By Polly Keary, Editor
Eating out with kids doesn’t have to mean a meal in a box and ambiance that includes a large plastic slide.
There are places in Monroe where you can enjoy your environment and eat something that you didn’t have to order from a counter, but that your kids will still think are fun.
Monroe parents polled on Facebook named Steve’s American Cafe and Grill, Tuscano’s Italian Kitchen and Adam’s Northwest Bistro and Brewery among the three best locally-owned places for families with young children, because there are things for the kids to do, there is healthy or at least homemade food on the kids’ menu, and the food is great for grownups, too.
Here’s what you’ll find at those three restaurants when you take your family out for a special night, or when you just feel like taking a night off from the stove and the dishwasher.
Tuscano’s Italian Kitchen
“Great kids’ menu and meals come with a sundae made table-side,” said one Monroe mom about Tuscano’s Italian Restaurant on North Kelsey. “We like Tuscano’s kid menu because it is just small plates of adult meals. Chicken breast with veggies and pasta, individual wood-fired pizzas, fettuccini alfredo, etc.”
The “Bambinis” menu is for those 10 and under, and has six options between $5.99 and $6.99. A favorite, said owner Scott Perry, is the “Kids Oodles,” or curly noodles tossed with parmesan and cheese.
“The cavatappi are the curly noodles on the menu, and kids love that,” he said.
The kid’s pizzas are made from scratch and baked in the wood-fired pizza oven, and the mac and cheese is the same as that on the regular menu, but without the prosciutto and bread crumbs.
The spaghetti and giant meatball comes with a snow of parmesan atop it, and the meatball is made of beef and sausage and smothered in house-made marinara. Unless a kid is in sports or growing fast, chances are he or she is going to take some home.
And a nice touch is that dinner includes a beverage and ends with a little sundae made at the table.
Round it out with a place mat filled with word games and coloring, and your kid will be glad to come back.
14919 N Kelsey St, Monroe, WA 98272
Adam’s Northwest Bistro and Brewery
“My family LOVES Adams Northwest Bistro and Brewery,” said one dad. “It’s a bit pricey, so it’s a once-a-month thing (my dad loves it, so takes us occasionally too). They do half-price kids “plates” – basically the same food, smaller portions. The food is FANTASTIC – absolutely amazing, high-end stuff that is well worth what you pay for! And they have some activities – magnetic blocks and coloring books – that you have to ask for. My boys love it there.”
It’s true that Adam’s menu is priced a bit above the other two menus featured here, but not by so much as to be prohibitive.
And the food is a bit more sophisticated than that on offer most other places around town.
That goes for the kids’ food too.
That’s because there is no children’s menu, explained Adam Hoffman, owner and chef.
He once had a children’s menu, he said, and it had things like burgers and mac and cheese. But then he found himself adding crab to the mac and cheese and putting it on the main menu, and then some people asked why burgers were only for the kids.
Now he just makes everything for everyone. And, he said, kids are happy ordering off the main menu.
“Kids like to try to think like adults, and act like adults, and they want to think they are adults,” he said.
So he just makes any main menu entree half price for kids 12 and under, and cuts the portion in half.
He recommends the meat loaf a lot, and that’s because it’s one of his favorite recipes from a restaurant he worked in as an intern years ago.
“I looked for that recipe forever,” he said. “I finally found it on a single sheet of paper in my notes. And it’s been a hit.”
It comes with roasted root vegetables, and if your kid is ever going to like a parsnip, it’s going to be this one, with it’s buttery sweet glaze. The garlic mashed potatoes have the skin on and the meatloaf is fine-grained and flavorful. And the little relish of sweet and sour onions that comes on the side is a piquant accent that many will wish was served in a tureen, so well does it compliment the meat.
Adam had a little help picking out the toys on offer for kids; his own kids were tasked with picking out table toys for kids of varying ages, and adults will find themselves joining in creating formations of magnetic blocks.
The meatloaf came to $8.70, a typical price for kids’ portions.
104 N Lewis St, Monroe
Steve’s American Cafe and Grill
“We also like Steve’s American Grill with the kids,” added a mom. “Lots of good options, kids menu or small plates.”
Grab a pail of colored pencils off the front desk on your way in and set your kids to work coloring; their work will join others covering the front wall, and if your child would like the picture returned at the end of the month when the art is taken down and started over; you can provide your contact info and they’ll call you to come pick it up.
The kids menu includes a lot of fried times, including popcorn chicken, corn dogs and grilled cheese, all with fries, but the richness is offset by the choice of fruit dish or veggie sticks and ranch that come with them. And the ultra-creamy macaroni and cheese, like everything else on the menu, is homemade. Prices are quite affordable; each option is $4.99.
Portions are such that your kids won’t go home and complain he or she is still hungry, and the maze on the menu and the coloring pages will keep them entertained.
There is also a kids breakfast menu served 7-11 a.m. that includes pancakes, french toast, biscuits and grave or scrambled egg and cheese, all $4.99.
All kids meals come with a beverage.
19721 US Highway 2, Monroe, WA 98272