Lucky you, going to Portland, Ore., with the kids. So many amazing dining spots, and so little time. I’m giving you a quick rundown of my favorite Portland kids-welcome restaurants, from cheap to chic, granola to gut-busting.
Kid-friendly restaurants in Portland, Oregon
1. Vita Café. Even meat eaters will devour the vegan vittles at this café. Take a seat at one of the booths, order off of the extensive vegetarian and meaty menu. Then head back to the waiting area, where you’ll find two small containers stuffed with table-ready toys (cars, plastic figurines, you know, all the stuff you mean to bring to the restaurant but forget at home). Kids’ menu items are only $1 on weekday nights between 5 and 7 p.m., a total deal. Don’t try passing yourself off as a kid, even if you are a short adult. It never works, dang.
2. Mother’s Bistro & Bar. City swank atmosphere, serious comfort food. I love Mother’s for breakfast, but so does every other family. Make reservations, arrive at the crack of dawn, whatever you have to do to sit in the restaurant’s center, surrounded by gilded mirrors and chattering families. It’ll make your little girl feel like a princess. And that’s before the chocolate-chip-flecked mouse-face pancake arrives.
3. Laughing Planet Cafe. Now this is a green restaurant chain. Order your food with a few greenbacks. Then, kids play with emerald dinos while waiting for their cilantro-sauced bowl of goodies to appear (the restaurant borrows heavily from Mexican cuisine). Afterward, you’ll bus your own table, sorting leftovers into their proper ecological receptacles. Perfectly Portland. And damn good. And cheap. No item on the children’s menu breaks $3.50.
4. Hopworks Urban Brewery. This sustainability-focused spot knows what families like, and the restaurant is just a short drive from OMSI. Ask for seat near the kids’ play area, where preschoolers toddle about with trains and play-pizza sets. Older children busy themselves with stretchy pizza dough, but the wait is never too long for your organic-tomato pizza or grilled-chicken sandwich. What’s on tap for baby? Earth’s Best baby food, naturally. For adults, I recommend the handcrafted beer sampler.
5. Waffle Window. Fruit. Whipped Cream. Exotic toppings (Pumpkin pie? YES!). It’s what your kids wish you served them every morning. You must go. That’s all there is to it. You really order at a window. Then you take the dishes inside of an adjoining restaurant (yes, a little odd) and share a long table with whoever else is eating waffles that morning; you may be able to get a two-top along the window or outside, as well. Doesn’t matter. You still must go. It’s on Hawthorne’s busy street — after finishing, you can browse bookstores and toy shops.
6. Staccato Gelato. Nestled in the vintage vibe of Portland’s Sellwood district, Staccato serves up perfect bowls of egg-enriched gelato. But you can also order the kids a PB & banana panini (Elvis missed out). They’ll run off to play in the mini-sized children’s corner, decorated with a fanciful, silhouetted cityscape, while you get to drink your coffee in (near) peace. There’s another location at NE 28th as well, but I like this one because it’s close to the roller rink at Oaks Amusement Park.
7. Burgerville. At this 50s-themed, Portland-grown restaurant chain, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef goes into your burger, seasonal berries mix up your shake and native sweet potatoes transform your fries. The kids’ meals provide (upon request) apples instead of fries and milk instead of pop. The music-loaded jukebox is all the entertainment you’ll need, because the food arrives within a few minutes of ordering. Great in a pinch, with multiple locations throughout Portland and along I-5 North up to Centralia, Wash., and a solid alternative to Other National Fast Food Chains.
8. Mississippi Pizza Pub. Mismatched furniture and set the stage for fun at this community pizza joint. Always check the calendar before arriving — the pub’s offerings include live music shows for kids, kids’ spelling bees, and evening entertainment that starts at a family-friendly 6 p.m. With so much going on (particularly on weekends), there’s no excuse for skipping a set. Oh, and the pizza’s good too — your choice of whole-wheat, regular or gluten-free, plus lotsa toppings. Arrive during late afternoon, so you can walk through Mississippi’s busy, indie-biz neighborhood.
9. Old Wives’ Tales Restaurant. At Old Wives, kids are never an afterthought. This well-established restaurant offers playroom just for kids, a raucous, noisy affair where kids climb up, down and around a cutout featuring an underwater scene and a circus train. Of my listings here, Old Wives may offer the most options. Dozens of different items on the kids’ ala carte menu, including half a waffle or a turkey frank, so super-picky kids can have their pick.The food at Old Wives is very Cascadia granola. You know what I mean. Two words: carob mousse.
10. Laurelwood Brewing Company. I know. Another pub? It’s true, all we do in Cascadia is drink coffee and beer. With our kids playing in a kids’ play area. Don’t mess with success, baby. Laurelwood’s pubs offer a multiple-choice menu for adults and a small, low-walled play area for kids. The downside? All locations can become insanely busy with half-hour or 45-minute waits. The upside is that the Laurelwood NW Public House location is close to downtown and the Pearl, via a 10-minute ride on the cute Portland Streetcar. (As of publication, the NW location closed, but will be reopening in the spring of 2010).
Hmm. While writing this, I thought of 10 more. Guess I’ll have to save those for later.
Where do you like to dine in Portland, kids in tow?