Best Fast Casual Kids Meals in Denver
posted by: Julie Bielenberg
I can’t do it all, but I can carry out really well! Not my motto, but sometimes my philosophy
School’s officially back in session; I think both of my children finally completed their first full week of school and, I’d like to tell you that I’m cooking Hank the Tank and Dora the Explorer these amazing three-course nutritious meals mostly provided by my garden; however, welcome to reality in 2014.
Between schlepping my children to and from school and activities, I can barely find my own time to eat, let alone always make a healthy meal for my family. Lucky for us Denver is the capital of upscale quick service restaurants. While the Chipotle, Qdoba, Noodles, Panera, Einsteins and etc. are all a staple in my diet and my children’s as well (and headquartered in Colorado!), I needed to add some variety this fall. Here are my top five favorite urban casual eateries for kid’s meal carry-out this season. Of course, they all have exceptional foods and beverages for adults, but it’s about the kids . . .
DISCLAIMER: To make this list, the eatery had to have multiple locations. Don’t see your favorites, please don’t kill the messenger. Later this season look for our round-up of best single location kid’s meals as well. And, there will be a juice round-up in early November, just in time for the holidays.
From the previous owners of one of my favorite childhood restaurants, McDonalds, comes the latest food experience, LYFE Kitchen. The first Denver-area location opened in Park Meadows Mall this summer and the Boulder location opens on Oct. 15. Dora’s and I recent adventure to this airy, nature-inspired eatery rocked, and owner DJ Mitchell was on hand to keep Dora busy as I ate everything! The ambiance is perfect for dining in or taking out. Local beers and coffee are served year round and local, seasonal vegetables are on their menu when available. Their story, values, and beliefs are all on their website and pretty unique. World-class chefs Art Smith and Tal Ronnen heavily influenced this menu and we should all be thankful as their kid’s menu features Art’s famous, Un-fried Chicken. All children’s entrees come with either baked sweet potato fries or fresh fruit. Or look for traditional pasta with sauce or branch out and try the Un–fried (and baked!) Chicken and French fries. Classic cheese flatbread and fish tacos are also on this delightful child’s menu. All calorie and sodium content is easily visible when ordering. Dora was a member of the clean plate club and also might have indulged in the chocolate budino and local peach budino, both under 250 calories a piece! Did I mention they have free sparkling water on tap? lyfekitchen.com
Never heard of it. That’s what most moms in Denver say. However if you find yourself in Boulder or Vail or inhabit these places, we have to give a shout out to Yellowbelly chicken. Their Red Bird chicken is well-known for both nutrition and taste. Everything from this place is always from scratch and their sides for kids include smashed potato fries, macaroni pie, citrus quinoa, and other seasonal and hearty items. For the biggest bang for your buck try their family meals. It is a whole roasted bird, 10 pieces fried or half roasted and half fried. That feeds an entire family for under $30.00. Plus, Yellowbelly fries their chicken and smashed potatoes in a GMO Free Rice Bran Oil and the fried chicken is gluten-free. While the kids and I have not ventured out to Yellowbelly, we were strongly encouraged to mention this authentic Colorado eatery. yellowbellychicken.com
Originally from Chicago, like myself, I was thrilled when Colorado got this brilliant sensation. Currently there are two locations in Denver and one in Boulder, all in prime traffic spots. Calories, fat, fiber and protein grams are all posted next to each menu item. Their blended drinks are genius. My favorites for the moms are the Boulder Green Tea, Lodo Cocoa, Aspen Acai’d, and Ski Nut Butter & Jelly — all with obvious Colorado symbolism. Any of these shakes alone could provide a meal, but the kids have gotta eat. The Green Monster, an all-natural chicken, organic quinoa, spinach, tomatoes, basil pesto, and Parmesan, is a family favorite. The Kid’s Power Plate with all-natural chicken, black beans, organic quinoa blend, cheddar, and house-made BBQ sauce, with a whole wheat wrap is another power packed choice. Lastly, we must mention the Pizza Bowl. This is a dynamic and healthy spin on a classic favorite. All-natural chicken and organic quinoa blend topped with rich marinara and Parmesan make it a knock out choice. theproteinbar.com
Although Modmarket might be the oldest member of this crew, it’s still a newbie for many. Their newest location at DIA (coming soon) only cements them as THE new lifestyle eatery for the masses. It’s hard to pass up their gluten-free dough or barbecue pizza, but when it comes to kids and healthy on-the-go meals, their home-style plates are a solid choice. Choose from their barbecue chicken, roasted chicken, grilled steak, or sesame and ginger spiced tofu and sides such as rosemary sweet potatoes mash, balsamic carrots, arugula and blue cheese salad, and more. They also have a Build-Your-Own Salad for the kids! Kid’s sized salad with choice of veggies and dressing. Their organic fresh brewed ice tea is always nice for mom as well. modmarket.com
The Kitchen Next Door
Originally from Boulder, this Colorado icon has branched into four higher-end eateries; three more upscale community-oriented, faster, more casual locations, and one cocktail lounge. My favorite their “Next Door” brand with three locations—one in Boulder, City Set in Glendale, and Union Station. The founder’s food movement is ever-present in all menu items. For the little one’s pick them out a main dish of Slow Roast Pork Sliders. Both my kids LOVED these. Pair this one of their extraordinary sides including, Garlic Smashers, Kale Chips, Roasted Beets, or Marinated Beans. And don’t miss The Lunch Box. It is packed full of family favorites such as Long Farm Ham, cheddar, and carrots & celery sticks. Simple and delicious flavorings for this fall. They also offer a healthy sampling of diverse salads. thekitchen.com