fear my next meal at Dish will begin with waiting in line to get in and I’ll have to explain to my children that someone else is sitting at “our table”.