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Baby and toddler friendly, St. Paul & Minneapolis

I know this has been covered hundreds of times before, but this is a slightly more specific request than usual, but where are your most chowish restaurants in St. Paul or Minneapolis that are also baby friendly? Any cuisine will do, and price range will do, but the requirements are great food and very easy to bring your little one. And by that, I mean places that really welcome children, not places you can make it work with children if you are very prepared and determined. I want to know the places to go if you're a scatterbrain or just want to be spontaneous, so here what are my requirements

Parking reasonably available (given that ice and snow and cold season is looming)

High chairs or booster seats provided

Changing table in bathroom

Provides sippy cups and/or table toys a bonus, not essential. I think this is very rare.

Also, what are your best tips for dining out with babies at places that aren't baby friendly per the above, but would otherwise work if you were more prepared? Do you keep a portable high chair and/or booster seat in your car? Do you bring along a sippy cup and snacks or foods and feed the little one while you eat? Please post these thoughts on this thread on the Not About Food branch. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8129...

Thank you!

~TDQ

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  1. I have no idea how "chowish" this is, but I am a diehard fan of Crave, particularly at the Mall of America, for Happy Hour with the kiddo. We sit on the "balcony" overlooking the amusement park, so kiddo has a great time watching the rides, they have sippy cups, a kid's menu, attentive, patient staff and good food. I know most locals hate to go to "the big mall" but it's a great diversion for her, and we can sit and enjoy a drink and insanely cheap happy hour food. It is relaxing. Crave at Galleria has the same happy hour, without amusement park visual diversion.

    1 Reply
    1. re: puddin head

      I can no longer remember what was in that space before Crave, but I loved dining while overlooking the amusement park. I don't get to the big mall much, but I think we're going to need some wide-open space come winter, and the mall, with it's ample parking might be just the ticket, though, not during the Christmas crush, perhaps!

      ~TDQ

    2. Our go-tos (with a 3 year old and 1 year old) are:

      Punch (Calhoun)--kid size pizzas, helpful staff, loud, kids can watch pizzas get made, and food comes out fast

      Edina Grill--pretty good kids menu, noise level is appropriate, cups with straws, fruit cups are good

      Fuddruckers--I know, I know, but the kids love it, it's loud enough that no one cares what my kids are doing, and I think they do a nicely done burger for adults.

      Ikea--cheap, pretty good healthy options, juice boxes or milk, they sell baby food, yogurt, have great family bathroom/changing room, and a "movie" area where kids can sit and watch cartoons while the rest of the family finishes up dinner. The "adult" food is no great shakes, but not terrible.

      Famous Dave's (Linden Hills)--Food comes out really fast, and the kids like the kid food options. No one gets mad if it gets really messy, and the kids meals come with an Oreo.

      Tilia has a great kids menu and little toy boxes that they give to kids, but the place is so small and crowded that it's kind of stressful for me to be there with two little ones. I did go with just the three year old for brunch once, and that was perfect.

      I realize none of these are particularly chow-ish. We do go to other spots, but these are the ones we probably hit most often. I hope to get lots of other good options out of this thread . . . .

      Oh--I'm editing this to add Ghandi Mahal, which has very tasty food, and has a great play area in one of the dining rooms--a cute little house thing that has lots of toys in it. You can see it from the tables, so if your kids are old enough for that type of play, you could conceivably let them play while you had a few minutes of peace.

      6 Replies
      1. re: baa

        We are only in the bucket phase of Babypocalypse 2011, but we have had some good dining experiences.

        Sole Cafe - True to form, chef/owner came out to fawn over our little one. Like going to grandma's house, if your grandma happens to be the best Korean chef in a 400 mile radius.

        Victory 44 - It's getting busier in the evenings, but if you aren't looking for booze, you can hang out on the coffee bar side and access the whole menu. People bring in babies all the time.

        Midtown Global - This is our default. Sonora has it's own seating area with booths. Perfect for spontaneous.

        Edina Grill - The only issue is the wait during busy times, but certainly kid friendly.

        Lemongrass Thai - Kid friendly, though the room is pretty quiet if there's a meltdown.

        -----
        Edina Grill
        5028 France Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55410

        Victory 44
        2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

        1. re: baa

          I thought all the Fuddruckers closed. Could have sworn I read that they went bust. Did I miss something?

          Take the kid to Texas Roadhouse. They actually do a pretty decent steak (better, frankly, than Pittsburgh Blue by far, and less than half the cost), it's cheap, and the kids will love the cinnamon butter on the rolls. It's loud and kid friendly, and even if your kid starts squalling he won't annoy many people.

          You can also do call-ahead seating, so you don't have to plan in advance. And there are peanuts to shell and eat to keep the kid entertained while you wait.

          -----
          Texas Roadhouse
          2780 Main St NW, Minneapolis, MN 55448

          Pittsburgh Blue
          11900 Main Street North, Maple Grove, MN 55369

          1. re: shadowfax

            They were all closed (locally) for a while because of some franchise dispute. Now they're open again--at least the one in Bloomington just off 494 is open again, and seems to me to be the same operations as before.

            1. re: shadowfax

              Midtown Global Market makes a pretty terrific default, doesn't it? Congrats on the new addition to your family. I've never even been to Lemongrass Thai. Sounds like I need to look into that.

              ~TDQ

              -----
              Midtown Global Market
              920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Thank you, and likewise to you.

                I'm the grey duck on this board since I still think Lemongrass is consistently the best Thai in town. Either way, if you do go, know the sausage appetizer requires about 15-20 mins. of prep, so order it as soon as you walk in. It's number 8.

            2. re: baa

              Thanks for listing your tried and true. And, wow, Ghandi Mahal has a play area? Awesome. I'm guessing that's new from when they took over the adjoining space?

              ~TDQ

            3. -Punch (Grand Ave. for us)-- for the reasons mentioned. Fast, good eats.
              -Brasa (Grand Ave. as well)-- there was a while where we rarely ate anywhere else but that block of Grand Ave. They love the kids, and our daughter (for a while at least) loved the food-- plantains, grits, rice (now we're down to just the rice). They bring crayons and paper.
              -Turtle Bread/Pizza Biga-- variety of decent enough food, big and loud so no worries on noise, and best ice cream in the universe is RIGHT NEXT DOOR.
              -Los Ocampo-- since they opened the new, sit-down resto place in St. Paul, we're there all the time. They like kids, and they even have a little play area.
              -Day by Day Cafe-- just OK breakfast food, but super kid friendly.
              -Strip Club-- our daughter's first restaurant; the owners have kids and love them; no toys but we sometimes would walk around outside, or spin at the bar stools (best for brunch; we used to go there a lot when they served lunch, but alas...)

              Those are my ideas off the top of my head.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mtullius

                A play area at Los Ocampo? Oh, be still my heart!

                ~TDQ

              2. We just had brunch at Pat's Tavern this weekend. And while the food was so-so (my eggs benedict was fine and the hash browns were great but the pancakes, eaten by husband and 3 year old were not good at all- kind of stale and not fluffy or tender...), the skee-ball was a great hit with the three year old. There was one other toddler there at the time, also enjoying the skee-ball. And there were two babies there as well. In fact, almost all the tables that were occupied had a child, now that I think about it.

                Oddly enough, this is true of most bar-restaurants around here. We take our kiddo to Town Hall, the Lowbrow, Muddy Pig, Happy Gnome (she particularly likes the jazz on Sundays for brunch!).... albeit for lunch or early dinner, but still. Everyone is always very welcoming.

                Also, just about any Asian place. Most have a special doo-hickey that you can put the infant car seat into (not just upside down high chair) and in general are very child and family friendly. As well as loud which makes things easier if the kids start getting loud. Extra points for those places with fish tanks. Our kiddo has been to Quang, Saigon, Jun Bo, Mandarin Kitchen, Tea House, Little Sezchuan.... Chopsticks are very entertaining.

                We've also taken the toddler to Ngon Bistro. I feel like dinner gets a bit on the fancy side but we've done it without any looks and the staff is certainly welcoming. Our daughter likes the sweet potato fries.

                -----
                Muddy Pig
                162 Dale St N, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                Happy Gnome
                498 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                Mandarin Kitchen
                8766 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55420

                9 Replies
                1. re: turtlebella

                  Just a clarification for those who may not know - I assume from the skee-ball description, that turtlebella meant Pat's Tap (Nicollet between 35th and 36th) instead of Pat's Tavern.

                  1. re: bob s

                    YES!!! For some reason I can't get Pat's TAP in my head, always go with "Tavern" instead. I think I don't like the palindrome-ish-ness of Pat's Tap. Or it's too short or something. Anyway, will change that in my post, thanks for the head's up, bob s!
                    No parking lot as far as I remember. We parked on the street right in front, close-by parking doesn't seem a problem in that neighborhood.

                  2. re: turtlebella

                    Pat's Tap sounds interesting, certainly from the activity perspective. Do you remember whether it has a parking lot?

                    I've been to Ngon Bistro with a young child, so I know it's child-friendly for sure, although I can't now recall if it's infant friendly. It's got a parking lot, but last time I was there, I noticed there were no changing tables in the bathroom. And the stairs down to the bathroom were steep and narrow and maybe even a little dark. So, as much as I love Ngon, I'm not sure it falls into the category of super infant friendly right now.

                    Saigon has a parking lot, but does it even have a bathroom (how could I not know this after all these years???), let alone one with a changing table?

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      And that's our weak point, TDQ (turtlebella and I, who are parents of a 3 yo)-- we've pretty much never changed a diaper on the road.... our daughter just didn't care. So we don't know much about who has or doesn't have changing tables!

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Yes, the bars particularly seem to lack changing tables (perhaps they never thought babies would be amongst their clientele?). I seem to remember one time when mtullius was at Town Hall with a young baby and looked in the men's room for a changing table...nope. Not sure if he tried the women's room, but it hasn't got one either....kinda a bummer if you have a kiddo that has.to.be.changed.RIGHT.NOW. We didn't have one of those kiddos.

                        Saigon doesn't have a bathroom?! Is that even legal? I wouldn't have thought so...

                        And yeah, the bathroom at Ngon...I really hate that it's down those stairs... kind of scary even if you aren't carrying a baby or holding the hand of a toddler who wants to do it ALL BY HERSELF. I'm not really sure how their bathrooms pass muster with Americans with Disabilities Act but I suppose it has to do with being grandfathered...

                        I forgot to add two other very child-friendly chowish spots-- Trotter's Cafe and Birchwood Cafe. Both have changing tables and the Birchwood even has a little step-stool so little ones can reach the sink (I LOVE this!!! Do you know how annoying it is to lift a dangling two/three year old to wash their hands, try to turn water on, put soap on their hands etc etc all while they are squirming and saying that your holding them is HURTING. argh. Note to restaurants-- you should all invest in a fairly cheap little step stool, it will make all your parent customers weep with gratitude!).

                        -----
                        Birchwood Cafe
                        3311 E 25th St, Minneapolis, MN 55406

                        1. re: turtlebella

                          I'm sure Saigon has a bathroom (they must, right?), I just can't remember ever seeing it or having been in it. Total blank.

                          HA! Now, Birchwood I KNOW is baby-friendly because I avoided it in the past when I wanted a quiet meal because there were always just enough kids to get an echo rocking in that nice, bright open room.

                          Also babytastic, but get there before they close for the season at the end of October: Sea Salt Eatery. Parking, high chairs, changing tables, even a kids basket on the menu that is simply a smaller portion of real food. (With fruit but sans cole slaw. Keep in mind the wait for food, though. Don't come starving and remember to bring a snack.) Of course, as much wide open outdoors space for your child to run around and get his or her yayas out. And, the music is cranked so loud in that place I don't think anyone can complain about your child being too loud (I don't mean unhappy screaming loud, of course, but babbling and happy occasional tropical bird-like shrieking and/or table banging with rattle loud). And if they complained, who could hear them anyway? Ha! There is an advantage, after all, to loud rock music, I guess.

                          You need to have two adults along though, one to wait in in line and one to wait with baby.

                          ~TDQ

                          -----
                          Sea Salt Eatery
                          4801 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55417

                          Birchwood Cafe
                          3311 E 25th St, Minneapolis, MN 55406

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Sea Salt IS fun for whole family. Especially since they also have great beer. And ice cream (Sebastian Joe's? I think that's right). We also like to walk down to the Falls and maybe take a ride on the rentable bike surrey thingdos. Definitely an exciting day out, gets everyone good and tired out!

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              Saigon definitely has a bathroom - I can personally attest to this - though I don't remember if there's a changing table. But the place is very child friendly and is usually full of families with young children.

                              Note, however, that their current hours are extremely limited. They're definitely closed Mon-Wed, and perhaps Thurs as well. (See this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/806881 )

                      2. As the devoted aunt of two VERY active former toddlers, I completely identify with the need for a child-friendly restaurant. There's nothing like the sigh of relief when you find a place where you can relax with your child.

                        Our favorite place isn't a restaurant, really, but a coffee house that we call Hakan's but is actually the Sovereign Grounds Coffee House. Hakan and his wife Kris have several children and completely understand what it's like to have a lively young one. Over half of the place is a play area. There's a little playhouse, a plastic slide, books, sofas, child-sized tables, and a REAL piano for anyone to play.

                        In addition to the coffee (and tea and juice), they have great food, albeit with a limited menu. The spinach pie is one of the best in the area - Hakan is originally from Turkey - and comes with excellent hummos. My niece swears by the rice krispie bars; my nephew loves the big cookies. Me, I remember a fabulous chocolate cake that Kris made for one of the many birthday parties we've held there.

                        I can't recommend this place enough for parents with young children!

                        http://sovereigngrounds.com

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                        Sovereign Grounds
                        813 E 48th St, Minneapolis, MN 55417

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          Thank you for chiming on on Sovereign Grounds, I had heard they had a pretty great play area, but I hadn't ever heard anyone recommend it for the chow. A limited menu is fine, as long as the food is good!

                          In your coffee shop tour during your niece and nephew's toddler years, did you ever try Java Train Cafe (between the Fairgrounds and Como Park). If so, do you recommend the food?

                          ~TDQ

                          -----
                          Sovereign Grounds
                          813 E 48th St, Minneapolis, MN 55417

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            No, we haven't been to Java Train yet ,but it's on our list. My nephew is the world's biggest train fan, so I think he'd like it (even at the sophisticated age of 6). I've heard good things about the food, too.

                            Speaking of trains, when your little one gets a bit older, be sure to go to Choo Choo Bob's for the train sets that anyone can play with for as long as they want (wooden ones, in the back of the store). The chowish connection is Izzy's Ice Cream down the street and Trotter's Bakery & Cafe round the corner. This block has saved my sanity on many a cold and snowy afternoon!

                            [EDIT TO ADD: I agree that the availability changing tables - or lack thereof - can make or break the entire outing. I'm pretty sure that Izzy's has a changing table in the bathroom (the owners are parents themselves). I haven't used the potty at Choo Choo Bob's, but I'd bet a quarter there's a changing table there, too. I kinda think that Trotter's doesn't have one, but am not so sure about that.]

                            -----
                            Izzy's Ice Cream Cafe
                            2034 Marshall Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55104

                            Java Train
                            1341 Pascal St N, Saint Paul, MN 55108

                            1. re: AnneInMpls

                              We've been to Java Train many times. The food is okay, but the service is usually non-existent. I can't remember a time when I didn't have to inquire about my food. That said, the play area is great! There is a wooden train structure for them to climb on inside as well as books and crayons. Outside, they have a mostly fenced patio with a tower to climb, sand to dig in, and lots of plastic trucks and other toys. Oh, and they have a bunny too.