As we waited for a table in the narrow hallway at Broders' Pasta Bar, my 13-year-old son spotted a brightly lit billboard across the street advertising a bacon portobella hamburger at Wendy's.
"That looks really good," he said. By then, I was playing a third game of Hangman on a scrap of paper with an increasingly restless and hungry 6-year-old. It occurred to me that dining out at what some say is one of the best Italian restaurants in the Twin Cities might be wasted on the kids.
Don't get me wrong. I love Broders' Pasta Bar. At least, I remember loving it back in the late 1990s, a few years after it opened and before we had three children. The house-made pastas at this bustling
But over the past few months, I have made pasta at home several times with our 10-year-old. He likes feeding the long slabs of dough into the rollers of the attachment on our KitchenAid mixer. We serve it with a simple red sauce or a mellow garlic sauce. I wanted to introduce the kids to what real chefs could do with homemade egg pasta.
Broders' does not take reservations and is notorious for long waits. We called an hour ahead on a Thursday night to get our name on a list, arrived at 6 p.m. and waited 25 minutes once we arrived. A wait is fine for grown-ups who enjoy prolonging the evening with a glass of wine in a crowded hallway. It's hard with hungry children.
In retrospect, we should have browsed at Broders' Cucina Italiana, the deli across the street also run by the Broder family. We would have been alerted by our buzzer when a table was ready.
After we were seated, my daughter announced she was going to order mac and cheese. The 13-year-old groaned and urged her to be adventurous. The children's menu for ages 8 and younger offers pizza and several kid-pleasing pastas. My daughter chose penne with butter and cheese, which comes with a drink, salad and ice cream. On Mondays, you get a free kids' meal with each adult meal.
Our server recommended the autumn panzanella off the antipasti menu, a seasonal twist on a traditional summer salad that usually features cubed bread and tomatoes. This fall version mixed toasted focaccia cubes with roasted root vegetables, olives, brussels sprouts and cherry tomatoes. The adults and 13-year-old loved it. A bland Caesar salad that we split four ways was more to the liking of my 10-year-old.
Pasta is where Broders' shines. My husband ordered one of his favorite dishes,
I was pleased with my fettuccine con langostino, a tangled pile of slightly chewy house-made noodles with lobster and wilted spinach in a creamy herb sauce flecked with fresh dill.
My 10-year-old son had been overwhelmed by the options, so I suggested fettuccine alla Bolognese. He loved the classic meat sauce, and I predict he'll now seek it out whenever confronted with a confusing menu of Italian words. My 13-year-old also loved his spaghetti con polpette Calabresi. Calabria is the tip of the boot in Italy, and when I asked what spaghetti and meatballs Calabria-style meant, our server said it would be spicy and offered to tell the chef to tone down the heat.
The server was attentive to children in other ways. He brought a second bread plate after the children devoured the first. At one point, my son jumped up from his chair to use the bathroom and knocked into my wine glass just as the server was setting it down. It could have been one of those moments when you regret bringing the kids, but the server was gracious as he wiped up the spill. Overall, any noises our kids made were drowned out in the happy buzz of the packed room.
The website Yelp does not recommend Broders' for kids, but I think it works if you have a strategy for the wait. Next time, I would come on a Monday for the free meal or, more likely, for an early Sunday supper, when we could avoid both the wait and the traffic. Meanwhile, I'm going to try making Bolognese at home.
Kids' Cuisine is a one-time take on how restaurants handle kid customers. It's written by a rotation of Pioneer Press staffers with children -- the real experts for this column. Maja Beckstrom can be reached at 651-228-5295.
BRODERS' PASTA BAR
Where: 5000 Penn Ave. S., Mpls.
Prices: Kids' entrees, $6.50; adult dinners, $12 to $17.50
Information: 612-925-9202 or broders.com