by Vanessa Salas
Eating out with my toddler will always be a challenge. Through the years, I’ve developed a sixth sense to determine whether a restaurant will tolerate an unpredictable little boy, or if I’d most likely have to endure disapproving looks from its patrons. It’s helpful to have the restaurant prominently state that they are kid-friendly, because it sets expectations and the staff are usually accommodating.
Once in while, though, we also discover those surprising places that my four year old loves despite the absence of a “kids welcome!” sign at the door. I recently discovered a couple of those places, which I’ve included in this list.
Here are a few restaurants that have my four year old’s stamp of approval.
Pasta and gelato – what kid can resist them? My son is no exemption. He absolutely loves the sausage pasta at Amici, despite being slightly on the spicy side. There’s always been free gelato at every visit, even on regular days. They also have high chairs and give kids crayons for coloring the paper placemats. The staff are also accommodating and helpful – always a big plus in my mommy book.
2. Mary Grace, Greenbelt 2
Whenever we visit this branch, my son gravitates toward the kid’s area on the second floor. He knows that that’s where the toys and books are located. I love how it keeps my child preoccupied, especially during those times where it was just the two of us, where it’s difficult to eat in peace. It can get challenging when there are more than 5 kids around, though, as it’s a tight space and some refereeing will inevitably be required.
3. Bulgogi Brothers, Greenbelt 2
When my four year old, my husband and I went here recently, there were business types in suits wheeling and dealing with foreigners at other table, and they didn’t give us dagger looks. It helps that my child was in a high chair and was enamored by the novelty of cooking our food on the table. The food arrived in quick succession, too, so that kept my son preoccupied and quiet while he nibbled at the corn cob and sweet potato. They don’t have a kid-friendly sign at the door, but that didn’t stop my son from saying, “I like this place, mama!”
4. Scarsdale, Shaw Blvd.
I know, sugar rush galore, right? But I’m willing to endure a few hours of hyperactivity to see my son carefully put together his very own DIY donut, and see the look of accomplishment on his face after making a smiley face confection all by himself. My son’s favorite is the chocolate donut with a bowl of chocolate sprinkles and blowtorched marshmallows that he gets to assemble by himself. I, on the other hand, love their savory mini poppers, so this place is a favorite.
5. Big B Burger, Magiting st. QC (Near Maginhawa st.)
By now you’ve probably heard of the foodie haven that is Maginhawa st. in Quezon City. The Big B burger joint is one of those unassuming places that my four year old absolutely adores. This is what he said after finishing his quarter pounder Big B burger: “Mama, I want to eat here the whole day and forever!” They won’t reveal what’s in their special sauce, but I think I saw bits of cilantro and basil in the mix. That counts toward his daily vegetable intake, right? Right?
6. Gerry’s Jeepney, Maginhawa st. QC
Again, this is one of those Maginhawa food strip places that don’t advertise themselves as child-friendly, but my son was absolutely smitten with their jeepney eating area. That’s right: it’s literally at jeepney, complete with lights and steering wheel that kept my son preoccupied long enough for me to enjoy my grilled pork chops and rice in peace. Gerry’s Jeepney is famous for their budol-budol meals, but we opted for ala carte regular home-cooked fare like sinigang na baboy, my son’s favorite. Maybe next time we can try budol-budol and see how much my son will enjoy eating with his hands.
7. Slappy Cakes
This place has a child friendly vibe written all over it. The DIY element will always be a hit with kids, and doing that with pancakes is a definite plus. Just be careful with the hot surface, though. I had to repeatedly warn my son not to touch the griddle so he doesn’t hurt himself.
Their placemats are made of paper, and they gave my son a box of crayons to play with during our visit, sure signs that a place is child friendly. Servers we also extra accommodating towards kids, which I definitely appreciate. The menu also has menu that will tickle a child’s palate, so it’s easier for me to order food that my son will most probably finish without much prodding.
The child menu for kids under 12 made it easy for us to narrow down our choices, but we were surprised to discover how huge the portions were. My son barely finished his Funny Face chocolate pancake, but he was absolutely happy with brining home the extras to be enjoyed later, which he did.
The high chair, helpful servers, big servings, crayons and paper are the little kid-friendly extras that we can always count on with every visit. Spaghetti Bolognese is always a hit with my son.
11. Pepper Lunch
I know, I know, there’s the element of danger with these hot plate places, but my son loves watching the sizzling food and mixing it together – with my supervision, of course. I usually end up feeding the little boy instead of having him take every spoonful himself, but his rapt attention at all the smoke and the novelty of cooking his own food keep him glued to his chair, which for me, is worth all the trouble.
12. Cibo Bimbi, Rockwell
Coloring placemats, crayons, and kid proportions in the menu make this a great place to eat with my little boy. The do it yourself pizza is also a hit.
On our radar:
We’ve earmarked a few restaurants that we haven’t tried but have glowing parental reviews. They are: Stacey’s, Maple, Yabu House of Katsu, and Brasserie Cicou.
Have you tried those other kid-friendly restaurants? What was it like?