Tips on eating with a foodie kid in MSP
We are coming to the "big city" from WI for a few days with our 5 year-old, and are wondering where we can eat that will be pleasant for all of us. He is well-behaved and will try most things (I'm a food writer - he does a lot of taste-testing, and loves sushi), so I am just looking for nice places but not ones where I have to worry that he might accidentally pull the table cloth and tip over the wine glasses, or where people may not want to see kids. We do tend to seat as early as possible. . . .
We would love tapas, or vietnamese, or middle eastern food. If there is truly excellent pizza that might be an option, but no Italian-American joints. We are going to the fair as well.
Here's a great post, I think, on kid-friendly dining, even though it's from 2007. I think the whole thread is fantastic, but roberto's report back is especially well-done and on point. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/429549#2865480
For VIETNAMESE, I recommend Saigon on University Avenue in St. Paul. Great pho, great banh mi sandwiches Ngon Bistro on University Avenue in St. Paul is a bit more upscale'ish and French inspired, most everything locally sourced including their outstanding selection of local beers. I love all of the appetizers, the bun dishes and the broken rice dishes. I love the pho, but it's a big source of debate on this board. I've seen well-behaved children at both Saigon (very casual) and Ngon (bistro-type atmosphere). http://www.ngonbistro.com/
For truly excellent PIZZA, well, no one can agree on what that is or if it exists here, but the typical contenders are Pizza Luce http://www.pizzaluce.com/ (the one on Franklin in Minneapolis is fine for kids) or my fav, Punch Pizza http://www.punchpizza.com/where/grand-avenue.aspx (several locations--of the two in St. Paul, I recommend the one on Grand Avenue for folks with kids). Other contenders for excellent (but not Italian American) pizza include Black Sheep Coal fired pizza http://www.blacksheeppizza.com/ and Pizza Nea http://pizzanea.com/. I don't know much about either of those places so can't comment.
MIDDLE EASTERN: I think Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis is a fun stop with kids and they have a decent outpost of Holyland Deli there. http://www.midtownglobalmarket.org/?q=dining/lunch-dinner-takeout/1 Very, very casual almost cafeteria style dining. Better for lunch or early dinner. If Somali cuisine is "Middle Eastern" in your world view, there is Safari in Midtown Global Market, too.
Other Somali places (both in Minneapolis on Lake Street) are Qoraxlow http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/517945#3676160 and Hamdi (next to Midtown Global Market) http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/625363#5005704
Other Middle Eastern: Babanis in St. Paul (Kurdish)--make sure to go the original on St. Peter, not Babanis Express, which is dreadful. http://www.babanis.com/
I can't recommend Black Sea for Turkish, alas (my humble and respectful apologies in advance to Black Sea's many fans). I find the fries that everyone seems to adore to be salted beyond the point of being edible (and, of course, not at all Turkish). The service is super helpful and friendly but the food has been melting potted down to the point of being generic Middle Eastern'ish.
I like Crystal Bistro (which has changed its name to Afghan Restaurant), though it's been awhile since I've been: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/423258 It might be a bit out of your way. Khyber Pass in St. Paul is pretty good and pretty conveniently-located on Grand, just off of Snelling (which is easily accessible from 94). http://khyberpasscafe.com/ Crystal Bistro is definitely kid-friendly., Khyber Pass might be too quiet at dinner to feel comfortable with a child.
While you're at Midtown Global Market, I think La Sirena Gorda, Taqueria Los Ocampo, West Indies Soul, Cafe Finspang (for dessert-type things), Salty Tart (for everything but cupcakes) are all really great and kid-friendly.
For Persian, Caspian Bistro on University Avenue in Minneapolis is pretty kid friendly. Love their market, too.
TAPAS: Solera is best known for tapas in the Twin Cities. I can't say that it's particularly kid-friendly, alas, but maybe others who feel differently will chime in with their opinions.
Enjoy your stay (especially the Fair!)! Please report back.
re: The Dairy Queen
darn, we got back too early to use all this info -- but will definitely save it for the next trip! We ate at Ngon Bistro (fab-u-lous! Great beer list along with some interesting takes on the norm. Would've liked to have their Pho, but we sat on the patio and they don't serve it out there. We were the only ones there so didn't have to worry about offending others. )
Also -- thankyou thankyou thankyou for the Punch Pizza tip. I thought my husband was actually going to break down and cry he was so happy. I sure wish I could get my green egg up to 900 degrees - because what it does to pizza crust is nothing short of a revealation.
We also ate at Shish, where I had a good chicken shwarma -- but would like to try some perhaps more authentic places. We also stopped by Holy Land grocery/deli right at dusk (it is Ramadan, for those who don't know) and the energy and smells there were amazing!
At the fair I had a great buffalo shish-kabob and the (infamous) lingonberry ice cream sundae. All in all, chowhounders helped make the trip! Thanks everyone!!
I find that the nice thing about many Asian restaurants here in the Twin Cities is that there is a large population of Asian/Asian-Americans who frequent the family-run establishments. And this often means that whole families are there together- lots of kids. So the staff and other diners are used to and happy to cater to families.
In this vein, another place you might want to try is Bangkok Thai Deli, if you like really great Thai. Spicy! You can search the boards here for glowing reviews. I'm not sure if they've moved (they were having issues with their landlord), so you may want to call ahead.
Brasa (two locations, NE Minneapolis and Grand Ave in St Paul) would also be fun, it's one of our favorites. Kind of Latin/South American - Southern American - Caribbean vibe to the food (rotisserie chicken, slow - roasted pork, fried plantains, collard greens, etc). We frequent the St Paul location all the time now that it's open and there are always lots of kids there, from babies to teenagers. Their grits and creamed spinach are among the first foods our daughter ate. The St Paul location is next to one of Punch's locations, mentioned above. (Punch is also popular with us, most frequently for take out)
Middle Eastern-- I happen to like Black Sea (Turkish). It's a tiny little place so I haven't been since my baby was born. Great Turkish lemonade and oddly enough, their french fries are yummy (for some reason a lot of middle eastern places around here also do American). Abu Nader (Palestinian) is another favorite-- more of a deli than a restaurant, I love their hummus. When we go to Babani's (Kurdish) I always get the Kurdish lemonade, which is really nothing like lemonade at all- dark in color, not at all sweet, tart in a kind of earthy way...hard to describe. Also I love their Dowjic soup, their version of avgolemono. Hmmm, these are all in St Paul!
Meant to add locations...
600 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414
Babani's Kurdish Restaurant
544 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102
Abu Nader Deli & Grocery
2095 Como Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55108
Black Sea Restaurant
737 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55104
Bangkok Thai Deli & Supermarket
315 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103
Our 11-month old goes most places with us, excepting when we have date night!
Our current favorite Vietnamese is Ngon Bistro. Slightly more upscale and fusion-y (this isn't quite the right word but it's the best I can do) food. But Ngon and any of the standard favorite MSP Vietnamese places (Saigon, Quang etc) are going to be 100% fine with children.
Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
799 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104
Saigon Restaurant & Bakery
704 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104