When we had a baby, my husband and I had to sacrifice the usual things -- sleeping in, movies, keg stands, the usual -- but we refused to compromise our dining habits, and so from the time our daughter was born we’ve been taking her out to a range of restaurants -- even the nice, potentially snobby ones.
In San Francisco, we go to Range, Maverick, Roy’s, Ruth’s Chris. In Hawaii, Du Vin, Nick’s Fishmarket, Town, Merriman’s, and most recently, Stage. Our daughter is almost 4 and we have yet to go to a "child-friendly" restaurant. We were close once. We actually sat down at a family diner for dinner, but when they handed out the kid's menu we left. Do restaurants even need a kid’s menu? Aren’t the choices -- chicken fingers, grilled cheese, spaghetti, hamburgers -- permanently etched into our brains? I have a problem with children’s menus. Not only are the dishes the unhealthiest, they’re also the stupidest. Totally dumbed down and unadventurous.
Am I a food snob or do I just want to raise a brave eater? Whatever the case may be, hunting for non-kid-friendly kid-friendly restaurants has become one of my pastimes. I am always on the prowl for restaurants that are bi -- you know, they swing both ways. They can gratify parents with great food, an energetic atmosphere, and waiters who don’t scowl at your incoming rugrat and, at the same time they can please kids without serving Fish Portions a la Cheese Whiz or putting on a nauseating circus act.
During this pursuit, I have been pleasantly surprised (relieved, elated) to find that what most of us would call “nice restaurants” (while not necessarily wallet-friendly) are child-friendly.
Du Vin’s atmosphere was charming to our daughter. She loved the grilled flat iron steak with shallot pommes frites. The staff at Nick’s didn’t blink when she got up to dance. On a Sunday night, Nobu was packed with kids, contented with their sushi and sneaky chef-like “bowtie pasta” (squid that looks like pasta. Though with Nobu’s prices, I’d rather just give her a bowl of rice.)
I was very impressed with Stage Restaurant, where everyone at the table, including our daughter and her 4-year-old date, devoured the “Green Egg and Ham,” (asparagus, quail egg, proscuitto. Everything on the menu seems to be in quotes), the snow crab cakes, pumpkin bread, and of course the “Deconstructed S’mores” (See. More quotes.)
Our waiters couldn’t have been more accommodating, immediately replacing the kids’ glasses with plastic cups with lids and straws. The kitchen made the kids a gorgeous chicken, crispy with breadcrumbs and herbs, accompanied by rosemary and garlic new potatoes. It was a huge portion, only $8, and so tasty that the adults ended up picking at it between bites of Hamachi sashimi.