More trendy restaurants now offer special menus for kids.

All the Rage: Delighting Tiny Diners


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Mac and cheese at Desco

Pat Mazzera

Three-year-old Amber doesn’t like seafood. Six-year-old Tyler can’t cut steak. Ten-year-old Casey adores passatelli alla salsiccia but couldn’t possibly polish off a full $22 plate of it.

Designed to delight little diners who can order what they want and big diners who pay the bills, children’s menus can make all the difference when it comes to deciding where to eat. And they’re turning up these days at trendy restaurants.

Oakland’s Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill offers multicourse meals for children, featuring such entrées as grilled salmon and flatiron steak. Alameda’s American Oak offers grilled-cheese sandwiches, chicken strips, and small burgers. Berkeley’s Riva Cucina offers fettuccines and tagliatelles along with grilled prawns and mozzarella-topped chicken. Adorned with four puzzles and a picture to color, the kids’ menu at Oakland’s Desco includes pasta and pizza.

“The most important thing is to provide children with something simple and tasty that they can identify with,” says Patrice Brault, food and beverage director at Berkeley’s FIVE, which offers its small diners soup, grilled-cheese sandwiches, chicken tenders, and pasta with multiple sauce options.

Jim Wimborough, the chef at Berkeley’s Zut!, agrees: “Our kids’ menu has small portions of things that kids love: grilled cheese, cheeseburgers, pasta served plain or with butter and cheese or tomato sauce. Pizza, even French-fries pizza—kids love this,” says Wimborough, who when designing this menu “just wanted simple foods that kids really enjoy that will make them feel at home” so that they and their families can “relax and get a great meal. I know what it’s like. I have a wild 7-year-old.”

Chef Adam Carpenter also used his own offspring to inspire the children’s menu at Lafayette’s Park Bistro & Bar.

“I usually think about what my kids would like to eat,” says Carpenter, who serves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mini-pancakes, mac-and-cheese, mini-burgers on house-made buns with pickles “because my boys love pickles,” and grilled-cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread, which are “a staple at my house.”

“We keep it simple and always recommend the seasonal items on the menu for the kids as well. My boys love the peaches and mixed greens.”

Other local restaurants catering to kids include Spettro, Bellanico Restaurant and Wine Bar, Ben ’n’ Nick’s Bar & Grill, Meritage at the Claremont, Orinda’s Table 24, Paragon Restaurant and Bar, Pizza Moda, Skates on the Bay, Albany’s Bistro 1491, Kincaid’s, Hana Japan, Lark Creek Walnut Creek, Quinn’s Lighthouse, and Pier 29. Some restaurants, such as Oakland’s Homestead and Berkeley’s Revival Bar + Kitchen, lack official kids’ menus but will happily downscale portions for children on request.

“Eating away from home can be a stress factor for children,” FIVE’s Brault explains, adding that some kids actually “enjoy the experience because in restaurants they can get the stuff that Mom or Pop doesn’t want or doesn’t know how to make at home.”

Carpenter’s philosophy? “Try to make kids feel like they are real diners, not just kids. Treat them like people. Give them good quality so the parents know and like it, too.”

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