Nothing riles up people like kids in restaurants. Even though I'm a parent, I'm sympathetic: I don't want a nice meal ruined by a whiny child, either. But the solution isn't to confine preschoolers to McDonald's, then move on to pizza and burger joints when they age out of Happy Meals. Where will the next generation of chefs come from - not to mention the people who will appreciate their cooking -- if the only foods that kids are exposed to are chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese?
Fortunately, there are restaurants around town that represent that happy medium, places that are good for kids and the grownups who love them. Here are five of our favorites: See also: Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery Is a Fast Hit
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5) New Saigon 630 South Federal Boulevard Kids love noodles; that's why pasta is a childhood staple. But guess what? Noodles don't always have to be topped with red sauce or bright orange cheese. New Saigon offers pages and pages of options, including spectacular rice noodle bowls with pork, tofu, chicken or beef. And because bowls come with cilantro, cucumbers, lettuce and mint, they're a great introduction to new flavors. As an added bonus, the food at New Saigon comes quickly, so there's little time for kids to get antsy. 4) Sassafras American Eatery 2637 West 26th Avenue 320 East Colfax Avenue It didn't take long for Sassafras to find its niche. But this restaurant's form of Southern comfort isn't limited to Bloody Mary-loving brunchers. The menu is full of flavors that speak to kids, without talking down to them. Portions are big, but even if the kids can't finish that platter of biscuits and gravy or blackened chicken mac, parents aren't going to mind helping out. 3) The Kitchen Next Door Glendale 658 South Colorado Boulevard There are several locations of this homegrown chain, but the best one for kids is in Glendale. (Boulder is a drive for most, and Union Station is too much of a scene; those long waits aren't exactly easy on kids.) Regardless of which Next Door is near you, though, noise levels run high, so any squabbling over who's touching whom blends into the overall hum. Smart parents come at community hour, with a menu featuring kale chips and veggie or beef sliders that tempt kids every bit as much as stiff margaritas do their parents. Finish the meal on a sweet note with milkshakes for everyone: boozy for adults, whisky-free for kids. Keep reading for two more restaurants that work for both big and little diners. 2) True Food Kitchen 2800 East 2nd Avenue, Suite 101 Other than the long lines, there's much for families to love about True Food Kitchen. The kid's menu stands out with its healthy fare (chopped salads, chicken teriyaki with brown rice, etc.), and diners of all ages appreciate the array of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Smart parents pass the time with a plate of kid-approved hummus while waiting for entrees to arrive. 1) Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery 4990 East Colfax Avenue When chef-owner Clint Wangsnes envisioned Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery, he wanted to create something he couldn't find after his first child was born, namely a family-friendly restaurant serving food that parents would recognize from pre-kid days. And that's just what he did, launching a restaurant that pleases big and little eaters alike with seasonal plates jammed with global flavors.