Happy Meals

Happy meals: 6 kid-approved menus that make parents happy too

Happy meals: 6 kid-approved menus that make parents happy too

Jack Allen's Kitchen Macaroni and Cheese
Jack Allen's macaroni and cheese isn't just for the kids.  Courtesy of Jack Allen's Kitchen / Facebook

Have you ever gone out to dinner with your family and wondered why your kids didn’t touch a thing on their plates? Were they sick? Too tired? Full from that Slurpee after the victorious soccer game? Sometimes, the offerings on those kids’ menus aren’t so wonderful.

To help you out next time you are in a jam, here are six restaurants that boast tasty menus for adults — and kids, too.

The Grove
This ultra-cool spot is a mini oasis for adults and kids alike. The kids start with bruschetta (the asparagus, prosciutto, crescenza and melon), and then we move on to small plates and samplers, which is where it gets fun. The tweens favor the adobo nachos (brisket, guacamole, queso fresco, pico) and the crispy Brussels sprouts (sweet potato, fresno chili, crimini, razz cherry, balsamic, and pecorino), while we nosh on the sesame crusted ahi tuna with marinated cucumber, ponzu sauce and wasabi aioli.

The littles like the kids’ menu, which features cheese pizza and pasta (in various incarnations). The bowtie with marinara and meatball is especially good. Trust us. 

Jack Allen’s Kitchen
What’s not to like about this easy-vibe restaurant at the Y? Smiles abound when the house-made pimiento cheese arrives with flatbread crackers. The adults (and kids) struggle between the burgers (try the Fat Jack with bacon, onion, dill pickles, hickory sauce and jalapeño mayonnaise) and the chicken-fried options (think beef ribs smothered in green-chile gravy with red mashed potatoes). We often find ourselves gravitating toward the slow-roasted chicken tinga tacos with black beans, rice and creamy guacamole. Children can take their pick from the kids’ menu, which ranges from a mini Jack’s burger to cheese quesadillas to gourmet macaroni and cheese (absolutely decadent with blue, Jack, Mexican, cheddar and a topping of Parmesan).

Enoteca Vespaio
A casual ambience feeds into the vibe of SoCo, where this Italian spot has lived and reigned for a quite a spell. The food — a take on the more extensive menu from its sister restaurant, Vespaio — is perfect for a nosh between shopping and sight-seeing. We like to split a mixed green salad and the risotto del giorno. And the kids can’t go wrong with the extra-thin, extra-cheesy cheese pizza (try folding each slice like a taco). The more adventurous tiny eater in our group likes the suppli, crispy risotto balls filled with cheese. A glass of crisp white wine (for the adults, of course) makes for a lovely dessert.

Elizabeth Street Café
Never in a million years did we think our picky eater would go for Vietnamese food, but he proved us wrong. At this colorfully cool South Austin spot, we like to snack on grilled octopus salad while we make our final dinner decisions — the menu boasts everything from bún (try the broiled Niman Ranch pork belly) to specialties such as the bánh cuôn (a rice flour noodle filled with twice cooked pork, wood ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, shallots and garden herbs). We thought the peanut butter, Nutella and banana bánh mì would prove a must for our finicky diner, but instead he opts for the kid’s pho (rice noodles with chicken broth) and eats with chopsticks. A trip to the dessert case brings smiles all around — and deliciously vibrant-hued macaroons.

Galaxy Cafe
We love to grab a bite and chill at this minimalist spot in Clarksville. The lunch menu offers everything from gourmet sandwiches (the grilled portabella with fresh mozzarella, roasted red bell peppers, spinach, and avocado never lets us down) to burgers (we crave the veggie deluxe, a homemade vegan patty topped with avocado slivers and sautéed mushrooms on a whole wheat bun). Our group leans toward salad, and our favorite right now is the Thai steak with roasted red bell peppers, peanuts, cucumber, tomato and crispy wonton strips on a bed of greens tossed with chile peanut dressing. The kids’ menu is chock-full of goodies — burgers, quesadillas, hand-breaded tilapia sticks (wow!), pasta and some of the best chicken tenders we’ve ever tasted. Seriously. 

Down the street from its sister, Galaxy, Zocalo boasts a killer patio for a leisurely meal. The casual vibe means the kids don’t have to sit up straight with their elbows off the table the entire time. The deal here is Interior Mexican food, so don’t expect a mariachi band or tons of yellow cheese. We’re fond of the Zocalo Plate (grilled chicken and crispy corn tortilla strips tossed in a creamy verde sauce served on a bed of black beans with queso fresco) and the Mexican Torta. Our tiny tots go for just about everything on the kids’ menu, from the fajita tacos to the bean and cheese nachos to the cheese quesadillas. Did we mention the Amy’s Mexican Vanilla ice cream served in a cinnamon tortilla and drizzled with caramel sauce? Best parents ever.