Although I’ve had nephews and nieces for well over a decade, closer to two, actually (shocking, when I do the math), I am a relative newcomer to parenthood and, as such, have seen some modifications to my social life over the past two-and-a-half-years. I’m sure I have been to more little-kid birthday parties than to actual sit-down restaurants.
About a year ago, we determined that restaurant dining with child (ours, anyway) was a bad idea. Naively thinking that an outside table at a local restaurant overlooking 17 Avenue would be a safe enough venue for the two of us plus a one-year-old, we spent half an hour fishing little hands out of fragile water glasses, watching ice cubes scatter treacherously across the stone patio and repeatedly scooping up silverware that had been noisily dropped before scarfing down our respective pastas alone, in record time, while the other walked the baby up and down the street. The experience persuaded us to order in for a while. Now, two-year-old in tow, we are cautiously re-entering the ranks of the diners-out. In a search of unique, kid-friendly places, I asked a few friends in the food industry, who happen to also be parents, where they go when they want real food out – without having to hire a babysitter.
Shelley Boettcher, Real Life reporter, The Calgary Herald: My kids love Edelweiss Imports (1921 - 20 Avenue NW, 282-6600) for cabbage rolls, ham sandwiches on brown or rye bread and milk. The ladies behind the counter always give them free gingersnaps, and there’s a lot to look at in the store. We eat at Lina’s Italian Market (2202 Centre Street NE, 277-9166) a lot too, although more often we buy stuff to take home. The bowl of lollipops at the front door and the free handfuls of salami and mini bocconcini from the gals in the deli have made this place another favorite.
They also really like going to the Danish Canadian Club (727 - 11 Avenue SW, 261-9774) for breakfast on Saturday mornings (the DCC has brunch every Saturday from 10am to 1:30pm). They have an omelet stand set up, and you can get whatever you want mixed in – red and green pepper bits, ham, onion, cheese. It’s fun for the kids to watch.
Selena Hucal, Registered Dietitian and owner of The Cooking Room cooking school in Red Deer: When we’re in Calgary, my family loves going to The Mongolie Grill (1108 - 4 Street SW, 262-7773). Each of us fills our bowl from a vast selection of fresh vegetables, meat, seafood and noodles, and then tops it off with whichever sauce we choose. It meets each of our needs perfectly - my daughter can load up on shrimp, carrots and snow peas; my son with his favorite meat, baby corn and few miscellaneous vegetables as the mood hits him; and my husband and I can select all the foods we don’t get to eat as often at home topped off with the spiciest kid-unfriendly sauces. Everyone can take exactly what they will eat so there is no waste. It entices the kids to try some new vegetables, and they love watching it being cooked right in front of them! (Not fine dining; but then again, I live with a picky seven-year-old and a not-so-cultured four-year-old.)
Erin Rosar, Sommelier/President of Wine Girl Wines: Our favorite place is the Calgary Tower for Sunday brunch. The room spins and they do a great buffet so everyone can pick what they like. (Note: They also have an a la carte menu.) Their brunch is great for grownups and kids – the view is amazing from all sides. It takes about an hour to go all the way around so you see a full turn at least. After brunch, we head up to the observation deck and the kids can lie on the clear floor over the street – yikes! But they love it. Also, the Harley Diner (1209 - 9 Avenue SE, 269-7311) is a great place for boys - the kids love the menu and the bikes. It’s a fun atmosphere to hang out in - the old diner booths and orange leatherette seats are cool. Great hamburgers and fries. The kids also love Sugo in Inglewood (1214 - 9 Avenue SE, 263-1115). If you go early, the staff has always been very friendly and great with the kids. My youngest loves their duck dish!
Justine Brown, co-founder of Wovenfare online meal planning service: We like Amici Italian Grill (313 - 500 Country Hills Boulevard NE, 226-5345). They have friendly service, standard Italian fare with red-checkered tablecloths and a kids menu that goes a bit beyond the chicken fingers. It’s the sort of place that is nice enough that you can enjoy a glass of wine but casual enough that the kids can be themselves.
Julie is a best-selling cookbook author, food writer, cooking instructor and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio. She lives in Calgary with her husband and her son, Wilem. Watch for her cooking show, It’s Just Food, with co-host Ned Bell on Access TV and CLT stations across Canada. For recipes and daily ramblings visit her blog at dinnerwithjulie.com.
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