Today "kid's meal" is synonymous with chicken fingers and French fries. I'm sure there are parents of picky eaters who appreciate this, but I do not. I take my kids out to eat so that they can try new things, including a vegetable or two.
More often than not, I order from the appetizer menu or have my two boys (ages 5 and 7) split an entrée or share with me or their dad. However, there are a few restaurants serving kid's meals that are worth trying.
Sekisui (multiple locations)
There's not a chicken nugget or a French fry to be found at Sekisui. They offer three choices for kids: chicken teriyaki, shrimp and vegetable tempura, and a sushi combination (California roll, shrimp nigiri, and crab nigiri). The first two meals come with steamed rice, and all three come with a choice of clear soup, miso soup, or house salad. What I like best about these offerings is the presentation and the feeling of excitement my kids get from having their own fancy dinner. The portions are hearty, and each costs just $6.95.
Sekisui's Humphreys location features a "Crazy Hibachi." Younger kids may be a bit scared of the live cooking demo that is standard with hibachi dinners, but older kids love the fire and knife twirling as much as they love the food. For the same $6.95, Crazy Hibachi offers a chicken or shrimp hibachi meal complete with soup or salad, rice, and vegetables.
Soul Fish, 862 S. Cooper (725-0722)
Soul Fish is always teeming with people, many of whom are under age 10. For $4.50, "Little Fishers" get a choice of a catfish basket, chicken tenders, grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, or ham and cheese sandwich. Each comes with fries, but you can substitute a nice variety of vegetables listed on the chalkboard (mashed potatoes, black eyed peas, green beans, broccoli, etc.). Of course, kids who can read (or see across to the next table) will be hard pressed to pass up the French fries, especially since they are extra crispy and delicious at Soul Fish. My advice: Get an extra order of vegetables to go along with the meal.
Dan McGuinness, 4698 Spotswood (761-3711)
Who would have thought that an Irish pub would have a great kid's meal? Dan McGuinness offers the largest kid's meal portion with the most choices of sides than any other restaurant I've been to. Two kids could easily split one meal, which includes dessert. Total cost: $4.95.
There's chicken tenders but also grilled chicken, grilled cheese, a peanut butter and banana sandwich, and corn-dog nuggets. The last kid's menu item is a veggie plate, and I salute the parent who can get their child to eat it. All of the kids' selections come with two side items, so there's ample opportunity to include one or two of the restaurant's many vegetables.
Dan McGuinness has built in a reward for eating all of these vegetables: ice cream. Kids are presented with a giant bowl of ice cream and given free rein of a small bucket with syrups and toppings.
Humdingers, 6300 Poplar (260-8292)
Humdingers has a healthy vibe to it and has pretty impressive choices for kids. The servings are not huge but big enough to fill kids up. Each meal includes a juice box, one side, and a cookie for a very low price of $3.99.
The meat choices are crispy shrimp, chicken tenders, grilled chicken breast, or crispy fish nuggets. Grilling is Humdingers' specialty, so the grilled chicken breast is the way to go. Sides include grilled zuchini strips, grilled asparagus, sweet potato fries, seasoned fries, Asian cole slaw, black bean and corn salsa, chilled and marinated broccoli, and a side salad. The veggies at Humdingers are fresh and crispy and pretty easy to push on the kids. Additionally, fries seem to be a less popular item among Humdingers' health-conscious clientele, so kids aren't likely to miss them.