Dining with Shorty

Trying to have a decent meal while you have kids in tow? This mom has found the solutions.

 

Illustration by Jing Jing Tsong

 

Tips for Dining with Kids

Dessert is the best motivator for good behavior.

Have the kids’ food arrive at the same time as yours.

Try to sit in a booth (this locks them in). And go to loud restaurants.
 
Let them order a fancy nonalcoholic drink.

If the children’s menu is unhealthy, stick to ordering appetizers.

Bring noiseless toys and books.

When they’ve plowed through dinner and you’re in the middle of a conversation, whip out a portable DVD player and press play.

When we had a baby, my husband and I had to sacrifice the usual things—sleeping in, movies, keg stands, etc., but we refused to compromise our dining habits. So from the time our daughter was born we’ve been taking her out to a range of restaurants. She’s now almost 4 and we have yet to go to an overtly “child-friendly” restaurant.

Am I a food snob or do I just want to raise a brave eater? Both, and hunting for grownup restaurants that also happen to be kid-friendly has become one of my pastimes. I am always on the prowl for restaurants that can gratify parents with great food and an energetic atmosphere, and waiters that don’t scowl at your incoming rug rat. At the same time, these restaurants can please kids without serving Fish Sticks à la Cheese Whiz, or putting on a nauseating circus act. 

I have been pleasantly surprised to find that what most of us would call “nice restaurants,” while not necessarily wallet-friendly, are actually child-friendly. 

Brasserie Du Vin’s atmosphere was charming to our daughter. She loved the grilled flat-iron steak with shallot pommes frites. 1115 Bethel St., 545-1115.

At Nick’s Fishmarket, no one even blinked when our daughter got up to dance. 2070 Kalakaua Ave., 955-6333. [Now Closed]

On a Sunday night, Nobu Waikiki was packed with kids, contented with their sushi and sneaky, chef-like “bowtie pasta,” which is actually squid that looks like pasta. 2233 Helumoa Road, 237-6999.

At Stage Restaurant, everyone at the table, including our daughter and her 4-year-old date, devoured the “Green Egg and Ham” (actually a dish with asparagus, quail egg, prosciutto), the snow-crab cakes, pumpkin bread and, of course, the “Deconstructed S’mores.” Our waiters couldn’t have been more accommodating, immediately replacing the kids’ glasses with plastic cups with lids and straws. The kitchen made the kids a gorgeous chicken, crispy with breadcrumbs and herbs, accompanied by rosemary-and-garlic new potatoes. It was a huge portion—only $8—and so tasty that the adults ended up picking at it between bites of hamachi sashimi. 1250 Kapiolani Blvd., 237-5429. 

At Lucy’s Bar and Grill, our daughter loves the ahi tower and kalua pig triangles. We love the Euro-local flavors, the terrific staff and the noisiness. 33 Aulike St., 230-8188.

At Town, we’ve found nice prices and healthy selections for kids, such as fresh fish and house-made pasta. 3435 Waialae Ave., 735-5900.

The key to searching is not to rule anything out, so, Chef Mavro, here we come. Could you make the kids some macaroni gratin?