Friday, April 22, 2011

Successfully eating out in PDX with your toddler…

So I have to thank my new friend, Evelyn, over at Momsicle, for this post.  If you haven't been to her site before, I highly recommend checking her out.  She is a writer, editor, and education consultant who spent several years teaching in our countries neediest kids.  She recently moved to Oregon from NY  with her husband and son.  Oh and she has another little one on the way.  We have so much in common, it is really no wonder that she and I hit it off at Baby Boot Camp.  When I found out she wrote a blog too one of the first posts I read was this one about toddler friendly restaurants here in Portland.  Although I hadn't checked out some of the restaurants on the list, I mentioned to her that there were many more restaurants out there that were not only kid friendly, but parent friendly too.  She was intrigued and asked me to guest post.     

So I did my usual brain dump when writing the post and what resulted was a super lengthy post, not only about restaurants that I recommend trying, but some of the tips that I have for picking restaurants.  

We agreed maybe I had gone a little overboard and we should divide the post.  So below you will find my tips (and a few restaurants).  Then I want you to head over to her site and check out the restaurants that aren’t just kid friendly, but our parent friendly too.  

Think I missed an important tip or a kid friendly restaurant? Be sure to leave a comment letting me know!

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A little bit of background…
When my husband and I moved to Oregon in 2008, we pretty much spent the first year eating our way through Portland.  We went out to eat at least once a week…usually to a restaurant in downtown Portland and never to a big chain restaurant.  When it was time for us to have kids, my gift to my husband for Christmas was 9 gift certificates to 9 of the best restaurants in the city so that we could enjoy them during the 9 months of pregnancy.  

In the beginning…
During the first few months with Superman, we were determined to try and continue to eat out as often as we could.  We believed (and continue to believe) that the more we were out and about with him, the better foundation we were setting for how to behave as he got older.  Looking back, we probably weren’t really setting a foundation for him as much in the beginning, as we were preparing ourselves for what was to come (I could do a whole post on packing for dinners out depending on the age of your child).

Success is all in the choices that you make…
So after 15 months of having Superman around, we probably average 3-4 lunches and 2-4 dinners out a month.  There have been bumps in the road (Ex. There was a very short evening at Syun in Hillsboro when S was about 4 months old.  It was the night we realized that he would no longer just sleep through meals anymore.  A very sad day for my husband and I.), but I believe that most of them have been successes.  The reason?  We choose our restaurants carefully.  No, we are not eating at fast food joints for every meal; in fact even our lunches aren’t at your typical fast food joints.   What are we looking for?  Just a few things….

Requirements:   (now that Superman is eating regular food)
  • Food that we can easily give him.  This does not mean mac n’ cheese at every meal, although we have gone that route on more than one occasion.  Whether it is a kid’s menu item or just some of our dish, we are looking for food that is mostly healthy and something that he will eat.  (Choices that almost always work: Mexican and Italian)
  • Noisy (Or Good Ambient Noise).  Toddlers aren’t the quietest and although Superman isn’t a screamer or consistent tantrum thrower, he still doesn’t understand the idea of an indoor voice.  We figure it is a lot easier for us to relax when we aren’t feeling like he is too loud.  
  • Kids Menu.  The reason we want a kids menu isn’t because we will order off of it.  If they have a kids menu, then they expect to have kids come and eat there.  If they expect it, so should the other dinner guests.  If they don’t have a kids menu, I call ahead and ask if they are toddler friendly (Unless you have an older kid, I think specifying the age of your child is important. Some restaurants are kid friendly, but not really toddler friendly).   If they don’t respond in a “of course, we love kids here!” kind of way, we will likely skip that restaurant just to be sure. 
  • Changing Table in the Bathroom.  This is one thing that I don’t check out ahead of time, but if I discover that they don’t have a changing table at our first visit, we aren’t likely to go back there.  The one exception is our favorite lunch time spot- Chipotle (yes, we do some chains for lunch).
  • Adult friendly. We aren’t looking for a super duper family friendly restaurant with only okay food.  We want the good food that Portland has come to be known for and it better have good beer or an awesome wine list.    This is why you need to jaunt over to Momsicle’s site today and see more of my recommended locations.

Some other favorites include: 

·        Mother’s Bistro:
o   My husband has thing for good breakfast places and Mother’s is said to be one of the best.  I am pretty sure they have a kid’s menu, but it isn’t on the website.   We were there is past summer with family when Superman was about 7 months old.  My two nephews (4 and 8) loved it and Superman enjoyed tasting off other people’s plates.  The wait staff went out of their way to make the kids happy.  The only thing not kid friendly about this place is the wait.  Sometimes it can take a good long while to be seated so come prepared.
  
·        Mama Mia Trattoria
o   Owned by the same people who own Mother’s, it is a great Italian restaurant with probably the best kid’s menu around.  Sure they have the typical chicken fingers, but they also have options like Pasta Filettor Di Pomodoro, Ravioli, and Meatball and Linguine.  We haven’t been since Superman was born, but we were there with my sister and her family.  I can’t wait to take S.

·        Gustavs:
o   Let me start by saying that kids under 3 eat for free (a choice of penne and cheese or mashed potatoes, turkey gravy and apple sauce- we chose the second option and S likes it a lot!)  Add that to the fact that they have yummy fondue, an assortment of other German food done really well, and enormous beers (you are beginning to worry about me, aren’t you?); you have a fabulous option for you and your kiddos. 

·        Slappy Cakes:
o   Do it yourself pancake place?  Yes please.  This place takes the simple act of making pancakes and turns it into an adventure.  You get to choose what type of batter, your fixins (sweet and savory), and your toppings, then make your pancakes right there at your table.  Ms. Momsicle herself and I actually went here together and since our kids are younger, I think we had more fun than they did (we learned that I am a horrible pancake maker).  However, the place is certainly kid friendly and our munchkins loved the food we made for them.  (There is a full made-for-you menu as well.)

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