Kids Menus: Stretching a Picky Palate
As parents, there are surely days when the last thing you want to do is take on another battle with the kids. That might be the time when you let your children be in charge of dinner – picking the restaurant and ordering for themselves. Other days, you might be feeling bold enough to challenge their young palates with something more sophisticated. Even if they balk at first, conventional wisdom says that the more you expose your children to a variety of foods, the more likely they are to eat them, even if it takes two or three or a dozen tries. For those days, we offer a selection of area restaurants that can help you take a baby step away from the chicken fingers and hot dogs to something healthier and more interesting.
Chicken Lo Mein
Asian restaurants are some of the easiest places to stretch a child’s taste buds – they serve as a viable alternative to fast food chains. Usually the environment is casual, there are plenty of kid-friendly foods and everything comes out fast. Vnam Restaurant offers all of the above. Owner Francis Phan says that dishes like the chicken lo mein, which can also be ordered with vegetables, beef, pork or shrimp (starting at $9.95) is a hit with young customers. The lo mein noodle is the Asian answer to spaghetti and a few vegetables are thrown in, but can also be picked out. The sweet and sour chicken ($9.95) and fried rice (starting at $7.95) are also popular kids’ fare. The restaurant offers things for kids to draw with and a fish tank to entertain them while they wait for the food to come out. 8244 Commonwealth Dr., Eden Prairie; 952.943.1127
A miniature pizza with cheese on top might not sound like anything groundbreaking in the realm of kids’ food. But at Punch Pizza, you can add toppings to the bambini (starting at $4.95), like roasted eggplant or red pepper, salami or prosciutto, as a gradual step toward acquiring new tastes. The experience at Punch also introduces something a little bit more gourmet, with all Neapolitan style ingredients and the unique flavor of a wood-fired crust. If you’re still not convinced, consider that Punch offers counter service, and pizzas come out in 90 seconds, so you can have your hungry little monsters eating in just minutes. 8353 Crystal View Rd., Eden Prairie; 952.943.9557
Chaska My Love
Mexican fare is actually very well suited to the tastes of children, with meats, tortillas, chips, guacamole, beans and rice, and cheese all offering kid-friendly flavors. At Chaska My Love, smaller portions of the burrito ($2.50), quesadilla ($3, with chicken or cheese), nachos ($5, with chicken, beef or pork, enough to feed two kids), or a chicken plate with chicken breast, fries and rice ($7), are the most popular dishes with children. The atmosphere is casual and the service is at the counter, so it’s not intimidating to bring your little ones here, but the setting is still fun and festive. If you suspect your kids might be up to the challenge of trying new foods in the morning time when they are bright and fresh, don’t forget that Chaska My Love has a good reputation for breakfast dishes like huevos with steak and veggies, rice and beans, or chorizo. 127 W. 4th St., Chaska; 952.368.0350
Teppanyaki is a surefire attraction for kids, with the chefs putting on a show behind the grill that kids love. At Kabuki, the teppanyaki dinner is offered in a child-sized portion, with chicken, shrimp or steak (starting at $7.95). The meal includes vegetables and rice, soup and salad and it’s the more popular option for families with kids, says manager Eric Nakamoto. He has also noticed families that come in for sushi will order plenty of California rolls ($5.95 for 8 pieces) for the children, so they can be part of the fun. The menu is so extensive that numerous other options could work for kids, from the Kal Bi (Korean short ribs) to an appetizer portion of shrimp and vegetable tempura ($7.95) and cute bento box combos. 6534 Flying Cloud Dr., Eden Prairie; 952.941.5115
Kids’ Salad Bar
Jason’s Deli is a well-known favorite for family meals, with all the staples like grilled cheese, hot dogs and turkey sandwiches. However, the kids’ salad bar runs just $3.99 and may allow you to slip in a vegetable or two for your kids to taste. Choose from a rainbow of veggies and wholesome foods like tomatoes, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, organic green peas, hummus, apples, green and kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and granola, and make-your-own fruit and yogurt parfaits. It’s reassuring to know, also, that Jason’s Deli uses no trans fats, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup or artificial dyes, and produce comes in fresh daily. Kids eat free on Wednesdays. 11995 Singletree Lane, Eden Prairie; 952.944.7200
Surfer’s Sushi Sampler
If your kids are adventurous enough to give sushi a try for themselves, the surfer’s sushi sampler ($5) at Kona Grill will be right up their alley. The dish is made with fully cooked shrimp and crab. Kids’ meals come with chopstick helpers and a beverage like soda, juice or milk. 11997 Singletree Lane, Eden Prairie; 952.941.3262
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