By Carrie Havranek
If you are a parent and you love seriously good food, sometimes you may feel as though there are few options for dining out. Diners and breakfast joints are always safe because they’re historically welcoming to all comers, regardless of age. Some people have said that perhaps it’s more important to have children who are friendly to restaurants than vice versa, but children have to learn somewhere. Many of us would rather have them learn the ropes at places that are serving real food made fresh on the premises—and by proprietors who don’t mind a mess. This week, we’re celebrating five cool places you can happily take your kids out to eat and be guaranteed that they won’t be eating food out of a freezer—unless, of course, it’s ice cream. Most importantly, these are places where you’d be surprised, based on the quality of the food, that children are happy or accommodated or both.
1. Megs and Mads, Easton. Takings its name from its young daughters, Megs and Mads, owned by Steve and Shannan Schwartzinger, has done their best to combine gourmet food with a family-friendly environment. And they’ve succeeded. The food is reliably delicious and beautifully presented. The kid’s menu comes with either sauteed vegetables or fries, and servers routinely present the plate with the vegetable side closer to the kids (Classy!) Dessert? A homemade chocolate chip ice cream cookie sandwich. Adults can delight in the super-popular calamari appetizer and salmon entree, along with anything else on the seasonally-changing menu.
2. Flow, Jim Thorpe. You may not find yourself in Jim Thorpe every day, but if you’re headed that way for bicycling or hiking or general outdoor activities with the family, don’t miss Flow. It’s housed in an old warehouse, along with art galleries—including one that features the artwork of the children of owners artist Victor Stabin and Joan Morykin. The kids gallery comes equipped with LEGO blocks and crayons and small chairs. Young, talented chef Zachary Pelliccio (who grew up on a PA farm, natch) puts together a great kids’ menu with bacon mac and cheese, mini cheeseburgers and a vegetarian pot pie, for example, served with either a salad or fries. Adults can expect a small menu focused on local and seasonal foods. You might even say the menu is curated; after all, it’s specific, thoughtfully put together, and there’s a rotating burger selection named after an artist.
3. Bolete, Bethlehem. For numerous reasons, you would probably think twice before bringing young children to Bolete for dinner. (Some places should remain the domain of adults to have some uninterrupted conversations and a nice time, I think.) However, on Sundays, parents dying for a good meal and interested in exposing their children to the same can feel safe coming to brunch at Bolete. When weather permits, ask to sit outside. The landscaped patio is a lovely spot for a Bloody Mary and sunny-side up duck eggs from Happy Farms or French toast with house-made brioche. The sunshine makes everyone happy; something about sitting outside makes it feel less formal, more relaxed.
Full disclosure: I’ve not been here for brunch (only dinner) or to Bolete with my toddlers, and attempts to reach Bolete before posting time were not responded to. However, I’ve been told by several sources that their brunch is kid-friendly.
4. Sangria, Allentown. This great restaurant used to do a kids-eat-free promotion on Monday, but they’re not doing it anymore. We still think it’s a smart choice, especially on an off-peak night, earlier in the week. There are plenty of tapas to choose from, the space is colorful, and Sangria, too, has an outdoor patio. Chef Abe Lopez has been featured on the Food Network and insists upon freshness. Little hands are made for his miniature-sized fish taco appetizer. In fact, tapas (or ordering a bunch of appetizers) often work better than full-fledged kid’s meals for those who are curious eaters, easily distracted, or indecisive (adults and kids alike, ahem.)
5. Finally, we recommend trying for lunch or an early dinner, at almost anywhere you’d get a sitter for and go with friends or significant others. For example, we’ve had much success taking our kids out between 5 and 6 to places where we would normally eat dinner with adults. We try to practice the golden rule: we’d rather not do unto others what we would not like have done to ourselves. That being said, Sette Luna in Easton, despite the fact that the restaurant does not offer bread (my kids like the olives they serve) or have milk on its menu, is always popular with my kids because the pizza is just so good. DeLorenzo’s in Forks is also plenty welcoming and tolerant of toddler-sized messes. And friends have reported that Bethlehem’s mainstay Apollo Grill, with its multitude of appetizers and consummate professionalism, has been extremely hospitable to them and their 3 and 1/2 year-old daughter for weekend lunches; one server in particular always brings a small plate of cheese and crackers, along with golden raisins, before the meal.
How about you? Share your most surprisingly kid-friendly restaurant experiences here with us!
Carrie Havranek is a writer in Easton who does not eat out much with her kids, but they have a soft spot for the mac and cheese with mixed veggies at Megs and Mads.
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Pop Goes the Kitchen: Chef Jason Hook Test the Waters at H2O Kitchen @ the Powder Valley Inn
Put Your Mouth Where the Money Was: Eat at The Mint in Bethlehem
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Five Cool Places for a Slice of Pizza