Five Denver-area restaurants you and your kids will love
I’m not sure when I hit the kid’s-menu wall but it was somewhere between greasy chicken fingers and limp pizza that I resolved Denver restaurants have got to do a better job of feeding our kids. Though I try to feed my kids healthy items I don’t mind them occasionally splurging, particularly when we go out to eat. It’s just the lack of options–as if our kids are an afterthought.
So, this year I’m on a quest for Denver-area restaurants that do a great job catering to kids while, at the same time, offering great food and an ambiance agreeable to Mom and Dad (translation: no play centers or video games).
I will be regularly posting my updates about our experiences. I’ve decided I don’t mind paying a little bit more for quality food if all that $4 will buy me are sub-par items. After all, my kids are 6 and 8 and we only have a few years left to enjoy the kid’s menu before they want to start eating (gulp) adult-sized portions.
And that gulp is a literal one.
1. True Food Kitchen. How would you feel about a restaurant that only serves gourmet, healthy items for you and your family? We visited True Food Kitchen on New Year’s Day and it was a great way to kick off our healthy-living resolutions. This newish Cherry Creek restaurant teamed up with Dr. Andrew Weil and all the dishes closely adhere to the principles of his Anti-Inflammatory Diet. While my husband ordered one of the best Chicken Panang Curries ($16) ever, I loved the Roasted Chicken with farro, spinach, cranberries and walnuts ($19).
The kids devoured the Grilled Chicken with apples, steamed broccoli and grapes ($8) and Mozzarella and Organic Tomato Pizza ($9). Other options for kids include Veggie Sticks and Hummus and Dill Dips ($5), a Chicken Teriyaki Bowl with brown rice ($7) and Turkey Sloppy Joes ($6). Gluten-free options are clearly marked and don’t forget to order their Natural Refreshments that include Honey Lemonade ($4) or the Hangover RX with coconut water, pineapple and fresh-squeezed orange juice ($5). http://www.foxrc.com/restaurants/true-food-kitchen/
2. Tag Burger. “Why are we driving all the way here for lunch?” My daughter whined as we made the 25-minute trek from our house to this Congress Park restaurant but when she saw the kid-friendly joint and chowed down on her duck fat fries, the buck stopped there. The choices are varied–from Tag’s BBQ Brisket Nachos to gourmet burgers to deep-fried Oreos. But we were at a burger bar so stuck with what they do best by building our own burger (meat choices include beef, veggie, turkey, salmon, lamb and bison on your choice of buns, including gluten-free). I took a chance on the One Night in Bangkok beef burger with green papaya slaw, crushed peanuts, mint, lime Sriracha aioli but I ended up preferring my husband’s more traditional Blind in Texas bison burger with chile-rubbed crispy onions, aged cheddar, chipotle BBQ.
The kid’s menu includes a 1/4 Rotisserie Chicken ($6), Angus Sliders and Fries ($5), a Pizza Bagel ($3), and an unbelievable Mac ‘n Cheese ($5) that is topped Cheeze-Its, Goldfish crackers and breadcrumbs. The milkshakes are pricy ($4 small; $8 large) but made from Boulder’s famed Alchemy ice cream with flavors that include caramel sea salt. Confession–Tag Burger sells five different kinds of fries and we ordered them all: Old-school russets ($2/4), sweet potato ($2.5/5), Finger Lickin’ with Cheez Whiz and pico de gallo ($4/6), Duck Fat & Tag Spice ($2.5/5), Truffle Aioli and Parmesan ($4/6). The best news about Tag? Tuesday night, kids eat free with the purchase of an adult entree. 1222 Madison Street, Denver, CO. https://www.facebook.com/tagburgerbar
3. D Note. This ultra-fun pizzeria featuring live music in Olde Town Arvada makes my list because it’s cool. And hip. As you’d expect at a Pizzeria, they offer kids Butterfly Pizzas ($7) in cheese, mushroom, pepperoni or pineapple and mix it up a bit with mozzarella and cheddar grilled cheese on Italian flatbread ($4). But what makes this place a real winner is every Sunday afternoon from 2-6 p.m. they offer Let the Babies Boogie, where kids ages 1 month to 12 years old come and enjoy music–by listening to it, playing it and dancing to it. Parents relax at their tables, watching the kids dance and play together.
Stop by next-door neighbor Scrumptious for delicious homemade ice cream and a candy selection so vast your mind will be blown. Around the corner is Manneken Frites, an authentic “Belgian-style” frites shop that serves fresh-cut, twice-cooked french fries with over 20 amazing dipping sauces. 7519 Grandview Ave Arvada http://www.dnote.us/
4. Tocabe. I’m always looking to expose my kids to different cuisine so when my sister-in-law gave me a gift card to metro Denver’s only American Indian Eatery, I was all-in (my husband was game due to his love affair with Navajo tacos). Located in the Highlands, I was pleasantly surprised by this contemporary fast-casual restaurant that has a warm, urban vibe infused with American Indian elements. The kid’s menu isn’t extensive but delicious and consists of a small Indian Taco with your choice of ground beef, ground or shredded bison, chicken or vegetarian option, corn chips, your choice of salsa and a drink ($5.25-6.25).
As first timers, we asked the staffer what we should order and she recommended the Indian Tacos, served with a variety of meats and your choice among six salsas ($7.25-9.25). Other options include Stuffed Fry Bread with a variety of meats, Bison Ribs, Medicine Wheel Nachos and a Melting Pot Salad. For dessert, instead of the traditional Fry Bread with honey, cinnamon and sugar ($2.95), go for the Fry Bread Nuggets with powdered sugar ($2.95). You’ll swear you’re popping pure American Indian bliss into your mouth.3536 W 44th Ave. Denver. http://tocabe.com
5. Zengo’s Brunch. I’m a fan of any restaurant that offers both Saturday and Sunday brunch so I was thrilled when I heard Zengo is now offering bottomless brunch. If you’re not familiar with this hip Richard Sandovol restaurant across from Riverfront Park, it is best known for Latin-Asian-style food and, if he could, my husband would marry their Thai Chicken Empanadas with chile poblano, oaxaca cheese and mango salsa. I’ve done many all-you-can-eat or single-plated brunches but nothing like Zengo’s bottomless extravaganza. Renowned for their small plates, you may order anything off their brunch menu…as much as you want.
Thanks to the smaller portions, my kids loved trying foods that are traditionally not geared to them and favorites included Bacon-roasted Brussel Sprouts with szechuan peppercorn and oyster sauce achiote-hoisin, Pork Arepas with corn masa, avocado and crema fresca, Wagu Beef Albondigas with roasted peppers, kimchee, spicy tomato hoisin, topped off with Churros dipped in Mexican hot chocolate. They didn’t know what half the ingredients were and frankly, neither did I but no one cared. Guests are $35 and children 10 and under are $10 that include bottomless small plates, free-flowing brunch cocktails and coffee. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. 1610 Little Raven Street, Riverfront Park, www.richardsandoval.com/zengodenver
Do you have a restaurant with great variety and delicious kid’s menu items your children love? Share it in the comments below and maybe we’ll check it out and see if it makes our recommended-list! Warning: We’re slow eaters (meaning we don’t eat out a lot) so this list was a couple of months in the making.