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What should be on a kids menu?

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Went to dinner last night at a typical "family style" restaurant. The family at the next table had a child - 4 or 5 years old, I guess - who wouldn't eat anything. The kids menu offered a cheeseburger, chicken fingers, cheese pizza, and spaghetti. He wouldn't have any of those. The parents tried to interest him in appetizers - chicken wings, potato skins, mozzarella fingers, etc. - but it was nothing doing, and the kid's complaints got louder and louder, until the parents finally apologized to the waiter and left.

I don't want this to degenerate into a discussion of parenting skills, so I hope everyone please leaves that issue alone. But the incident did leave me wondering: what else could the restaurant have offered on a kids menu? The only things I could think of were hot dogs or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and I think plenty of places would reject those for 1) possible choking, or 2) allergies. Any thoughts?

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  1. This goes under the "you can't please everyone" category. If your child, or anyone in the party, is that picky, then the menu needs to be consulted before sitting down.

    1. All of the appetizers and items on the kids menu seem perfectly fine to me...

      I don't think it's a case of what's on the menu, but rather what's not on the menu. The parents could have asked for whatever it was that the kid wanted.. granted it's not something complicated. A plain baked potato or plain spaghetti...

      1 Reply
      1. re: cheesecake17

        this is what I do. I have a 5 yr old boy and I ask him what he wants for dinner, many times he does not order off the kids menu but from the appetizers.

        As for suggestions on the kids menu...how about a small salad with chicken or other protein. My son often gets a small salad and bread and butter when we go out. Or if we are at an Italian place he wants just a meatball or just sausage.

      2. It wasn't the menu or the parents. It was the tot who just didn't want to eat. Whether the wait to be seated was too long, or he/she was already tired before they got there...maybe he was coming down with something? Who knows. There are a myriad of reasons an otherwise reasonable child refuses to eat no change to the menu is going to fix that.

        In terms of hot dogs - they're on a lot of kids menus out there. It's common for them to be split down the middle so they're rendered less of a hazard. I've never seen pb&j, but I have seen, and ordered grilled cheese - something my 5yo adores - and had her turn up her nose at it on an off day. If she can be amused with crayons etc we stay, if not, check please.

        1 Reply
        1. re: maplesugar

          I agree that this sounds like a kid determined not to be pleased by anything. Probably tired and sulky. Of all the picky kids I've ever known, all of them would have eaten at least one of those things. That's why all that stuff is on kids menus to begin with--universal appeal, to American kids, at least!

          It's possible, as some other posters suggest, that a veggie dip or some offbeat thing might have worked, but you'd think the parents would have known about that going in.

        2. Lots of restaurants that do the chicken fingers/hamburger/hot dog thing have dropped the ball. Progressive restaurants are now offering simple crudite (carrot, celery, maybe broccoli) with dipping sauce/dressing. This goes over well because this is what progressive parents give their kids to eat at home!

          Even McDonald's is hip enough to offer apple slices and dipping sauce with one or more of it's "Happy Meal" products, these days.

          1. Did the parents actually ask the child what he wanted to eat? Or did they just say, "oh, look, here's mozzarella sticks, you like mozzarella sticks, why don't you have those?"

            Personally I don't believe in a separate kid's menu. Kid-sized portions of whatever's offered, yes, but I don't like going to, say, a Mexican restaurant and seeing mac and cheese and chicken nuggets on the kid's menu. If chicken nuggets and mac and cheese are offered on the regular menu, that's fine. Just don't have them as separate items that have to be specially made.

            12 Replies
            1. re: MandalayVA

              I’m with you on this one Mandalay, and I can’t remember menus having “Kids Section” when I was a child. In fact, I think my parents ordered for me and they ate what I couldn’t.

              In this case, it seems the kid was just cranky and didn’t even know what HE wanted.

              1. re: MandalayVA

                Ditto for the "no kids menu" but allow 1/2 portions for the wee ones.

                cuccubear doesn't remember kids' menus? Heck, I'm 50 and growing up in nearly every restaurant we visited were the ubiquitous, horribly, colorful "kids' sections" of the menu, typically featuring a hamburger called a "clown" ('cause they made a face on it with condiments) and the like. Horrible.

                Indeed, kids should be offered what the restaurant offers to everyone else. How else are they gonna learn how to eat?

                1. re: shaogo

                  I'm in my 50s and remember "children's menu" from my youth that were not just junk/fast food. In particular recall 2 restaurants that we used to visit for nice family dinners where the children's menu featured things like a turkey dinner or fried chicken - not haute cuisine but the sort of thing that an old-fashioned grandmother might fix for Sunday dinner. There always were vegetables included (and an ice cream sundae for dessert).

                  1. re: masha

                    I had to laugh out loud! You and your family obviously patronized white-tablecloth restaurants. We were poor, so places like Howard Johnson's, Schrafft's and the like were the places we went.

                    We did, however, go all-out once or twice a year. The venerable Dog Team Inn, north of Middlebury, Vermont (now long gone) had the kind of childrens' menu items you described and they were just wonderful. I was about eight and remember roast turkey with all the fixin's, meat loaf and mashed potatoes, and even a pork roast option on their childrens' menu. What a wonderful way to go!

                    1. re: shaogo

                      I know the Dog Team and much lamented when it burned down. You are right that was the type of menu available. (As to "white table" restaurants, the two to which I was referring were not all that fancy but they were in relatively rural locations -- though not as rural as the Dog Team Went to my share of HoJos growing up too.)

                      1. re: shaogo

                        I adored the Dog Team Tavern! My family even recreates most of the relish wheel at Thanksgiving. The kids' menu was similar to the adult menu when I used to go. So sad it's burned down.

                        1. re: shaogo

                          The Dog Team Tavern! The relish wheel alone would be fun for most kids!

                          1. re: Cachetes

                            As a kid I only ate the horseradish cottage cheese. Before they closed I was up to the beans and the corn relish. Still never developed taste for pickled beets, sauerkraut or apple butter. My mother and her siblings swear that years ago (probably in the 60s-80s) they had carrot and celery sticks on the wheel too! We serve the beans (we have the recipe), cottage cheese (you can buy the powder at some of the stores in middlebury), and corn relish (supermarket) at Thanksgiving with our pumpkin bread, nut bread, pickles, olives etc.

                            1. re: melpy

                              What I want is the recipe for their sticky buns!!!

                              1. re: masha

                                There is a cookbook with it. I have to look up the name.

                                Nevermind. The new catering company has it printed online for free:

                                Dog Team Sticky Buns

                                ¾ POUND POTATOES, PEELED AND CUBED
                                ¼ POUND (1 STICK) MARGARINE, AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
                                2 ¾ CUPS SUGAR
                                1 ½ TEASPOONS SALT
                                1 PACKAGE ACTIVE DRY YEAST
                                2 EGGS, WELL BEATEN
                                7 CUPS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
                                1 ½ CUPS PACKED LIGHT BROWN SUGAR
                                1 ½ CUPS CHOPPED WALNUTS
                                ½ POUND (2 STICKS) LIGHTLY SALTED BUTTER, MELTED
                                ¼ CUP GROUND CINNAMON

                                Boil potatoes in salted water to cover until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes, reserving 1 ½ cups of the cooking liquid, and mash. Measure 1 Cup of the mashed potatoes and reserve the rest for another use.

                                Stir together the mashed potatoes, margarine, ½ cup of the sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm and add yeast, eggs and the reserved 1 ½ cups cooking liquid. Mix well. Add flour and stir. Knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic. Set in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Punch down and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

                                Butter three 9-inch round or square baking dishes. Distribute brown sugar evenly among the pans. Sprinkle with enough water to make the sugar very wet. Distribute walnuts evenly over the brown sugar.

                                Roll out the dough into a ½-inch-thick rectangle on a well-floured surface. Brush with melted butter. Stir together the remaining 2 ¼ cups sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the buttered dough. Roll up the dough as you would a jelly roll. Cut into ½-inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices cut-side up in the prepared pans so that they are almost touching. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

                                Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

                                Bake the sticky buns until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.
                                Immediately invert the buns onto a plate.

                                MAKES 6 TO 8 STICKY BUNS PER PAN

                                1. re: melpy

                                  Thank you!

                      2. re: shaogo

                        shaogo, I really don't remember them per se, but I seem to remember now spaghetti or fried chicken "For smaller appetites". But mostly I remember sharing with my parents, or them finishing what I couldn't from a regular menu selection.

                    2. I know with my grandsons at that age, it had to be either chicken fingers (nuggets), fries or mac and cheese. It was a staple for them at a restaurant. The youngest is still the pickiest eater of the bunch.

                      1. Sounds like this kid was just having a bad day. I have twins who are nearly 6, and they can be pretty picky, but since they were 4 or so we've been able to go out to eat without major mayhem.

                        If the pasta can be served plain or with butter instead of red sauce, that should suffice.

                        One thing we've found that our daughter loves (our son not so much) is fried shrimp. Our boy does love hot dogs but how much can you charge for a hot dog?

                        That kids menu had enough to satisfy most kids that age.

                        1. well reasoned replies here already. i'll add that sometimes kids get overfaced for any number of reasons. too many choices. parents and wait staff all presenting at once. knowing there's time pressure, being the center of attention. wanting two things and can't decide. wanting nothing and that's not an option. some days it's just plain hard being a kid. some days kids just plain don't behave as we'd like.

                          one of my grands didn't like to commit to an order when she was little. that was fine. when ordering time was finished she might or might not have ordered something. if not she could always have something from any plate on the table (except dessert ;-)) no late ordering that's not fair to wait staff or kitchen. and there was always fruit and cheese available for an after restaurant snack.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: appycamper

                            I think you're right- the kid was either tired and cranky or intimidated by the experience for one or more reasons, or both. Sometimes you can't make a kid eat, especially if they're new at something. There really ought to be more nutritious stuff on kids' menus, shaogo is right on there. My son used to love mac & cheese with spinach mixed into it, that's how I made it for him- why not up the nutrition a little? These are the kids that will be taking care of us in our dotage, after all- we want them to NOT be malnourished. That's the way I look at it.

                            Pasta with butter or olive oil and a little cheese, most kids seem to like broccoli, carrots, and so forth. There should be more of these on kids' menus, if you can't talk your little one into the regular menu.

                          2. Those are pretty standard options for a basic "family style" restaurant. Unfortunately, though those can be the only options far too often. I'm always happy when a restaurant offers other choices, sometimes fish or shrimp, or even a small steak. There are kids who would eat other things but who can't manage a regular entree size yet.

                            I do understand that the point is to offer something to appeal to most kids, but with so many places offering the same few options, there's a whole lot of kids who eat nothing else!

                            Even when we could eat out more ($$), we varied our restaurant choices so the kids had other things -- Chinese, Thai, real pizza places, etc. That's not to say that my daughter still wouldn't order chicken fingers or a hot dog whenever possible!

                            I know it's not just parenting skills -- most young children can have a bad day or a melt down unexpectedly.

                            Choices I've seen on kids' menus (and would like to see more of):
                            Grilled cheese
                            Small entrees (depending on the place -- turkey dinner, tacos, chicken cutlet, etc.)
                            Smaller soup cups (or at least discounted partially filled cups)
                            Fruit cups
                            Salads
                            Any vegetable option other than sweetened applesauce!

                            1. Why didn't the parents offer the regular menu (entrees included) to the child? Or did they?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                It reads like the kid was uncomfortable with the whole thing- maybe the first time at a restaurant. Sounds like he couldn't choose. Maybe he was being a snot but very possibly not.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Indeed. When my daughter was little, she was always far more interested in the appetizers than what was offered on nine out of ten Kids' Menus. (French onion or clam chowder with a small caesar still keeps her happy).
                                  And, quite often, we would find an entree that both she and either my husband or I wanted, and it would be split. Thusly, she was exposed at an early age, to foods other than hot dogs, hamburgers, mac & cheese, and cheese pizza, so nowadays she has escargot, steamed mussels, steak, ribs, and coconut shrimp, and is always willing to at least taste something new.
                                  Now if I can just get her to do the dishes :[

                                2. I have to agree with shaogo and MandalayVA-- I don't think that a kid's menu is necessary, simply because you usually see only the lamest options, i.e. chicken finger/hotdogs/etc. If adults are having Mexican or Thai or Indian, why can't there be kid-friendly options too? A milder and smaller-portioned version of an adult's menu option can't be that hard to produce.

                                  I have a six year old, though, and she likes those lame menu options sometimes. If we're at an Applebee's/TGIFriday's, I let her run with that. But she really likes Italian food, so if I take her to Olive Garden or someplace similar (usually for grandma's birthday), she wants to eat regular food too. I normally get a dish we'll both like and ask for a separate plate for her (since I rarely finish my entrees, having her around saves me from having need of a take-home container). I think the key is to ASK what they want from a selection of options, and to not allow any sort of tantrum. If they aren't hungry, and are old enough to wait out their pouty funk, they can sit and sip some juice while I finish/pack up my meal.

                                  I really get upset, though, when I get a waiter/server who decides that being a child means she doesn't merit a salad plate/bread plate, and look at me like I'm insane when I request one. Kids love carbs and crunchy vegetables, folks.

                                  1. I see nothing wrong with chicken fingers if they aren't processed pieces of crap. Some of the choices would be a lot healthier if they were fresh made.

                                    I also agree that there shouldn't really be a kids menu but more so a kids portion size.

                                    What about
                                    A grilled cheese sandwich with a small bowl of tomato soup.
                                    Small fruit cups
                                    Turkey and cheese (not processed american cheese) whole wheat sandwich with pickles - I know a lot of kids love pickles.
                                    Sides other than chips - baked potato wedges, corn, rice, beans, and yes offer a green veggie, not all kids hate veggies.
                                    Simple Salads with fresh made dressings.
                                    Kid friendly soups and stews - brocoli and cheese, beef stew, chicken noodle
                                    Chili - you can sneak some nutriction into some chili
                                    Pasta bake

                                    Kids menus are so dumbed down for the masses, it's a shame because it almost seems to dictate to your child what they should and shouldn't like.

                                    and there is a problem with processed foods in the country. When re-evaluating my own sodium intake trying to get it down to around 2,000 mg a day I realized that a can of chef boyardee beefaroni has 1,980 mg of sodium in it. This is what kids are eating for lunch. Yeck.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                      Amen, sister!

                                      1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                        You are so right. I work at a grocery store and have mothers tell me how much they love Kid's Cuisine/Chef Boyardee/Totitos Pizza Rolls because "my kids are really picky-- they won't eat anything else!" Ugh. That, and the koolaid as "juice".

                                        Some of the items you listed reminded me of Panera. Kids of various ages from my dad's two churches ALL love going there because of nice sandwiches, soup, and lemonade. They're doing it right, in my opinion.

                                      2. I'm not a great fan of the idea of separate kids menus and am always impressed with places that offer small portions of the ordinary menu for children. I suppose kids demanding the sort of food that the OP mentions reflects the sort of food they are used to having at home.

                                        We didnt have kids menus when I was young and my nephew (who was raised in Spain) had a similar experience in his upbringing. By the by, he eats a much wider range of food now, as a young adult, than his cousins (who were raised mainly in America and ate the sort of food you describe)

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Harters

                                          I agree that offering simply a smaller portion of what is available on the regular menu often suffices. A lot of Italian places in Berlin do that (of course, Italians are notorious for their love of and catering to the bambini), and I've seen it at German restos, too.

                                          But in general, kids menus here don't differ much from their US counterparts - spaghetti or macaroni with tomato sauce, fish sticks & fries, mini-schnitzel or burgers or such.

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            I think you put your finger on the international issue, linguafood.

                                            When restaurants have decided to go down a route of having a kids menu, it doesnt seem to matter what country it's in - they all pretty much follow what I take to be an American style of kids food, as you identify.

                                          2. re: Harters

                                            This seems like a good place to offer a big shoutout to Doc Chey's Noodle House in Asheville, NC. Not bad pan-Asian food, but the real feature was the kids' menu. No kiddie food, just half sized and half priced portions of some of their regular menu items. Joy! Our child was able to order real food in a reasonable kid-sized portion.

                                            We made a big point of letting the server know how very happy we were with their kids' menu and made a point of coming back, even though the food was just okay. Twice on that trip I had to hand back children's menus with the statement, "Thank you, she'll order from the regular menu."

                                            More restaurants need to offer half portions of their regular menu.

                                          3. Our son has long since outgrown the kids' menu (he's a young adult) but -- as others have suggested -- my main complaint with kid's menus when he was of that age was the lack of healthy alternatives. It was not so much the main courses offered but the sides, which in his day consisted almost exclusively of fries or chips. My attitude was that it was fine if he wanted a burger or chicken fingers for his main, but then the side should consist of fresh fruit or vegetables. Most restaurants were very accomodating and would substitute a fresh fruit salad for the fries, at no cost, when I requested.

                                            Kid's menus that are more inventive were great. Our favorite one was an Italian restaurant that featured dinosaur-shaped raviolis; they were identical in filling and sauce to the ravioli on the main menu, but fewer in number & in a kid-friendly shape. Don't remember what else was on that place's kid's menu because our son always ordered the ravioli.

                                            As to the OP's inquiry: The problem in this instance was not the range of choices available but just that the child was having a "bad awful day" (to quote one of my son's favorite books when he was growing up). And, the parents handled it just right -- they got up and left, which is the only considerate thing to do when your kid is melting down.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: masha

                                              Masha,

                                              I think this is key because children love fun elements and would be willing to try things more if they liked the appearance.

                                              I'm sure kids wouldn't mind whole wheat noodles, or other healthy things if they looked appealing to them.

                                              I also think kids are very influenced by what their peers think is yucky. I mean how many times have you heard young kids saying to other kids - "Ewww you, like green beans?" "Oh gross, I can't believe you actually eat asparagus". "You know mushrooms, is a fungus, and its nasty and smells like stinky feet, why are you eating that?" These are all things I've heard before, and it's food bullying, and kids get embarrassed when they start school at 5yrs old through their elemetry school and their packed lunched consist of things other kids deem as gross.

                                              Sorry not trying to go off on a tangent but when I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to have a lot of fast food or soda. On occassion yes, but not on a regular basis. Also my grandparents chichuahas would get a happy meal once a week, and they would send us the happy meal toys, and would also buy the ones they didn't get. We cared more about getting the toys than we did about missing out on the fries and burger.

                                              I'm now 31 years old and have never been through a fast food drive through by myself. In fact the only times I ever eat fast food is when on a roadtrip.

                                              Nutrition is such a valuable thing to teach your children, and it will be with them the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, in todays society most parents have to both work to provide for their families and I believe that the lack of time to grow, prepare, and cook healthy meals leads people to bad eating habits, in which their kids inheriet. I'm not blaming the parents and as the OP stated it isn't about the parents but more about society as a whole, and big consumerism.

                                              I saw a news story on a teacher that had a garden for these elemetry school kids, the kids created the garden, planted the seeds, and tended the garden, and then they harvested the food. The kids were so excited to try everything, they were proud of the work they put in and seeing the fruits and veggies of their labor. Most kids seemed to find out they actually liked a vegitable that they thought they wouldn't. I think every elementry school should do this.

                                              1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                @ Sandwich_Sister: I think I remember a similar story about a class garden. Who knows, it might have been the same story. And while my siblings and I --and my daughter-- seemed to be unaffected by food bullying, I've heard from friends about children giving in to the peer pressure over "yucky" foods. In that case, I think it's up to parents to make sure their picky kid isn't turning into a food bully and putting other kids off their delicious mushrooms.

                                                @Masha: Dino-shaped ravioli? I think that's my next project. I wish more restaurants did fun things like that with their kid's food.

                                            2. It just occurred to me to chime in another thing that I've noticed (shockingly, at restaurants that belong to friends of mine). If there's a kids' menu but the general demographic are more progressive and do order regular menu items for their children, the ingredients that are in the larder for the kids' menu are either long-frozen, or worse, stale.

                                              A few years ago, I was having a drink with a friend and was looking over his new menu. It had a very extensive childrens' section (for an upscale suburban restaurant). One of the offerings was a hot dog with sauerkraut. I had a hankering for a hot dog the moment I saw it so I asked my buddy if I could order one... he didn't wanna go in the kitchen so he sent me in there to request it of the chef.

                                              Thank God! The chef shook his head and took me into the walk-in refrigerator. He showed me a slimy, old, opened package of supermarket franks (and a disgusting jar of sauerkraut that'd gone brown on the top) and asked me if I *really* wanted to eat that.

                                              I didn't mention anything about it to my friend. I'm sure his chef related the gagging sounds I made when I saw this. The man threw these things in the garbage when we found them, but it illustrates what I think goes on in restaurants that rarely serve children -- but still insist upon having a childrens' menu...

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: shaogo

                                                Yikes, that is truly horrifying! I cannot understand why it is commonplace for restaurants to put so little care into food served to children.

                                                http://operagirlcooks.com

                                                1. re: shaogo

                                                  Agreed. I don't know why some restaurants assume kids would WANT to eat shite. We went to a steak restaurant recently for lunch. My husband and son both ordered burgers. My husbands, which came off of the regular menu, was among the best he'd ever had (according to my husband) - juicy, bursting with flavor. We ordered my son's off of the kids menu, since it was advertised as being smaller. What they served to my son was a dehydrated hockey puck that they must have pulled out of the nether regions of some long forgotten freezer.

                                                  Why, oh why, would they give such different QUALITY meat to my son? He refused to eat it, and ended up sharing my husband's.

                                                2. Smaller portions of the adult menu with a price tag to match.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                    No doubt the price of items would go UP.....not down, if the healthier or more "adult" like items were introduced.

                                                    1. re: im_nomad

                                                      Charge me a little more but keep it fair! I can remember my father paying $21 for my sister to eat plain buttered pasta in a fine restaurant, same price as the adults.

                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                        By contrast, I can recall ordering plain buttered pasta for our son as a toddler when no such item was offered on either the adult or childs menu, although there was a seafood appetizer with pasta (which is how we knew the kitchen could comply with the request). They charged us for a "baked potato" at a very nominal price -- maybe $1 or $2.

                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                          Sometimes though.... the price of a pasta dish is not fair, even for the adults.

                                                          1. re: im_nomad

                                                            True but I think for a small child something could have been done (although I believe they served about a POUND of spaghetti to her). They have since gone out of business, although we always loved the food.

                                                      2. re: melpy

                                                        ROY"s does that to some degree, they offer short ribs and salmon.

                                                      3. Tater tots should always be on a kids menu. And for that matter, on an adult menu.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: nooyawka

                                                          I love tater tots. And I'm embarrassed to admit it.

                                                          1. re: nooyawka

                                                            I haven't eaten a tater tot for 20 years at least. But even from that time distance, I have to assert that it's impossible not to enjoy a properly cooked tater tot.

                                                          2. When my sister and her 5-year-old son are in town, we always go to a restaurant at the airport that has model airplanes hanging from the ceiling - lots to look at to entertain him. He always orders the mac and cheese, but the last time, he pretty much ditched it in favor of helping her eat her salmon. Oh, and then he finished off my cottage cheese side.

                                                            1. As many have said, all I want is kid-sized versions of what's already on the menu - that are in keeping with the style and ethnicity of the cuisine.

                                                              My 10-year-old prefers to order off the main menu, but usually chooses the most expensive thing, like the salmon or tuna. That's when I'd really like to see smaller portions available for kids (or seniors - in some cases).

                                                              I was at a Thai restaurant that actually had a thoughtful kids menu. One item was satay, and one was some small noodle dish. That's what I'm talking about as well.

                                                              A French bistro near me has a kids' menu. They have a hamburger for $5 - but it's a good quality burger and a smaller version of what's on their menu. Plus, it's on a nice bakery roll. They also have a grilled cheese - but it's gruyere on really nice bread.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: cackalackie

                                                                I should also add that it seems like a missed opportunity, marketing-wise, not to make more of an effort to introduce your smallest customers to the food your restaurant specialises in.

                                                                1. re: cackalackie

                                                                  What a good point! If young people don't start eating that type of cuisine, there won't be any customers to patronize in the future. An exaggeration of course, but thought provoking.

                                                                2. re: cackalackie

                                                                  totally agree. why can't we have kid size portions at kid size prices of the adult versions

                                                                3. It does sound like this kid was having a bad day. I too wondered about kid's menu's and posted this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6943...

                                                                  I still can't get my head wrapped around the standard choices on kid's menus. We never ate off them ourselves unless it was a smaller version of the adult item. My parents always wanted us to eat healthy, good stuff, and the standard items were not allowed. They also really didn't allow us to be picky. Not that we had to eat anything we hated, but we had to try whatever was put in front of us. And they would let us taste their meals too. We got pretty adventurous. But they did hear a fair share of "That's yucky!" I always wanted some of my Mom's kippered cod!

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: cosmogrrl

                                                                    glad i took the time to read all the replies - i was about to post a link to your thread :)

                                                                    i've said it before and i'll say it again, children's menus in this country are absurd. they rarely offer nutritious items, and there's nothing original or interesting on them to inspire kids to *try new things.* my brother's kids (3 girls) developed the unfortunate habit of ALWAYS asking for chicken nuggets, fries, pizza, or buttered noodles at restaurants...which blows my mind considering that he & their mother are both health nuts. i don't have many opportunities to spend time with them, but when i do, i always encourage them to order off the regular menu. i've gotten them to try so many things they never would have had before, and they've liked nearly all of them - cauliflower, salmon & grilled octopus to name a few. they've learned by now not to even ask if there's a kids' menu if i'm at the table - i go through the regular menu and ask them if there's anything they want to try, make suggestions based on what i know they like, and if one (or more) of them is really cranky and being difficult, try to find a way to modify something on the menu to her liking. it always thrills me when i can introduce them to something they haven't tried, and i think it's an incredibly important lesson for kids to be open to change and trying new things. it's not about forcing something on them, i approach it the way my parents did with me - just try one bite. if you don't like it, that's perfectly fine, but if you do like it, you can have more. 9 times out of 10, the girls ask for more :)

                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                      with hindsight i have to say it's a lot about the child and some about the parents. i ate everything except liver, hard boiled egg yolk and lima beans. now well into my 50's i love chicken liver pate, liverwurst, still can't tolerate beef liver, hard boiled yolks are okay, devilled eggs can cause a swoon. still of the opinion that limas are poisonous. my younger sis had a very short list of tolerable foods as a kid and will go for adventure now.

                                                                      my son ate shrimp with cocktail sauce as a 2 year old and everything else on any table. friends would not sit next to him if there was calamari on the table. he'd eat his then theirs. daughter had a short list of acceptable stuff.

                                                                      no arguments from either set of parents, just availability of options. although i wonder sometimes if birth order was a factor.

                                                                  2. Poor little thing was probably cranky, feeling overwhelmed, and would have rather slept than ate at that moment.

                                                                    I wish restaurant menus wouldn't offer the usual melange of fried food, sandwiches, plain pasta, and burgers on children's menus. I mean, I know that's what kids like to eat, but when I have children, I really don't want them to eat the frozen, preservative-laden, tasteless versions of those foods. And yes, I do understand that children are picky eaters and it's hard to please everyone.

                                                                    I guess if *I* had a family style restaurant, my children's menu would incoprorate a lot of fresh produce and sly twists on classic favorites, as to encourage tiny eaters to eat delicious, healthy food without making them feel as if they are.

                                                                    1. Seriously, why don't they just have half portions more often?

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                                        i always ask if they'll do a half portion for the kids (my nieces), and i can't recall a time when i was refused. actually, i *used* to ask...they've got big enough appetites now that we just order them a full entree.

                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                          I was thinking that I myself might also be inclined to order one.

                                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                                            This is why the restaurant I used to work at stopped offering the half portions for kids: some adults tried to order off the children's menu.
                                                                            We did not have particularly huge normal portions, so it just seemed like people were trying to save money (at a very pricy steakhouse).

                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                              I've been to restaurants, though rare, that offer smaller entrees. There wasn't a huge difference in price, maybe $1-2 off of a $20-25 entree but you were given about 3/4 the portions. I thought it was perfect. It's more about the waste of food for me, than the cost.

                                                                      2. I do have a problem with restaurants "dumbing down" their menus to fit their notion of what kids will eat. As a rule, I've found that kids will take their cues from their parents - at least as long as the food isn't TOO weird - but I have known a 7-year old who adored escargot, I'm assuming because of the dippable garlic butter! Kids like to dip, they like to eat with their hands, they like "size-friendly" stuff. One other thing that I haven't seen here is a breakfast-for dinner option, which I think most kids and some adults would love. Other things that occurred to me were:
                                                                        Plain roast chicken drumsticks, mashed potatoes and slaw or applesauce
                                                                        A good veggie soup; put alphabet pasta in it and they WILL eat it/with a half-sandwich
                                                                        Bruschetta or small open-faced sandwiches
                                                                        individual potpies

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: mamachef

                                                                          Oh please, it isn't dumbing down the menu to offer what many kids eat. And what parent wants to fret over little Johnny not eating half of what's on his plate, or worse yet, get after him to eat his vegetables when they're dining out?
                                                                          Seriously, give the kids what they want and let the parents have a few precious moments of relaxation. If the kid wants the adult menu, more power to all, but really, don't use a menu as a manifesto.
                                                                          Bottom line-it's a customer service business. Aim to please as many as you can. And if the little ones are happy and QUIET munching away on their chicken fingers, yay for me!

                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                            "Don't use a menu as a manifesto." Ummm, I'm not the Unabomber here, and my only agenda is to communicate to other people what I feel about the food issues that come up. My opinion is as valid as yours, but I respected yours enough not to respond until now. We can all get along here, people; no need to be snaaaaaarky or anything.

                                                                          2. re: mamachef

                                                                            I love your food ideas for kids, esp. the small open faced sandwiches or the individual potpies, the veggie soup made with letters (or maybe monsters! or bug shaped pasta!). I think a lot kids would get a real kick out of them. It would be a great way to adapt an adult menu to a kids palate while offering a real food experience for the kids. Great ideas.

                                                                          3. I was a picky kid who turned up her nose at a few of those offerings. I didn't like melted cheese as a kid, so mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and cheeseburgers would have been out. Heck, I think I was 10 before I decided non-McDonalds hamburgers were okay. (My family thought I was insane for not liking other burgers, but now we know they put all kinds of stuff in there to make sure kids like me would like them - something people didn't think about in those days.) I was a very unusual kid in the fact that I liked tomato sauce on my spaghetti. I hated raw tomatoes, but tomato sauce rocked!

                                                                            I might have eaten tacos or chicken lo mein though!

                                                                            No real reason for this post other than to say you'll never please every kid. Some kids just fall way outside the mainstream.

                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Avalondaughter

                                                                              Probably the most sensible, least agenda-driven post here so far, my own included.

                                                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                                                Well, I agree (although since my clone has officially outgrown kids menus, having now turned 12, it no longer matters. Sigh.) I 'd like healthier and more varied choices on kids menus, or half orders available. I was always lucky that mine was never a picky eater--ate sushi and thai at 2. What we would do when the kids menu wasn't appealing to her was order an appetizer for her, or just ask for an extra plate to share and order an additional soup or salad. She was always a soup lover as well. This was invariably followed by a dessert argument though and I really wish more restos would offer 'tiny' desserts-for young ones, older ones and those of us that don't want a lot of calories, but need a little sweet something.

                                                                                I also always really appreciated--unless in a pretty formal environment, which hey, with kids is rare, the server offering to bring the kid's food first or bringing them their own bread/crackers to stave off their hunger so the parents can have a peaceful meal.

                                                                                1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                  I like offering her an appetizer, or the cuppa soup option. Great way to steer her away from the inevitable "kid's choices" that frequently lead to lifestyle choices.
                                                                                  Tiny desserts. Now you're talking. The ONLY dessert I've seen offered on a kids' menu is a small scoop of ice cream. Why not a cookie sampler with a small glass of ice-cold milk?
                                                                                  I did a LOT of waitressing in high school and college, and learned FAST to cater to families, to the extent that I'd bring in cheerios, turkey-ham cubes and cubed cheddar in little cups, and offer it to the parents as a finger food option for the real youngsters; always brought out a tiny cup of (cooled) soup to the older kids first, with bread or crackers. The smallest things make such a difference, like for instance cutting drinking straws down to size, or if I had time, offering to take the kiddo on a tour of the restaurant. Parents appreciate that so much! And I believe the majority of parents would also appreciate some healthier options for their kids!!

                                                                                  1. re: mamachef

                                                                                    Your kid-friendly serving techniques sound amazing... if we had a place like that nearby with age-appropriate snacks that arrived quickly (the cooled soup! Steaming hot food is one of our biggest dining-out problems with a little one!) we'd be there all the time. There is one place nearby that's great for kids, if somewhat chaotic -- it's a little too expensive for us to be regulars, but I love how they serve carrot sticks and fruit as sides to every kid's meal.

                                                                                    1. re: Pia

                                                                                      Pia, that's fantastic!! What restaurant is savvy and friendly enough to do that? Boy, when I had three under five years old, I would've been there every weekend!! good on them!

                                                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                                                        I found when my son was a child (a long time ago) that if you asked nicely most restaurants would substitute fresh fruit or raw veggies like carrot sticks for the standard sides (like French fries). In fact, I recall one somewhat upscale restaurant that we went to for special occasions, where we asked if they could bring out some carrot sticks & julienned peppers for our son as an app. They delivered a plate so overflowing that we all ate some. And, we were never charged for these kinds of additions or substitutions; many of the chefs at these places are parents themselves and are happy to assist in developing a child's interest in healthy foods.

                                                                                        1. re: mamachef

                                                                                          It's called Full Moon in Cambridge, MA. It's in a very family-focused neighborhood, and the restaurant caters to families with young kids and has a playspace, little buckets of toys that kids can bring to the table, and tables covered with paper so kids can draw. But the adult food is actually really good. As I mentioned, it can be chaotic -- it's a great place to eat if you have young kids, but I would actively avoid it if I didn't!

                                                                                2. re: Avalondaughter

                                                                                  That's so odd: you seemed identical to my daughter. She won't eat melted cheese or raw tomato(but of course the sauce)!

                                                                                3. i agree - we have to stop treatng children as if they were a lesser species, who do not deserve good quality food, or tht they are too stupid to know the difference.

                                                                                  just wanted to add to whats been said - and though i cant say i always remember this myself but i once read a fantastic quote -

                                                                                  the parents job is to determine what a kid eats and what time they eat - the kids job is to determine how much to eat

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                                    Now I find that to be quite well-put.

                                                                                  2. Mac and cheese? Plain pasta with butter and maybe grated Parmesan (or not), some kind of sandwich? Peanut butter and jelly is fine and parents need to manage their kids food if they have allergies, so I don't think the restaurant should be afraid of it. After all, there is someone allergic to nearly everything they seem to serve.

                                                                                    As for your experience, it was probably a tired kid disinterested in eating anything.

                                                                                    1. I agree that some of the menu choices on the kid's side aren't too appealing, but they are also regularly on offer for like $1.99. People have high expectations for a $1.99. I think if the offerings change, the prices will go up accordingly (and rightfully so).

                                                                                      There's nothing really stopping anyone from ordering off the regular menu.

                                                                                      1. Everything on the adult menu, except much smaller portions. ROY'S does a great job of this.

                                                                                        they offer the child a quesadilla with your starter they bring some crudetie, all entrees arrive, they then bring the child a sundae.