Dining Out With The Keiki

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - January 18, 2006
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Someone told me the other day that dining out with their kids is so difficult they just don’t bother anymore. It’s not that their children are hard to control, it’s more that the parents feel there aren’t many dining options. Let’s face it, folks, Dave and Buster’s and Chuck E Cheese aren’t for everyone.

But I disagree. There are so many restaurants improving their kids menu, and the whole family experience, that I have room here to mention but a few. I have to admit, until a couple of years ago my idea of an evening out did not involve children. We went to Chef Mavro one night a few years back and a couple had their screaming infant with them, and I remember looking at the parents and thinking “are these people crazy?” Of course now, two kids later, I realize that they were just desperate to get out and eat some good food.

Fine dining is not usually suited to young kids (although I have twice taken my toddler to Roy’s and had terrific service) because people who’re paying $100 a head for dinner don’t really want your little darlings running amok beneath their tables.

That’s why, if you have a family, you need to find places that welcome you, but don’t relegate you to the sub-standard world of doughy pizza and noisy video games. Sam Choy’s BLC on Nimitz has come up with a brilliant plan for stressed-out parents who need a date night but don’t want to add the cost of a baby-sitter to the evening. Bring the kids to “keiki night.” On Tuesdays, the restaurant employs a clown, and they have a games room, coloring contests and 50 percent off the regular kids menu. It’s busy, fun, full of children loving a little bit of independence. And best of all, you actually get to order some of the BLC specials in peace.

Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar and neighboring D.K’s Steakhouse are incredibly child-friendly “finer dining” restaurants. One night a couple of weeks ago we were there with our boys, and I counted five other families with very young children. D.K’s mom, Sandy, is the ultimate mother and can soothe a fussing baby faster than you can order a California roll. There are also interesting choices for the kids to eat.

At Compadres in Ward Centre, kids eat free on Sundays, and families are welcome every day. They have a fun kids menu and an atmosphere that’s laid back enough where you don’t have to worry about tortillas on the brick floor.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill has a nice approach to kids. The restaurant is lively enough to keep them occupied for a long time, there are crayons brought to the table and lots of paper tablecloths to scribble on (graffiti is encouraged), plus they have a good kids menu and visiting opera singers who stop by the table and can silence your children with just a stanza or two.

Tiki’s Grill and Bar and Big City Diner are both extremely family-orientated restaurants where adults can get good food and kids feel welcome. Sunset Grill at Restaurant Row has always welcomed children, and its rules are simple. GM Stu Schroeder, a father of two, says they feed the kids first where possible so the parents can relax and enjoy the menu.

And my award for the most interesting kids menu - and best toys - goes this week to E&O Trading Company. My son is still playing with the WikiWiki sticks three weeks after we brought them home.

Stay tuned for more of the best family dining options soon.

Happy eating!

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