Sunday, January 15, 2012

No kidding - we'd like real food please

Dining out with the young- uns has always been problematic. No sooner have you entered dining establishment, than kids are presented with Kids Menu - nuggets and chips, burger and chips, fish bites and chips, ice cream sundae.
As a family we'd annually hit road for 6 weeks at time, on tour. With limited time or facilities in our budget accommodation, kids ate out a lot, but nuggets and chips seriously not an option 4-5 nights out of 7.
We quickly became expert at executing "menu intercept". One of us would whisk kids to seats while other hissed at staff not to mention children's menu, semaphoring madly re potential for noisy scene, if kids discovered fried food was in offing, and doubtless messy family drama would ensue.

Menu intercept successfully executed, were faced with finding something on regular menu kids would actually eat, not too big, expensive or unusual. Throwing selves on mercy of waitstaff we'd painfully pick bits and pieces from various dishes.

"Could we have the chicken, without sauce, divided between two plates. could we have the creamy mash from peppered steak, no not steak, just mash. and could you hold Parmesan. Yes on the two plates. And blanched spring greens from lamb, but not the lamb, yes on the two plates. Yes Chicken mashed potato and boiled vegetables. Its for our children. No thanks, we don't want kids menu, Oh-oh - now you've done it, we said not to mention kids menu!"...

Every now and then we'd get staff who really "got it". Proper meals would be conjured up by kind hearted staff  - likely with kids themselves. A fantastic simple spag bol, delicious hand made sausages (from breakfast menu) with homemade baked beans in sauce - better than the what adults were served- or a perfectly roasted little chicken leg with gravy and lots of veg - simplifications of main menu constituting proper tasty nourishing meals.

We found best value minimum stress option in small towns was often found in least suitable venues - Pubs and RSA type places. Not only affordable, but frequently simple family type fare or set meals such as roast, with dessert and drink for set price, or a tasty kid friendly plate of nachos or Mac n cheese, things they might actually recognise.

Mostly though we were patronised and over charged by chefs shamelessly dishing up nuggets, alongside all manner of posh culinary flim flammery while our kids demanded at maximum volume to be taken to pub pronto.

Easy beef Nacho’s

Spicy enough to be interesting and really easy to make.

500 g lean mince
2 cans chilli beans in sauce, one hot and one mild
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp beef stock powder


Corn chips
Grated cheese
Sour cream

In a frying pan brown the mince and drain off excess fat. Stir in both cans of beans, the chopped tomatoes, stock powder and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer until thick.
To serve, pile the chips into individual bowls or onto a large platter, spoon over the meat mixture. Top with grated cheese and pop under the grill until the cheese is melted. Add some big dollops of sour cream.


  1. I hear you! We have young children so haven't eaten out in restaurants a lot yet but when we do I will be just like you wanting them to eat meals from the same menu as us- can't really see the point of taking them out for dinner just to eat chicken nuggets! My hubby cooked a curry for us last night so we told our girls (age 4 and 2) that we would take them to a real indian restaurant for a treat soon and they were so excited. Really looking forward to taking them to different restaurants and teaching them to appreciate different foods and try new things. Love your books by the way :) Megan

  2. My parents used to take us out dine regularly to and were quite clear that we needed to learn restaurant etiquette, ie not fill up on complementary bread before meal arrives or say Yuck I dont like this in loud voice...Both sister and I recall learning to eat pasta with spoon and fork and being very proud of selves in Italian restaurant when able to decline offer to supply us with knives as we knew how to do it properly twiling around fork. Have fun taking your kids out!

  3. I don't have kids but I'm a graphic designer and have done many children's menus in the past. I always love seeing a restaurant use initiative offer decent for for kids. Perhaps restaurants are also worried that if the kids menu looks too good, adults will order from the too? I bet it happens. I grew up eating shared meals a lot. Even when my family went out to dinner, we usually put everything in middle and shared. I guess that solves the kid's menu dilemma.

  4. at age three, my daughter ordered a bowl of steamed mussels in a restaurant. even the chef came out to see what kind of kid did this!
    it is a continual battle to find a place that will do child friendly real food.
    i've taken to letting the kids simply order off the entree menu.