It was a dreary late-winter day. The cupboards were bare, and neither my husband nor I felt like dealing with dinner. Plus, we both really wanted a glass of wine.
For nights like this, we've developed a short list of kid-friendly neighborhood spots that remember it's the grown-ups who are picking up the tab.
Highland Grill — with its neon-bright walls, sparkly gray booths and creative touches designed to keep hungry tots happy — has long been on this list. Each child gets a bucket of plastic toys to play with before the food comes. If your kids are starving, just ask and the wait staff will bring a complimentary bowl of Goldfish crackers to the table.
There was just one little problem — there was a kids' menu, but the dishes were too grown-up. The only dish my kids would eat was the Mickey pancake. Not exactly brain food.
Recently, the restaurant introduced a new kids' menu that is not only chock-full of puzzles and games but also chock-full of plain options with healthy sides like carrot sticks and buttered corn.
So, my husband and I bundled up the kids, hopped in the minivan and drove toward the warm, welcoming Highland Grill, confident everyone would get a good meal and we'd get a good deal — it was Tuesday, half-price on bottles of wine night.
The place was packed, but not so packed we had to wait in the White Rock coffee shop next door (as patrons are sometimes encouraged to do). After a chilly 10 minutes by the front
Here's a tip: Don't mention Bella's Chocolate Waffle — the last item on the kids' menu — unless you're prepared to order it.
"I want that! I want that!" the 7-year-old insisted.
We weren't in the mood for
Then, it was time for us. We started a half-price bottle of syrah from California ($13 at half-price) and gorgonzola corn fritters. They were delicious — even our kids gobbled them up — and filling. Maybe too filling.
When the entrees came, I wished I had ordered a turkey burger instead of the mustard chicken linguine, a special. It was too much food and too fussy. My husband also regretted his choice, the chicken involtini — gorgonzola and ham rolled in chicken and served with asiago mashed
Next time, we'll stick with the burgers, salads and fish and chips we like so well.
Meanwhile, the kids were delighted to share the giant waffle.
"This is dessert," I warned. "No ice cream later."
They ate plenty of the healthy stuff, too. And my toddler liked that her fish and chips were served on a plastic tray with four compartments.
Then suddenly, they were tired and getting cranky. It was time to go. We quickly paid our $66 tab, grabbed our corked bottle of wine and left the toys behind.
Kids' Cuisine is a look at how restaurants handle kid customers. It's written by a rotation of Pioneer Press staffers with children — the real experts for this column. Heidi Raschke can be reached at 651-228-5182.
Address: 771 S. Cleveland Ave., St Paul
Hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Dinner prices, $8.95-$14.95; kids' meals, $2.95-$6.95