If you are tired of restaurant meals where most foods are dip-able in ketchup, you aren’t alone. As parents, it’s tempting to always rely on so-called kid friendly places, but when you live in a foodie hot spot like Portland, it is possible to have a fine dining experience with kids in tow. So say, “See ya!” to paper napkin dispensers for one night and take your kids out for a nice dinner.

Our picks are restaurants that are moderately priced (entrees mainly in the $12 to $18 range), have a relaxed attitude toward little ones, and have a variety of dishes on the menu to please picky palates while satisfying grown up tastes.

Before You Go:

– Make early reservations before date night diners arrive.

– It never hurts to let the restaurant know you have kids in your party. Sometimes you’ll get a nice big table in a quiet corner all to yourselves.

– You should double check the availability of high chairs or booster chairs.

– Check out the menu online. Not only can you determine whether it’s actually going to work for your kids, but you can get a preview of the wine list!

– Remember to bring a quiet distraction, like crayons and a coloring book.

Now relax. You aren’t cooking or cleaning up so that’s reason enough to celebrate!

Pata Negra

One word: tapas. This is a fun place to introduce your kids to Spanish flavors. Almost everything on the menu comes in either small or large portions so you can go big with more familiar dishes, like meatballs in tomato sauce, and try smaller portions of more adventurous dishes. There are plenty of seafood and vegetarian friendly options along with the usual meat and potatoes. Order a snack like almonds or Spanish tortilla (a potato, egg, and onion dish) right away so your kids have something to nibble on while you take time to look over the menu.

Survival tip: If there are at least four of you, call for reservations and ask if you can sit at the large table in the middle of the dining room so you have plenty of space. Your chances are pretty good if you eat early.

1818 Northwest 23rd Place
503-227-7282

Café Castagna
Even at the relaxed offshoot of Portland fine dining favorite Castagna, you still get amazing Northwest influenced cuisine. Café Castagna’s menu has casual fare like the popular burger and shoes string fries, but dinner specials using seasonal ingredients are too good to pass up. The happy hour menu, served from 5 pm to 6 pm, is an extra motivator to get here early. Your kids will love the crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside arancini (fried risotto balls stuffed with Fontina cheese) and you will love the inventive cocktails.

Survival Tip: The noise level goes up significantly as the evening wears on, especially on weekends, so you don’t have to worry too much about your kids distracting other diners if they get a bit, um, enthusiastic about their surroundings.

1752 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard
503-231-7373

Three Square Grill
This neighborhood restaurant in Hillsdale is perfect for nights when you want a little something extra in the way of food and service, but not necessarily a fancy night out. The vibe here is chill, but friendly. The menu includes local ingredients and the chef’s famous house-made pickles. There is a menu for kids with the usual suspects like hamburger and fries, but there are other options like roasted chicken and vegetables for a beyond-the-basics dinner.

Survival Tip: Ask for crayons so your kids can color on the butcher paper covering the white tablecloth on your table. Get an order of the pickles to share while you wait for your food.

6320 SW Capitol Highway
503-244-4467

Serrato
It’s hard to go wrong with Serrato’s Mediterranean menu. Pizza Margherita and calamari are always crowd pleasers, but you can also find robust salads and savory main dishes that will satisfy your comfort food cravings. Entree prices are on the higher end here, but it’s easy to just go with it when you are enjoying a glass of Italian red while your kids happily dig into their pasta.

Survival Tip: When making reservations, ask if a table next to a window is available. Car and foot traffic in the bustling Alphabet District offer another distraction for the kiddos while waiting for meals to arrive. Don’t forget that the promise of gelato is the perfect motivator for excellent table manners.

2112 Northwest Kearney Street
503-221-1195

Does your family have a favorite fine dining spot? Share with us in the comments.

–Jane Gauger

Photos provided by IanDeth via Creative Commons, Jane Gauger and the Facebook page of Cafe Castagna (Pizza)!