The wife was at book club, and I had two kids to feed. I decided to head to Mendota Heights and a restaurant called Mendoberri. We heard it was family friendly and focused on locally sourced food for kids and adults.
On our way in, we walked past a pizza/sports bar place with neon signs and big-screen TVs. I debated if the busy, chaotic atmosphere there would be more interesting for my kids than the bright, modern dining room we were about to enter.
I shouldn't have fussed. We found a table right inside the door of Mendoberri's otherwise empty dining room. Directly behind the table was a carpeted section with toys and books, cordoned off for kids. My son immediately started rummaging for a car to play with. My daughter tookto the magnetic bulletin board, spelling out her name in red, orange and purple letters.
As they entertained themselves, I watched mounds of salmon, roast chicken and leafy salads being hustled out of the open kitchen.
Our waitress brought menus and water right away. The kids' were given plastic cups with lids, which I appreciated. The "kiddos" section of the menu lacked the pizza and chicken nuggets we normally see at restaurants. Instead, there were cutsey-named options like "hammy sammy," "cru-di-te" and "schnitzy" - all locally sourced, organic and housemade.
My kids passed over the hammy sammy and the cru-di-te - a plate of turkey, salami, grapes and carrots - and opted for the chicken breast schnitzy, probably because it sounded the most like chicken tenders.
I went with the adult-size chicken schnitzel (a nod to chef/owner Robert Ulrich's upbringing in Austria) and a side of fried potato wedges. To start, I ordered the "beetie" spinach salad, a nice big plate of roasted beets and spinach with shallot- balsamic vinaigrette.
As we waited on our food, I wondered where all of the plates leaving the kitchen were headed. I could see only one other person in the room. I got my answer when my son needed to take a bathroom break.
On our walk to the back, we were surprised to turn a corner and find a dining room filled with couples. A large waterfall installation was on one wall, and a small bar ran along the other. The space was quiet, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen - and the kids' play area. Mendoberri seems to have a split personality: It caters to parents with kids and also adults looking for a casual meal and a glass of wine.
That was fine with us. The kids liked being able to move from the table to the play area between bites of schnitzel and fistfuls of perfect fries. I liked that I could enjoy my meal without worrying about my brood interrupting other folks.
I finished off the meal with a cup of good strong coffee while the kids packed up the remainder of their meals for the next day's lunch.
As we left, I noticed the televisions still blasting in the pizza place next door. One thing was certain: I wouldn't be tempted to swerve in for pie on our inevitable return trip to Mendoberri.
John Brewer can be reached at 651-228-2093.
Mendoberri Cafe and Wine Bar
Address: 730 Main St., Mendota Heights
Contact: 651- 209-3270, mendoberri.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday
Prices: $6.50 to $25
Good to know: Counter service only at lunch; table service at dinner.
More Kids' Cuisine reviews: See our Pinterest board for photos and links to more reviews.