Kid Friendly Restaurants in Columbus?

Kevin Joy from the Dispatch emailed me today asking about kid-friendly restaurants. Here's an excerpt:

Basically, I'm trying to find restaurants around town that either have:

a) more upscale children's menus
b) healthier children's menus
c) no kids meals at all, but do have, at times, a family clientele...such as the time I saw kids eating sushi at Haiku.

I'd be interested to hear any suggestions, if you've heard stories or had experiences with any of the above. Feel free to forward to anyone that might want to share their two cents.

[upscale children's menu? Hmmm, I'm thinking Kevin doesn't have children]
My general guidelines on dining with a wildly energetic kid are the following:

-Any restaurant that has crayons immediately available is good.
-We try desperately not to go to fast food because there's good stuff out there for just as cheap (still happens on occasion).
-I'm afraid we're destined for noisy places with the kids, because they just can't sit still longer than the time it takes to eat (about 15 minutes if you're lucky, my daughter's now 4).

Our family's picks so far:

1. Believe it or not, Hometown Buffet, is pretty good. It's a chain but their veggies are cooked well, they have an amazing variety of foods, our friends are vegetarians and love it there too, it's rowdy as hell so no one cares if the kid jumps up and runs around. Food is lightly flavored with just s&p (probably) and the kid only costs a dollar per year of age. Good food, cheap, loud, tolerant. Sorry it's not sexier.

2. Maybe not the healthiest fare, but kid-friendly is Pig Iron BBQ (N. High). Crayons at the ready, a nice selection on the kids menu (not just mac 'n cheese, etc.). Good for the adults too! And, they're very nice to kids.

3. Healthier. Whole World Bakery. It's a vegetarian/vegan place on N. High. My daughter loves the hummous platter (hummous and fresh veggies). And we like vegetarian fare too. Pretty cheap, very kid friendly, about $20 for all 3 of us.

4. Haiku (NOT kid-friendly). We ate at Haiku when my girl was about 18 months. We went early so it was ok. But all the hipsters who came in the door avoided our table like E. Coli. It's funny, young people are the least tolerant of children in a restaurant, whereas the older set often look at a screaming child and smirk (I suspect they're relfecting on their past).

5. Sher-E-Punjab we hear is excellent. Vegetarian buffet on Tuesday nights and our friends tell us it's kid-friendly. Haven't tried it yet. Definitely will soon!

6. Cafe Shish Kebab. We went there with another couple and their 4-year old. I hate to stereotype middle eastern-run restaurants, but I'll make an exception here. The waitstaff are always wonderful with children. I don't know why, but every restaurant we've tried is great, the former Turkish Cuisine when it was on High was great, Cafe Istanbul in Easton was kid-friendly (but food was mediocre at times). The cuisine in general is flavorful and beautifully spiced without being to much for the little guys and Frankie's a big meat eater (she eats lots of good food). At Cafe Shish Kebab she loved the donner kebab. Not bad price either.

Add your favorites in the comments or send them to Kevin Joy of the Dispatch (kjoy@dispatch.com).


bob.os said...

El Vaquero on Olentangy is our kids' favorite place. Once we got my oldest son convinced that he didn't need to order the pizza and french fries on the kids menu, we all four eating good mexican food.

I haven't had Whole World in a long time. We'll have to give it a whirl someday soon.

Dave said...

Thanks Bob, we've been meaning to try it. For Mexican, our favorite so far has been La Casita on Bethel. It's unbelievable.

Unknown said...

[upscale children's menu? Hmmm, I'm thinking Kevin doesn't have children]

I agree with that! It's been a long time since I had to worry about the kid's menu, but by and large the food on them is always the same. Chicken Nuggets, Pizza, Spaghetti, Mac and Cheese, Hot Dogs and Burgers. Blech. When the offspring was younger, I would just ask for a small plate and share some of my dinner with her. Most restaurant portions are too much for one person anyway. If I knew she liked something in particular, I would order an extra serving - say green beans or some other veggie maybe a starch as well. I never had anyone tell me "no" or charge me an extra plate fee. It's all how you approach it.

I think that people handicap their children's eating habits by sticking to the "kid's menu". And that means at home too. Being the oldest child, I had to eat what was on the table. My brother, on the other hand, would have starved to death if it hadn't been for Kraft mac and cheese and Chef Boyrdee ravioli. To this day - I still eat a wider variety of items and am willing to try different foods. And my hubby and I passed our eating habits on to our daughter. The last time I had lunch at my brother's house, his kids were eating Hot Pockets. Sad and scary.

Dave said...

Good advice about staying away from the kids' menu Rosie. Sharing our food is good for them.

Chef Boyardee and Hot Pockets are scary items indeed.

Lorence said...

Long post warning...

We've always had Boogie eat what we eat and he still does, but at almost 7 years old, he's wanted his own meal for a while now. Since he's accustomed to eating the "right" food at a restaurant (e.g., eating Chinese at a Chinese place, Mexican at a Mexican place, etc.), he's never understood why they have burgers at on the menu at ethnic places...

One good place for kids (always lots there, the crayons are immediate and it's pretty noisy) is Boogie's favorite, Chile Verde at Carriage Place (Sawmill & Bethel on the Sawmill Rd side)
Some other places we like:
Taj Palace (Mill Run, Hilliard)has a real nice kids menu. Boogie always gets the "Mini Meal": starts with a small bowl of golden lentil soup, and has 2 pieces of Tandoori chicken, naan (of course he always wants our Korma or Mahkani, too!). They also have a "curry for beginners" and another Indian kids meal as well as some "American" dishes.
Eastern Bay (Chinese food) on Dublin Rd near Trabue is another that we've taken him to forever. They're very friendly there and the portions are plenty large enough to share.
Ooh, can't forget Champps! Go there on a Tuesday night, Kids eat for free and they have wonderfully delightful balloon artist. For us adults, the menu is large, the food is pretty good and the portions are HUGE. The wife and I always split a dish and there's still leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
There's also Talita's, My Big Fat Greek Cuisina (Fishinger and Riverside - absolutely fabulous there with huge portions, too- Say hi to Chris and Maria!), even Figlio (we go to the Riverside Drive one) with tablecloths made for drawing on, Barley's Smokehouse (his other favorite), the Chef-o-Nette (ok, so it's not "upscale", but it's a great kid friendly place - Boogie always orders the fried fish with their green beans and slaw instead of fries), Aladdins in Grandview or on North High, Starliner Diner, PF Changs, and there's a steak place up near Easton between Smokey Bones and Red Robin - I can't remember the name, but it's pretty darn kid friendly there, too (peanut shells on the floor and all!),...

We've been very fortunate that Boogie loves all foods and will try absolutely anything. He really "gets it".

Dave said...

What a wealth of suggestions Lorence, thanks! Taj Palace is a big favorite of ours and the tip on Champs is great. Frankie's only 4 and is somewhat adventurous. We hope her preferences expand as much as Boogie's, he really does understand good food. Way to go.