I shudder when I hear the phrase “kid-friendly restaurant.” It often refers to an eatery that’s boisterous, loud, inexpensive and, honestly, adult-unfriendly – both in ambience and food quality. But there are a number of great dining choices in the region that manage to satisfy (and entertain) both youngsters and their parents (and they don’t serve pre-frozen chicken fingers or gelatinous macaroni and cheese). Here’s five of our faves:
Think Mikuni is only for sushi roll-loving adults? Think again – the restaurant not only offers fun coloring sheets and crayons for the younger set, it also has a great kids’ menu (including a box of chewy Japanese candies that my kids adore). Sit at the sushi bar, and your children will be fascinated with the chefs’ knife-wielding hijinks; and the restaurant’s upbeat energy, noise level and constant activity will be a great distraction for them as you plow through the fabulous, fork-tender BBQ white tuna appetizer and the wildly popular Marilyn Monroll (stuffed with scallops, avocado, crab mix and panko shrimp).
Pizza is a universal kid-pleaser, but there’s no reason that the adults have to settle for a greasy, cheap, cheese-only version. Take the family to Hot Italian, midtown’s oasis of urban, hip-as-hell pizza and everyone can get what they want.
While Junior plows through his “Cannavaro” pizza (topped simply with tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil), mom and dad can sink their canines into the kitchen’s sophisticated “Magnini,” adorned with smoked salmon, fresh dill, mozzarella and mascarpone cheeses; and the lusty, rib-sticking “Neri,” embellished with broccoli rabe, sweet coppa ham and shaved Pecorino-Romano cheese.
Hot Italian also offers a great lineup of wines by the glass; and the whole family will want to tuck into a bowl of the restaurant’s excellent gelato for dessert.
Sunflower Drive In
Always pestering the kids to eat healthier? At Sunflower Drive In in Fair Oaks, wholesome food is always fun and tasty – and there’s a little something on the menu for every member of the family. Picky eaters will appreciate the drive in’s straightforward PB&J and grilled cheese sandwiches (made on 9-grain bread!); and adults will relish Sunflower’s famous falafel (note: stock up on napkins – it’s messy) and super nutburger. No one should miss the restaurant’s delicious fruit smoothies (I like the pineapple/strawberry/banana option)- they’re as yummy as a milkshake, and a lot healthier (but you don’t need to tell your kids that).
What kid would say “no” to a hot dog? But instead of pulling a handful out of a package and plunking them in a pot of hot water (and then trying to figure out what you want for dinner), bring the young’uns to Capitol Dawg, where you can dine on gourmet hot dogs while the kids stick to the traditional version.
Popular adult selections range from the feisty “Hornets Dawg” (loaded with yellow mustard, cheddar cheese sauce, sliced jalapenos and Tabasco sauce); to the Reuben-style “Cats Dawg,” piled with hickory smoked pastrami, hot sauerkraut and Swiss cheese on a sesame seed French roll. The kids may ask for fries, but you’ll probably want Capitol Dawg’s beer-battered onion rings – accompanied, of course, by a chilly microbrew (the kids can have a juice box).
Vic’s Ice Cream
It’s okay to be a kid at Vic’s, even if you’re not. Belly up to the counter with the family and order one of the shop’s beloved sandwiches (don’t miss the meatloaf or egg salad sandwiches) before turning your attention to the enticing array of freshly-made ice creams. Favorite flavors of the younger set include peppermint, cookies ‘n cream and chocolate chip; but adults are sure to appreciate Vics’ black walnut, lemon chiffon and cherry amaretto ice creams. If you want something more exciting than a double scoop, try a thick, creamy milkshake or one of the shop’s delectable banana splits.
3199 Riverside Boulevard, Sacramento, (916) 448-0892