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Fine(ish) Dining with Your Kids

Child EatingBy Katy Killilea

Like most people who clean their own homes, I love to go out to eat when I’m tired. But with children, eating in public can be worse than scrubbing crusty pans and vacuuming sticky rice. There are a few tried and true places that my family frequents with success: places with food we all like that arrives fast in an atmosphere that provides enough hustle and bustle to camouflage our foursome’s innate hustle and bustle. I would love, love, LOVE to add to this list and think kidoinfo would be a great place for the parenting community to share their dining-out favorites. Here are mine:

Taqueria Lupita – 765 Dexter Street, Central Falls, RI. 401-724-2650
This is a small, family-owned and run authentic Mexican taqueria. The menu includes dishes that are way over my head (e.g. beef tongue in salsa verde) as well as things even my Pickier Child will eat happily: a flour tortilla with black beans and cheese and–upon request–without the merest trace of cilantro on the plate. The patrons we see are mostly Central Falls residents–proof of the taqueria’s quality and friendliness–and it can get very busy at night. Go before 6:00 PM and there will be plenty of space for you and your brood. My family often goes after church on Sundays and we’re usually the only patrons eating there. (Lupita does a brisk takeout business.) Nothing I’ve ordered has ever cost over $8. Kid favorites: nachos with black beans, queso blanco, and guacamole; black bean soft tacos; And mango milkshakes. Adult favorites: chicken tinga burrito; grilled fish tacos, and Negro Modelo beer.

Newport Creamery (search 13 locations)
Nothing tops off an hour at the gym like a jumbo sandwich with a side of fries. It is reassuring to know that a Diet Coke cancels out the grease. Lucky me, I am treated often to lunch with my four-year-old at the Creamery. It is almost creepy to see how still children can sit at Newport Creamery. Four cheap crayons and activities on a paper placemat are all it takes to have a peaceful lunch. My date and I usually get out for $15, including tip. Kid favorites: grilled cheese and fries; ketchup; vanilla milk; and free ice cream sundaes. Adult favorites: grilled cheese with tuna on rye; Diet Coke; and extra fries snagged from child’s plate.

Tokyo – 388 Wickenden Street, Providence, RI. 401-331-5330
Many kids we know like sushi, and the tatami room at Tokyo on Wickenden Street is an ideal spot for kids. In the tatami room, you sit, shoeless, on the raised platform floor and eat your sushi off fancy-looking boat-shaped platters. I would recommend the tatami room even for kids who don’t partake of sushi–noodles or tempura or some kind of teriyaki will likely suit them just fine. It is fun for kids (and everyone) to kick off their shoes and lounge around while eating. Japanese food always comes fast and you can play table soccer (wherein you flick a paper ball, made from the chopstick wrapper, at your opponent’s “goal” which is formed by their fingers) if anyone gets antsy. Kid favorites: miso soup; avocado maki; and green tea ice cream. Adult favorites: Wickenden roll and agadashi dofu.

Three Rivers – 267 Water Street, Warren, RI. 401-289-2067
This beautiful breakfast and lunch restaurant is perfection. It is one of those sincere, enlightened restaurants with plenty of provisions from local merchants. For example, all the bread comes from the amazing Bristol Bakery. Ideally, I would go there without kids, but even with children, it is a delight. Three Rivers is–as the name suggests–right on the water, so there are plenty of birds and boats to watch. Retired people are continuously pulling up to the restaurant’s dock on their merry kayaks. Most tables have a lovely view and walking around outside with a wiggly child can be a pleasure. The service is quick and correct and the food is simple, genuine goodness on a plate. I am never quite sure how I feel about feng shui, but at Three Rivers I believe in it. Just being in the space makes people of all ages feel calm and ready to enjoy their lives and food. You will face a long–sometimes hours long–wait if you arrive after the crack of dawn on a weekend, but for breakfast or lunch on a weekday, you and your child will be seated in no time. And if you bravely go at a busy time, there is plenty to do and see outside. Kid favorites: fruit face pancake; fried potatoes; and one scrambled egg. Adult favorites: black bean fritters with eggs; cheese grits; freshly squeezed orange juice; and strawberry-rhubarb jam.

Please add your favorite restaurants for you and your kids to this list by adding comments. We would love to know your favorites.

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  • Chipotle in Warwick–a chain resatuarant burrito worth the 20 minutes drive from Providence. And across from the new Trader Joe’s to boot!

  • LJ’s BBQ is very kid/family friendly. My husband, the carnivore, always wants to go here. My kids and I are vegetarian but we always find something delicious to eat here as well. I enjoy a melody of sides, my daughter loves the grilled cheese and my son gets a veggie burger. The corn bread is awesome!
    Gourmet House on Hope Street is another favorite. We go so much, they know my kids by name! I never feel like we are bothering anyone, even if the kids get loud.
    Taqueria Pacifica (okay, probably spelled that wrong…) delicious Mexican connected to AS220. Fresh, yummy food and nice staff.
    Le Arepa on Smithfield Ave on the Pawtucket/Lincoln border. A new discovery that I cannot get enough of. Arepa’s are a Venezuelan sandwich, like a pita but made with corn meal and stuffed full of deliciousness. We like the black beans, white cheese & avocado. Oh, and the fried plantains. Yum Yum!

  • We have frequented Christopher’s in Tiverton with our children. Wonderful atmosphere for adults, but also family friendly. They provide crayons and fun placemats that have wordsearches and crossword puzzles. They have a children’s menu and if the child(ren) eat their dinner they can pick a toy from the toy board (waistaff ask parents’ permission first) – my child has picked out markers, pencils, and a disney sticker book when we have been. The “adult” food is excellent as well.

  • Rasoi in Pawtucket and Red Stripe in Wayland Square are two of our favorites. We are a gluten free family (celiac disease) and so have that to contend with as well. We love Sanjev the owner of Rasoi and my kids will eat anything if they know it’s “gluten free”. And Red Stripe has great mussels and gluten free french fries… a real delight for my family. Red Stripe takes reservations and call aheads and it’s very loud and has paper table cloths. All of which are very helpful with kids who like to talk/sing etc and like to draw on the table or play tic tac toe and 4 square.

  • I should have mentioned Julian’s on Broadway on this list–the food is great for all of us, and there is a whole case of vintage Star Wars action figures in the bathroom. The lattes are so good. The hash is so good. My kids love the thick french toast, and you can order it by the slice.

    Please keep adding to the list!

  • My daughter and I recently had lunch at the Blue Elephant on Wickenden. It’s a cozy spot with yummy food, including a children’s menu (my daughter had the “Bird’s Nest” — fried egg nestled in toast). Plus, one of the owners is a jewelry designer and many of her pieces are displayed around the restaurant. We had a ball dressing up in the various necklaces and bracelets. Open for breakfast, lunch & dinner. GO!

  • A few of our favorites with the kids in Providence, RI:

    Chilangos, 447 Manton Ave.
    – great casual Mexican food.

    Gepetto’s – 57 Depasquale Plaza
    – great thin pizzas

    Pastiche – 92 Spruce Street
    – Desserts.

    India – 1060 Hope St.
    – Indian food.

    Apsara Palace – 783 Hope St.
    – Thai/Vietnamese

    Big Fish – 370 Richmond St
    – somewhat upscale, but fun atmosphere.