Hearing that a particular restaurant is kid friendly makes me avoid it like a pile of Legos on a staircase. And I know exactly what those look like because I have a toddler. Not that I’m necessarily opposed to loud and unruly behavior. I just feel more comfortable when it’s coming from tipsy adults.
Yet I found myself recently at Ethan Stowell’s new Frelard Pizza Company, hoisting my son into an enclosed pen, a sort of panic room–meets–Roman theater for energetic offspring. It’s six feet by 15 feet, lined with chalkboards, scattered with toys, and designed so parents can drink locally brewed pilsners or draft red wines and await their pizzas in peace—the kind of peace that involves Young MC blaring on the speakers.
Still, it was glorious. My husband and I ordered brews from impressive newcomer Holy Mountain in Interbay and conducted an adult conversation while our son motored around just a few feet away in the kid pit, which is ringed by counter seats so even the most helicoptery of parents need not forsake their IPAs.
Plenty of establishments cater to children, but this year’s crop of new bars and restaurants offer breeders a new paradigm of kid friendly, one that incorporates our progeny into places where adults hang out rather than consigning parents to a world of vinyl booths (the nonironic kind) and overcooked chicken tenders.
At Salare in Ravenna, chef Edouardo Jordan’s kids’ menu contains dishes like a hen egg with creme fraiche and chives: essentially fancy scrambled eggs scattered with edible flowers. The new Rachel’s Ginger Beer outpost on Capitol Hill has sleek white high chairs to hold children busy jabbing French fries into little cups of soft serve. Their parents order El Diablos and remember the nights they spent shooting picklebacks at its sibling neodive bar Montana back when they could sleep it off the next morning. The all-ages laws governing our breweries have also created a particular culture that intertwines beer with parenting; most tap rooms in Ballard have at least a changing table if not a few toys lying around. In this town tippling has become a wholesome activity, so long as you’re drinking local.
Eschewing more traditional kid-friendly spots isn’t about raising precious mini gourmands (okay, edible flowers on a kid menu is a little precious). As I availed myself of the fat stacks of high chairs at Frelard Pizza Company, I wondered whether putting our offspring side by side with adults might encourage better behavior, rather than the no-holds-barred bedlam that occurs in a restaurant designed for kids and kids alone.
Though, let’s be real, I’ll justify any excuse to have a drink after a long day of keeping up with a toddler.