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Aug 6, 2008 08:25 AM

Kid-friendly & fun -- MSP

Greetings! We will be in the Cities this weekend--eating out Friday thru Sunday. We're looking for an entertaining eatery for the kids (like Ella's Deli in Madison--lots to look at, etc.) with decent food. Also looking for good, relatively inexpensive breakfast in Bloomington area--will be staying near 494 & hwy 100. Ate at Keys in Fridley (maybe Coon Rapids?) last Friday--$40 for breakfast for 2 adults and 2 kids was kind of spendy. Good...but spendy. Any help out there? Thanks in advance!

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  1. Here's a fairly recent post about kid friendly places (that could also accommodate a vegetarian). Your options won't be limited by the vegetarian requirement, though, so consider this just a starting point. We ended up at Edina Grill, which could also be a decent option for you for breakfast nearby'ish to Bloomington, though, honestly, probably not less expensive than Key's. Would you consider dim sum for breakfast? Jun Bo in Richfield would be very convenient, is kid-friendly, and can be pretty affordable depending on how you order. I don't know how early they open, though. I believe it's 10am--you might call ahead.

    P.S. I'm not at all familiar with Ella's, so, I'm afraid I won't be able to speak to which of these places in the thread I linked would be like that.


    12 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      Thanks! I guess I have should have searched before posting...

      About Ella's--full of "stuff" to peruse...old toys, trinkets, train (or something) around the ceiling, carousel outside....much fun for kids. Food=not so great, but atmosphere=very fun for kids.

      1. re: 4maxwelz

        Well, we have a Chuck E. Cheese near 494 & France...

        1. re: Jordan

          Ummmm....I believe that two times per year (once for each child's birthday) is my limit. But thanks for the suggestion. :-)

        2. re: 4maxwelz

          For "spectacle," if it works for your schedule I'd still recommend an early meal at Loring Pasta Bar in Dinkytown, as I recommended in the link in TDQ's message above. (I know there are others who disagree with this recommendation.) We have not had a problem the several times we've gone at 5:30 - but I'd call ahead to confirm availability. Music there starts around 6 or so on the weekends, so you may get some added entertainment.

          The spectacle is a little more adult than Ella's (no toys) but still plenty of stuff to look at throughout the place.

        3. re: The Dairy Queen

          Oh no worries! The place you describe sounds a lot like Day by Day Cafe on West 7th in St. Paul. It wouldn't be too hard to get to from Bloomington. Lots of toys on the wall. A nice outdoor patio. Usually good (but not always--we got a recent "terrible" report) food. Another place that has so so food that is fun is the Chatterbox Pub. They have board games and 80's era video games and couches, etc. I've only been to the one in St. Paul (food is awful there). The original is in Minneapolis. Great atmosphere for kids, I think.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Those places sound perfect, TDQ! Thank you!!

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Chatterbox Pub sounds like a lot of fun! After looking at the Day by Day Cafe website, I believe that we had breakfast their this spring. Breakfast was good during that visit.

              1. re: 4maxwelz

                I love the atmosphere at Chatterbox (at least the St. Paul one. I assume the MPLS one, the original, is equally as fun.) I wish the food were better--it's been awhile since I've gone, so perhaps things have improved, but my recollection was that they try super hard but everything was oversauced and oversalted and heavy-handed on the garlic and some kind of chili seasoning. So, perhaps you can ask them to go easy on the salt and spice and put any sauce on the side? Also, portions are large. You might wish to share.

                One poster (alas, I can't remember who it was--St. Paul Susie, perhaps?-- has one one chowish thing on their menu to recommend, but I'm afraid I don't recall what it was. Maybe whoever that was will chime in here. And add some recs of their own, too, as I'm sure there are many options.)

                Have fun!


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I think the two Chatterboxes have different personalities. I go to the Mpls one a lot and I don't think I'd classify the Mpls location as particularly kid-friendly. I don't think I've ever seen a kid there, in fact. At least, not for dinner. Brunch may be a different story. The Mpls location has all the fun games, but is kind of a dive. It's smaller, and the ventilation is pretty awful. I always go home smelling of garlic and grease. If I sound like I'm criticizing, I'm not--I love dives! The Highland location is larger, cleaner, and I've definitely seen families there.

                  1. re: drew13000

                    Perhaps the photos on their website are from the St. Paul location...looks nice and clean.

                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I've had luck with a chicken quesadilla there. That is about it. Overpriced and just not good. LOVE the games & old school video games.

                    Now we go somewhere cheaper with better food and just give our kids quarters!

                  3. re: 4maxwelz

                    The Chatterbox is a great atmosphere for kids, but beware of their odd food decisions. In addition to some weird choices on their adult menu, someone posted recently that their kids menu mac and cheese was served with something spicy sprinkled all over the top (jalapenos or cayenne or something like that)! Don't be shy about sending back inappropriate kids food!

              2. How about Tin Fish (Lake Calhoun) or Sea Salt (Minnehaha Falls)? Both are located in a park setting. Both are outdoor eateries.

                Tin Fish is in the boat house at Lake Calhoun--- the lake has boats, a beach, playground, etc.

                Sea Salt is in Minnehaha Falls- great trails, right on the creek, bikes to rent, etc.


                1 Reply
                1. re: minnesotajane

                  Yum! These both sound really good, too. And the water is an added bonus! Good thing we're in town for an entire weekend!

                2. i can't personally rec snap or pop, but they seem to be both family & budget friendly. maybe the others could weigh in?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: soupkitten

                    I'm waiting to read something about crackle. :-) (since you're talking about snap and pop, ya know....)

                    1. re: 4maxwelz

                      Snap! and Pop! are kid friendly places in North East Minneapolis next to each other and owned by the same people. I like the standard fare at Pop, uninspiring pizza at Snap! Both places are kid favorites. Have games on the table, etc.

                      1. re: mnitchals

                        Plus, the kids' meals come on TV trays-- very kitschy, in the best sense of the word! I love Pop! Have not been to Snap! yet. The owners are going to open up another place in Lowertown, I believe, and are calling it Pop!! (two exclamation points because it's the second place)

                  2. The Good Day Cafe on the north-west corner of HWY 100 and 394 has a great breakfast, and is kid friendly.

                    1. If you are desperate, there is a Rainforest Cafe and a Bubba Gump Shrimp at the Mall of America. Not going to be chowish, but good for the kids.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: TDS1

                        Oh golly, desperate is the right word, I'm afraid. If I might respectfully suggest some alternatives if you're not quite so desperate, save your money and take the kids to Zöbota Café at the Como Zoo in St. Paul instead of taking them to the Rainforest Cafe. Zöbota Café doesn't offer a huge menu, but they do have Muddy Paws cheesecake (local) and they offer some reasonably heal4thy options. It's a tad overpriced (like by a buck or two per meal kinda thing), but it's much more affordable than the R.C. and the animals are real. Admission to the zoo is technically free, though they request a small $1-$2 donation if you are so inclined. The carousel is nearby by as is "Como Town" children's amusement park and the McNeeley Conservatory. I had the misfortune of finding myself at the Rainforest Cafe recently. They have a huge menu and yet, I could not find much--except burgers and one pasta dish-- that wasn't battered and deep-fried (thankfully, they will grill anything you ask them to) and it was stupidly expensive. Portions are gargantuan. Kids burgers come 2-3 plate. (That's the kid-sized serving! Yes, they are smallish burgers, but, still...) The animal stuff was a neat gimmick, but a real zoo is better. (Minnesota Zoo is even better, but that's a full-day kind of affair, whereas with Como Zoo, you really could take the kids just to lunch and make your zoo visit pretty short without feeling like you're not getting your money's worth for your zoo admission.) And, at Rainforest Cafe you must enter and exit through the gift shop. Como Zoo also has a gift shop, but it's optional and the proceeds of anything you buy go to help the zoo.

                        And, again, if you're not so desperate, take the kids to the aforementioned Sea Salt (although, bring some cheerios for the kids to snack on while waiting for your food as the wait can be long), Tin Fish, or even Friday Fish Fry at Groveland Tap instead of Bubba Gumps. Sea Salt is in Minnehaha Park and the kids can see the falls or rent bikes or just run around, Tin Fish is next to the lake, and Groveland Tap is a kid-friendly pub with pool tables, crayons, and a small selection (if I recall correctly) video games.

                        RE: autmommy's Midtown Global Market suggestion--I couldn't agree with her more. Even when it's not "family night" it's hyper family friendly. They often have live music or other stuff going on. And the best part is, compared to Chatterbox, is that the food at Midtown Global Market is GOOD!


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          We're headed to Como Zoo on Saturday. What a perfect suggestion for lunch or whatever. Rainforest Cafe is a complete waste of $$ in our opinion, too.

                          1. re: 4maxwelz

                            Awesome! That's a great place to spend time with your family. If you don't need to eat AT the Zoo, there's a terrific sandwich shop in a strip mall just north of Como Park on Lexington at Larpenteur. It's called Maverick's (and, just so you can find it, it's next to a Subway!) Their roast beef and beef brisket sandwiches are fabulous. Roast beef --beautifully pink--shaved super thin and served on an unobstrusive hamburger bun. Think Arby's roast beef sandwich, but good. Most of the rest of the menu is kinda blah. Fries are decent. Chocolate shakes are good. Strawberry shakes are awful. They don't particularly cater to children (ie., no crayons or animatron animals that I recall), but it's a place where people wouldn't mind if you had your kids along. And the sandwiches are really, really good.

                            Another place I don't always recommend because I think the chow is not not stellar, but if you're going to Como Zoo, you'll probably cross University Avenue at some point. Mai Village on University Avenue has average Vietnamese fare, and a wonderful indoor koi pond. It might be fun for the kids to look at the fish. If I recall, Mai Village also has an assembly your own beef roll kind of dish that would be fun for kids. And, on Saturdays and Sundays they offer dim sum, which, again, can be fun for kids.

                            Sounds like you have a fantastic weekend lined up.


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              Maverick's is great - one of my favorites, but if I was going to picnic at Como Park, I'd pick up sandwiches from Nelson's Cheese Factory at the corner of Snelling and Como instead.

                              That will stand up a little better while you look for a parking spot, a nice picnic bench, and just seems more of a picnic meal than Maverick's.

                              Also, to build on what TDQ said earlier about Sea Salt, while the park is great, I don't know that I would really call it kid-friendly. You're looking at a 30-45 minute wait in line, and then another 20-30 minute wait for your food. When a kid wants to eat NOW, Sea Salt will be a pretty awful experience.