The Sorry State of the “Kids Menu”

On November 28, 2011, in Family, Food, by Chris Baccus

We spent the Thanksgiving holiday in San Antonio. It’s a great city to visit if you have children. Thanksgiving Day we ventured to The Alamo in the morning and later went to Sea World, since they opened late that day at noon.  The next day we walked along the city’s River Walk and later did a movie – Hugo, which we all highly recommend.

One of the challenges of traveling with kids is food.  Our boys don’t eat hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken tenders or macaroni and cheese. This pretty much eliminates 95% of all kids menu options. We are often left with grilled cheese, cheese pizza, or spaghetti. I’ll admit the issue here falls on us as parents since we don’t really push a lot of meat in the boys’ diets.  We also tend to focus more on fruits and vegetables at home, something that is nearly non-existent on most kid menus.  Often the only side is french fries.  Granted the boys love this, but we are none too thrilled.

We had to get particularly inventive on the River Walk as we decided to eat at a Texas bistro restaurant that was recommend to us. The kids menu had three options: chicken tenders, coconut shrimp, and a fish fillet. The good news is they offered grilled vegetables with one of the choices, but our boys wouldn’t do any of the three choices.  So my wife suggested a hamburger, minus everything but the cheese.

The typical waiter response ensued.  Eyes rolling and the person telling us “we’ll have to charge you for a normal hamburger meal.” I’m sure the waiter expected some other response, but honestly this was not about cost; it was about finding something our kids would eat. So we ordered the burger-less burger.

I’m not insulted by being charged for a burger, even if it was just cheese and bread; rather, it’s the attitude so many have with parents like us not satisfied with the limited options restaurants have for children.  And please do not read this as a complaint against the waiter.  It was a pretty typical response by several restaurants we’ve been to.

Funny, but the best option we have found for the kids is California Pizza Kitchen who at least offers a few more options and even has a bowl of sliced grapes and pineapples as a side option.

What’s your experience as a parent with restaurant kids menus?  Are there some places you recommend that give more options and offer decent sides, beyond the typical french fries? Or do you bring your own veggies or additions to supplement poor kids meals?


Fusilli Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Broccolini

On January 31, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

My wife and kids like a simple pasta dish that is on California Pizza Kitchen’s menu. This is my attempt at mimicking it, and according to everyone it was a success. It’s fairly basic garlic and oil coated pasta dish that I’m sure a lot of restaurants offer as it is quick and simple.

I substituted Bartolini brand Torcetti for the Fusilli. Highly recommend.

Fusilli Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Broccolini
Serves 4

1 lb fusilli pasta
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 Tbl dried Thyme or 2 Tbls fresh Thyme
8 oz. oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and thinly sliced
1 bunch broccolini
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a dash of salt, and cook pasta to desired doneness, see package directions usually 10 minutes.

While pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and salt and cook for 2-3 minutes before garlic slices burn. Add sun-dried tomatoes, thyme and broccolini to pan and coat cooking for 4 minutes on medium heat. Turn heat down to simmer.

What pasta is done, drain the water and add cooked pasta to sauté pan turning up the heat to medium and tossing to coat the pasta with the olive oil and vegetables. Add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese last and turn to coat.

Serve immediately. You can add more cheese if you like after plating the dish.