The Sorry State of the “Kids Menu”

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?


  • ColinBurns

    Aside from what is on the actual kid’s menu – which you’ve covered – I am always amazed at the size and price of them. Since when does my 4 yo nephew need an entire grilled cheese and a large McDonald-sized fry? And then of course, the obligatory soda that comes with the kids meal. He rarely eats it, yet we pay $6.95+ for it.

    Things I won’t be doing for my kid when it comes that time….

  • villadh

    When it comes to chains, our favorite menu is legalseafoods .

    “All children’s meals are served with fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and a choice of rice, mashed potatoes or french fries. Pasta dishes are served with fruit and vegetables only.”

    Our last visit the girl’s pasta dishes came with a water melon wedge and broccoli.

    A close second is unochicagogrill http://www.unos.com/menus/kids.php also nice fruit and vegetable options.

    To Colin’s point, it seems like the mac-n-cheese is an entire box. In terms of less options, the closest Uno’s closed a year ago and Legal isn’t renewing its lease past Jan 2012.