The iPad or smart phone can often be used as a big-kid version of a pacifier for inducing restaurant worthy behavior when dining out. But that’s not all they’re good for! Thanks to some clever technology, iPads are now fun-filled restaurant dining tools for a very different reason: as a way to order food. At these high-tech restaurants, just placing your order (perfectly customized for even the pickiest eater) is half the fun.

iPad Ordering Stackedphoto: Shahrzad Warkentin

Stacked
When Stacked co-founder, Paul Motenko, set out to start a new restaurant chain, he didn’t know iPads would end up being an integral part of the concept. He just knew that he wanted to create a family-friendly dining experience where everyone could get exactly what they wanted, however they wanted it. The technology simply makes the high level of customization simple to do, Motenko explains. A fabulous side effect is that the iPads empower the kids to become part of the ordering process and make the experience engaging for the whole family.

iPad Ordering Stacked Burgerphoto: Stacked

After you’re seated in the large, but cozy booths, you’ll get a quick rundown from your server on how to work the iPad ordering device. Simply swipe your credit card to begin. The Stacked menu revolves around a few staple broad-appeal foods: burgers, pizza, salads and mac n’ cheese. Decide which route you want to go and then it’s up to you to customize your order exactly how you want it. Of course, before you can even take a glance at the options, your mini foodie will have already taken over the device and selected her own meal at a few quick taps and swipes. The best part of the iPad ordering process is that you can send multiple orders to the kitchen as you go, so simply send your starving tot’s order off and then you’re—gasp!—actually free to peruse the menu for your own eats. The hardest part is deciding between a burger piled with bacon and a bowl of creamy mac n’ cheese sprinkled with lobster. The best part about Stacked is that it’s way more than just a gimmick, the food is undeniably delicious.

Word to the wise, you will really want to say yes to dessert, which ranges from hot-out-of-the-oven cookies to build-your-own ice cream sundaes. So save room. You can add your order to the iPad, then send it off to the kitchen whenever you’re ready.

There are several locations: Thousand Oaks, Torrance, Cerritos and a brand new one in Huntington Beach
Online: stacked.com

iPad Ordering Eatsaphoto: Shahrzad Warkentin

Eatsa
Fast food and healthy are not often lumped together in one sentence, but this new high-tech eatery manages to do both and be incredibly fun at the same time thanks to its ingenious iPad ordering system. The boutique cafe tucked into The Village at Westfield Topanga, is just a minimalist, tiny room with a wall of glass-door covered cubbies at the back. The greeter will direct you over to the wall of iPads where you can swipe your card and then move over to let your little techie commandeer the order.

The menu at Eatsa is entirely vegetarian and centered around quinoa bowls. They offer a variety of different bowls, like the southwest-inspired burrito bowl, heaping with grilled corn, guacamole, beans and Asada-style Portobello mushrooms, or you can build your own bowl with ingredients of your choice. There are also salad-style bowls available and a few side items, like fresh fruit and chips and guacamole. After a few quick taps your order is in and now on to the best part: waiting for your food.

iPad Ordering Eatsa Tap Doorsphoto: Shahrzad Warkentin

Usually waiting on an order with hungry kids is not anyone’s idea of a good time, but as you turn to face the wall of numbered cubbies, the waiting game will quickly turn into a fun guessing game of wondering which cubby your food will magically appear inside. The cubby doors are actually translucent screens that project animated sequences as you wait. Finally one door goes dark for a moment before the animated shading pulls up to reveal your packaged order inside. Your little ones will hardly contain their excitement as they tap twice on the screen and it opens like something out of a Star Trek movie. You’ll be a little jealous that you didn’t get to tap it open yourself, but if conceding the door opening is all it takes to get your picky eater excited about quinoa, take it. You can grab your eats to go or enjoy your meal at the handful of tables just outside the door.

The Village at Westfield Topanga
6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Woodland Hills
818-594-8732
Online: eatsa.com

tatsuphoto: Meghan Rose

Tatsu Ramen
Oh, yeah.  This is what you’ve been craving in this unusually chilly winter.  A warm bowl of noodles!  An easy and fun to order, perfectly customized bowl of noodles that taste like heaven.  “Best chicken I ever had,” one of our kid tasters crowed.  With options ranging from vegan broth to Tonkotsu made fresh daily, and additions like chicken, tofu, greens, eggs and more, you’ll be able to make just the right bowl for even the pickiest of eaters.

When you walk in, there’s a row of iPads waiting for you to make your selections and pay.  Then just bring your receipt up to the hostess who will seat you and bring you your order. You’ll walk by a walk in glass room filled with noodles on your way to your seat by the open kitchen.  And the customizing doesn’t stop with placing your order; kids are further delighted to find foods and utensils waiting at the table for them to add even more goodies, like crank-able sesame seeds, press-able garlic (maybe let them add that to your soup) and tongs for adding strips of dried seaweed.  For parents who like things a little spicy, that’s available in both oil and flake form.

tatsu3photo: Meghan Rose

While iPad ordering and perfectly customized slurpy soups are why you’re here, they also offer an of-the-moment wagyu ramen burger (wagyu beef patty in between two dried ramen noodle “buns”), tasty pork buns and fried rice bowls, if you happen to have a little one adverse to things in a bowl.  (It happens, we know.)  You’ll also be happy to note that Tatsu uses top quality proteins; like kurobuta pork, wagyu beef, all natural chicken, organic tofu and eggs from free-range chickens.

There are two locations; on Sawtelle Blvd. in West LA and on Melrose Ave, in Mid-City LA.  Check the website for details (including about the free parking available at both spots).

Online: tatsuramen.com

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Have you checked out any of these high-tech dining spots? Or do you know of any others we’ve missed? Share your favorites in the comments!

—Shahrzad Warkentin