My kids — and your kids — deserve better! So Sam, Seth, my wife and I scoured the Twin Cities to find it. Yes, I bribed the kids with $1 a restaurant so I could pick what they would order. But that $20 investment paid off for you! We uncovered a cheese dosa, a locally-sourced pork with a side of yucca, and Swedish Meatballs with lingonberries (now my son’s a true Minnesotan).
So grab your crayons and get ready to play tic-tac-toe, as we uncover some of the best places to go out to eat with your kids.
600 E. Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55414
My kids loved this place before they had a kids menu; and now that they do – it’s my top pick in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Amazing, fun, locally-sourced food.
Price: $7 (10 and under) includes a side, dessert, and drink. “Yucca is yumma,” according to my 5-year-old. He’s right. Pair it with roasted pork, and butterscotch pudding.
I like to get a plate with sweet-spicy braised beef from Thousand Hills in Cannon Falls, Minnesota; add Yams & Andouille plus creamed spinach with jalapeno. Your kids won’t be impressed that the food is prepared by Alex Roberts, the James Beard Award Winner for Top Chef Midwest, but you will be.
Chris and Rob’s Taste Authority
3101 East 42nd Street
7429 East River Road
This place screams Chicago. The St. Paul location is in an old railroad car, which kids will absolutely love. Very casual, perfect for after T-ball practice. Price: $2.99 (8 and under) includes fries or tots and a drink. The plain hot dog is 100% Vienna Beef, just like I had growing up in Chi-town. Get the tots. You won’t want to miss the Italian beef ($5.39) – it’s a Chicago standard, and hard to find around here. It’s a mountain of roast beef, marinated in special seasonings. This one’s the real deal. $3 is a ridiculous deal for a kids meal. And the food is spectacular.
It’s not much to look at, but with Indian music filling the restaurant at the back of this grocery store, it’s a chance to try something new and exciting. Lunch buffet is free for 4 and under; $5 for 5-10. Kid’s Meals are $5-$6 or free Tuesdays and Fridays. The cheese dosa is a rice & lentil crepe filled with cheese. It’s like an Indian quesadilla. Comes with a rice and lentil cake which my kids loved. I like to do the lunch buffet (11-3 daily); it’s authentic Indian and delightful ($8-$10). Any of the curries are nice. Or, go to dinner on Tuesday or Thursday, where you can get unlimited chaat, Indian street food, for just $8. Bottom line: My kids ate goat here and liked it.
There’s cowboy stuff all over this Uptown institution. It’s loud, open, fun, and perfect for kids (as long as you get them out of there before it becomes a party spot late night!) Price: Always Free (under 12). Kids drinks are $0.99. The kids quesadilla is more than just some junky cheese stuffed into a tortilla. It’s jack and asiago cheesestuffed into a tortilla. Very tasty. I think the stacked green chile pork enchiladas were really quite beautiful. The pork was juicy and flavorful, the smoky salsa popped, and the crispy tortillas really worked. Clever and tasty! ($12.95) Seriously, it’s always free. Always. That’s awesome.
Salut Bar Americain
50th & France
Your fille or garcon will be in love with Salut. The kids menu is a steal, and the room feels fancy without being pretentious. Price: $2.95 includes drink. The cheeseburger was clearly housemade, not a frozen patty. It was flavorful, delicious, and included the legendary Salut Fries. And don’t make me turn in my man card, but I loved Salut’s watermelon salad ($7.95). Gorgeous presentation, the kitchen topped the perfectly square cubes of melon with pink peppercorns. The sweetness and the crunch of the peppercorns was fantastic. The kids menu had a matching game called “Know your viandes (cuts of meat) where you match Cervelle de Veau to the English translation. (Calf brain). That’s good times.
A la Salsa & Salsa a la Salsa
Midtown Global Market
920 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55407
A loud energy, bright colors, and families of all ethnicities make a la Salsa (and its big hermana Salsa a la Salsa) kid heaven. And Midtown Global Market is my favorite place to bring my kids: bakeries, gelato, room to run, and a kids play area.Price: $3.99 includes rice, beans, chips and salsa. The chicken taco (hard or soft shell) hits the spot, so does the kids quesadilla. Both come with rice and beans, a good value. I found the pupusas to be perfection: three grilled masa cakes stuffed with cheese, topped with a dollop of guac and pico de gallo. Great starter ($7). The Mixiotes de pollo had a really unique flavor: bonesless chicken and cactus strips steamed in a banana leaf pouch. ($12.50) Kids love the chips which come right away, you’ll love the two salsas – smokey and made in-house.
Dickey’s BBQ Pit
8088 Old Carriage Court North
Shakopee, MN 55379
11631 Fountains Drive
Maple Grove, MN 55369
Coming soon to Burnsville, Coon Rapids, Minneapolis and St. Paul
There’s a soft serve vanilla ice cream machine inside every Dickey’s, and that’s about the coolest thing ever in kid world. The kids in my neighborhood LOVE Dickey’s. Price: $4 (12 and under) Free on Sunday. Includes drink, 1 side, and ice cream. The pulled pork sandwich with a side of fried okra is the way to go for your kids. The pork is cooked in a wood smoker on site for 12 hours. And if they have it, you’ll love the turkey, it’s so tender and juicy. Dickey’s doesn’t sauce any of your BBQ, so you add it to taste. I really like the hot sauce.
What do kids love while they wait for their dinner? Enormous fish tanks. On a weeknight around 7, this Eat Street favorite was loaded with families, enjoying the enormous fish tank as much as the delicious Chinese food. Price: $6 (kids are free Sunday – Tuesday) includes: rice, fresh steamed broccoli. I couldn’t help but sneak some of my kids’ sweet and sour chicken with 3 cream cheese wontons. It’s absolutely the best sweet and sour chicken I’ve ever had. The sauce is on the side, and explodes with fresh pineapple flavor. Wow. I ordered the pan-fried noodles; a house specialty. The Mixed Vegetables with Black Bean Sauce was really nice, served over pan fried Mein (thin, crispy egg noodles). The baby corn, mushrooms, peppers tasted like they were just pulled from a garden ($13). Chef Tammy Wong makes all her sauces from scratch. This is fresh Chinese cooking that your kids will love.
McCormick & Schmick’s
I know what you’re thinking: Who would bring their kids to McCormick & Schmick’s? I would! They have semi-private dining rooms with room for 6 to 8 — call ahead, tell them you’re bringing your kids, and dine without fear of your kids making a scene. Price: $4.95 for most items; $7.95 for seafood, includes drink and ice cream. The kids’ mac and cheese is unbelievable. For real! It’s penne pasta, a luscious cheddar cheese sauce topped with bread crumbs. Our server admitted that she loves to eat it. Anything off the fresh seafood list is nice for parents; the blackened mahi mahi is delicious. It’s topped with a corn & cherry tomato salsa that plays nicely with the slightly sweet mahi ($21.95). The kids can poke their heads through the curtain of the semi-private dining room and watch the kitchen work. Inspire them to be our next great chef!