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TDG: All In The Family: A Children's Menu Odyssey


Fat Guy
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that's amazing, Katherine! I've been thinking lately about how underdeveloped kids' palattes seem to be and what a problem it poses for parents who want their kids to eat healthy foods and develop sophisticated palattes. myself, I was raised on Spam, McD's, hot dogs, chicken w/ rice, etc etc. I don't honestly know how I started to care about food.

I haven't had much luck either finding super unknown places whilst away travelling, unless I'm in an area known for good food. I usually have to know that the place is there beforehand. I wonder if it's a kind of sixth sense some people have?

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I don't think I ever ate off a kid's menu either. I too was eating sushi at an early age. I also enjoyed most Chinese food, Mexican food and usual American fare. And Shirley Temples! The bartender at the Chinese restaurant we frequented used to put up to 7 cherries in one Shirley Temple for me. :blink: I never think to order a Shirley Temple anymore, but I make them at home.

when I was a kid, my parents hardly ever took me out to dinner anyway, because my mom used to love to cook (and she's really good at it too, but she doesn't do it often anymore). I remember having a babysitter in the evening on occasion though, so I imagine my parents used to go out to eat without me. (or did they? :unsure: )

Edit to add, now that I've read the article: At Ruby Tuesday which as some of you know is where I'm a cook this summer, we have grilled cheese, chicken fingers, mac and cheese, a kid sized burger and nuggets on the kids menu. These are the things that specifically come though as kid orders but there are other things that could pass for kid sized. How about a 1/3 rack of ribs and salad bar? A quesadilla, with or without chicken? (Be sure to ask for no tomatoes and/or no jalapenos if that's how your kid likes them.)

Maybe grilled chicken, instead of fried? Just because it's not on the little section for kids meals doesn't mean you can't make it a kids meal. I've seen so many weird substitutions, and there's practically nothing we won't do for you.

Edited by KateW (log)
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Kate, that's great that Ruby Tuesday's will do all that for kids, but why can't they just say that on the kids' menu? And why can't they offer those items in smaller portions at a fraction of the cost? Kids can't eat that much food, and parents generally don't want to pay for it. Parents generally don't complain about the kids' offerings because it's cheap and it keeps the children happy. In fact, I'd argue that most parents demand a children's menu now. Provide them with a reasonable alternative, and many of them would be equally happy, as long as you still provided the crayons, of course.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Do restaurants in other countries have "children's menus" or just smaller portions of the regular entrees?  What's the story?

The French have children's menus (sometimes). Here's an example. You'll have to click your way though the opeing splash page and then click on the photograph accompanying "Le menu enfant Gastronomique" to find such items as:

Duo of trout and smoked scallops, junior portion (6.00 euros)

Slice of home made foie gras (6.50 euros)

Plain or cheese omelet (5.00 euros)

Small puff pastry with warm asparagus and chervil butter sauce (5.00 euros)

etc.

They do serve ice cream as a dessert choice, but emphatically note that they do not serve hamburgers or fires. Apparently a good many French children are no longer being properly bought up and they've noticed. There is one piece of bad news on the page. You have to be under 12 years of age to order from this menu.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Duo of trout and smoked scallops, junior portion (6.00 euros)

Slice of home made foie gras (6.50 euros)

Plain or cheese omelet (5.00 euros)

Small puff pastry with warm asparagus and chervil butter sauce (5.00 euros)

etc.

I would happily order these things for my kids. Emma would particularly like the trout and smoked scallops. Thanks Bux. When we get to France with the kids at least we'll know they will be accomodated. :smile:

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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They don't say it because it's obvious. The 1/3 rack, quesadilla and the salad bar are there on the menu; do you need us to give you permission to order it for your kids?

As for the costs, I'm not familiar with the prices so I don't know if they're reasonable or not.

I agree most kids menus are insulting.

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That's why places such as Jaleo or Zaytinya in DC are perfect for kids.  Restaurants that serve "family style" work really well, too.

Jaleo is a gem in that regard. We've made return trips and I've always been happy to eat whatever anyone else didn't want on the first pass. And if I've had to eat the first round all by myself, well let's order another round of dishes. I've been happy enough even to finish off the dish ordered by a picky eater and then rejected. It's all good enough to eat and the portions are small. It's a good place to go with parents who have picky kids as well as with kids who have picky parents. Kids don't have a monopoly on pickiness in our extended family.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I agree, only the ethnic places seem to have the better childrens menus. Every other place has chciken fingers, hamburger, hot dog, peanut butter & Jelly and pasta with marinara.

The Japanese restaurant we frequent (Kazu in Norwalk, CT) has the best childrens item I have ever seen. It is a Kid's Bento Box that includes 2 dumplings, a california roll, chicken yakitori (grilled chicken on a stick), chicken teryaki, chicken and vegetable tempura and a scoop of ice cream. All for $10. My daughter thinks it is the coolest thing to get the whole box for herself.

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Yup...it amazes me the things we'll make that *aren't* on the menu too! One person wanted the chicken in their quesadilla replaced with buffalo shrimp: fried shrimp tossed in buffalo wing sauce. :blink: Not that big a deal I guess, since we do offer buffalo shrimp...I had just never considered it before. We'll also sub any sauce or topping for anything else...and to think I've been ordering things exactly how they are on the menu for all these years.

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You can't predict what kids tastes will be. I have a brother who was very, very picky as a kid. He wouldn't eat hamburgers broiled in the oven because they had "brown speck spice on them." Now he eats almost anything. The other brother would try anything and I was somewhere in the middle.

Now, I'm a pretty adventurous eater. The husband is somewhat less adventurous but pretty good, though if I want Indian I have to go without him. Kid #1 (14 year old boy) is very picky and not very willing to try new things. I'm hoping this will change as he gets older like his uncle. Kid #2 (11 y.o. girl) is an incredibly adventurous eater and will try almost anything, like the other uncle. As a toddler, she chomped on a slice of horse radish before I could stop her.

Both kids have been going to restaurants since they were practically newborns. And yes they have been to "fine dining" places for special occassions, but that's not often. The upside is my kids do know how to behave at a restaurant. They look the waiter/waitress in the eye when they order (most of the time) and say please and thank you. At home and restaurants they're exposed to a variety of foods. I figure the palates will develop with time.

Edited by JFLinLA (log)
So long and thanks for all the fish.
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... my kids do know how to behave at a restaurant.  They look the waiter/waitress in the eye when they order (most of the time) and say please and thank you.

Neither of those should be under emphasized. While I love and make great exceptions for children, I also expect them to behave properly in social situations. While one shouldn't beg to be served, it should also go without saying that "please" and "thank you" are no less in order when speaking to wait staff than they are when dealing with anyone else.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I go out to dinner with my mother once a week, and she eats very sparingly, usually ordering only an appetizer as her main meal. It's always a challenge to find restaurants that offer appetizers which can be a meal (not chicken wings or similar finger foods) and sometimes, if there's a children's menu, my mother will ask if she can order from it. The answer varies; at the chain restaurants the answer's usually no, unless the server is willing to be flexible.

I agree that having smaller portions at lower prices would be good for kids, and would have the side benefit of cutting down on wasted food and offering a greater variety to the eater with a small appetite.

Neil

Author of the Mahu series of mystery novels set in Hawaii.

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There are an increasing number of restaurants with senior citizen menus either instead of childrens' or combined with. More often at chains than at independents. And a healthier range of food, of course. Less deep frying.

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It's not necessarily the Restaurant industry's "Kid's Menus" that are dictating what kids will or will not eat - the parents can have plenty of influence on that as well. Egullet Readership excluded I'm sure, but I've heard countless times mother's say to their kids "oh, you won't like that".

I was brought up on the philosophy "try anything once". I used to pig out with my mom on weird dishes like "Hungarian Spinach served on French Toast" and Sardine sandwiches while my sisters ate hot dogs. Those are some of my fondest childhood memories. :smile:

"Never eat more than you can lift" -- Miss Piggy

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I think the key for us was that my wife and I don't eat garbage. We rarely have chips, etc in the house. We virtually never have soft drinks (which is not to say we don't drink iced tea by the gallon, but boys really don't) and they never got in the garbage habit. Due to my job, I have worked for long periods in odd places (rural Mexico, really rural ireland, Hong Kong) and they have had the opportunity for long visits over the years. They eat almost anything. They actually understand the concept of "if every other person in the place is eating it it must be good" so they will try almost anything. That is not to say they like everything though, they both hated escargot....alot....so much that a local Mardi Gras Parade had the theme "Unfortunate Foods" and they dressed as little french themed snails with Garlic coming out of their butts.

They also like to help find Oriental restaraunts in Strip Malls. The theory being that the relationship between good oriental food and the quality of the strip mall is inversely related. When we picked them up at camp last month they insisted we drive 50 miles out of our way to go to a place in Chattanooga TN called the Thai Smile 3. A wonderful rest. in a downtown strip mall that is really kid friendly and has some of the best thai food I have ever eaten. Also, living in SO Louisiana is a help. As the saying goes, we pretty much eat everything that doesn't eat us first. Everything but the oink.

I think I can sum this up by saying that if you don't feed them McNuggets and kid meal hot dogs, they won't look for them everytime you go out with them.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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if your kids are picky eaters, DO NOT MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF IT.

Though I can see your point (having been the winner, as a child, in a momentous "I'm not going to eat those lima beans and you can't make me" struggle at the dinner table) this sort of advice to not force the issue has led to the ruin of my niece's palate and colon. She is 16 now and doesn't eat vegetables. Period.

When she was very young and didn't want to eat her vegetables, my brother never made a big deal out of it because he didn't want a "scene" at the dinner table. My sister-in-law disagreed but said nothing. Now my niece is paying for it. She recently had to go to the doctor because she was constipated due to the complete lack of fiber in her diet. How can someone live on just Mac & Cheese & Meat? Or is that the Atkins diet? :wink:

She is an avid basketball player and is very good at it but is shorter than she should be (her dad and I are both 6' 5"). We think she has one more growth spurt in her before she graduates high school in two years but will she get the full potential of that growth spurt if she doesn't eat the proper nutrients/building blocks? Afterall, in a physiological/biological sense, we are what we eat.

So at what age do you need to make a big deal out of it before it gets out of hand like this?

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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When I was younger, I generally ordered off the appetizer menu and got a side dish. My brother on the other hand, is still eating fettucine alfredo at upscale places. We spent three moves explaining to each hotel staff that really, all he's going to eat is cheerios, PB&J, or plain pasta with butter, while I was ordering clam chowder, cobb salad, and calamari at 8.

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I just got back from a week in Greensboro, NC, attending a conference with a great many adult palates (or so I thought.) Many people were content to take advantage of the chain restaurants in the areas - Ruby Tuesday's, Red Lobster, Shoneys, you name it. And although I can see a stop at Subways for a quick to-go lunch, there is so very much good local fare to be enjoyed in the immediate area that when I had the chance, I got in my car and drove around exploring.

Stopped in a Waffle House (a chain, but one I get to enjoy only on my trips south!) and chatted up the locals at the counter. A lot of folks are all too willing to proudly describe the various types of BBQ in the Carolinas, and debate which are the best. I found a farmers market, and brought back some wonderful baked goods and two quarts of increible blackberries (you sure can't find blackberries in any reasonable quality up north!), and found a terrific hole-in-the-wall lexington BBQ place where I took a few of my buddies. They loved it too!

Moral of the story... you'd be amazed how many adults are as afraid of going off the chain-restaurant menu as their children.

"Give me 8 hours, 3 people, wine, conversation and natural ingredients and I'll give you one of the best nights in your life. Outside of this forum - there would be no takers."- Wine_Dad, egullet.org

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I'm sure many folks here have read Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" (if not, I highly recommend it). Of the many disturbing aspects of that book, one of the most disturbing is the explanation of the various ways in which fast food chains capture their next generation of loyal customers. All of the happy meal toys and playscapes and other crap create all of these happy mental associations with eating fast food, which will last for the rest of their lives. Try taking a 5 year old to a local burger joint when he finds out that he doesn't get a toy with his meal! And now they've developed this new concept of the "big kids meal", a la McD's "Power Kids Meal", which is essentially foisting what used to be considered an adult-size burger and fries on pre-teens. My 5 year-old nephew's favorite fast food now is KFC, because their kids meal comes in a "laptop", which is a laptop-shaped cardboard box with a toy and games and puzzles printed on it. His parents brought one with them for him to eat the last time we went out to Chinese food. All I remember about the food is that it had a roll of fruit leather in it.

I don't think that there are any easy answers to the conundrum of how to get your kids to be more adventurous eaters. For me, I was a pretty unadventurous eater until I was in college. Moving to San Francisco in my mid-20s jump-started a whole new series of food adventures. I won't claim to have a "highly-developed palate", but I've certainly gone way past my parents in terms of what I enjoy eating.

Certainly geography is destiny in some ways, too, or at least it used to be. Growing up in Texas, I never had the opportunity to try many ethnic foods, or many types of fresh seafood. But I ate plenty of Mexican food! I think a lot of that has changed in the last 10-20 years with many more types of food being available year-round and nationwide. So paradoxically, while many Americans are eating more generically than ever, I think that the opportunities exist for people to eat more eclectically than ever. It's just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunities. (I suppose this is much more true in the cities and on the coasts than in rural areas and the midwest).

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Try taking a 5 year old to a local burger joint when he finds out that he doesn't get a toy with his meal!

I was somewhat pleased to learn on my latest road trip to NC that Chik-Fil-A gives away books, and books on tape in their kid meals. And, the bag the kid meal came in was extolling the wonders of history. It was a refreshing change from the latest Disney/Pixar/etc. movie tie-in.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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At some point in the 70s, McDonald's did those illustrated children's classics. They were very small and very very thick. A black and white illustration on every other page but still a good couple hours worth of reading. We accumulated Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, The Three Musketeers, maybe more. Nutritious options for the mind if not the bodies.

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I just got back from a week in Greensboro, NC, attending a conference with a great many adult palates (or so I thought.) Many people were content to take advantage of the chain restaurants in the areas - Ruby Tuesday's, Red Lobster, Shoneys, you name it. And although I can see a stop at Subways for a quick to-go lunch, there is so very much good local fare to be enjoyed in the immediate area that when I had the chance, I got in my car and drove around exploring.

Stopped in a Waffle House (a chain, but one I get to enjoy only on my trips south!) and chatted up the locals at the counter. A lot of folks are all too willing to proudly describe the various types of BBQ in the Carolinas, and debate which are the best. I found a farmers market, and brought back some wonderful baked goods and two quarts of increible blackberries (you sure can't find blackberries in any reasonable quality up north!), and found a terrific hole-in-the-wall lexington BBQ place where I took a few of my buddies. They loved it too!

Moral of the story... you'd be amazed how many adults are as afraid of going off the chain-restaurant menu as their children.

I wish I'd known you were going to be in town, I could have steered you toward some pretty good places. Even tho' at first glance it seems Olive Garden is as good as it gets, there are some decent places tucked away (particularly the ethnic restaurants) - you just have to know where to go. Keep me in mind if you ever plan another visit - I'll make sure you get better than BBQ. :wink:

"Never eat more than you can lift" -- Miss Piggy

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Keep me in mind if you ever plan another visit - I'll make sure you get better than BBQ. :wink:

Better than BBQ? In the carolinas!?!

I'm reporting you to the Food Police & having you deported from the Carolinas! :raz:

Seriously though, thanks, but I have tons of ethnic cuisines of every kind up here, so when I travel, I'd much rather use my mealtimes for stuff I can't get at home. What places do you recommend for native Carolinian cuisine?

Edited by laurenmilan (log)

"Give me 8 hours, 3 people, wine, conversation and natural ingredients and I'll give you one of the best nights in your life. Outside of this forum - there would be no takers."- Wine_Dad, egullet.org

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