We’ve all been there – your kids are eagerly awaiting true-blue Macaroni-n-cheese at your fave restaurant only to be presented with penne noodles and a white asiago sauce. Drum roll please – let the tantrums begin. Fear restaurant melt-downs no more, brave moms and dads, below are our top picks for kid-friendly noodle joints.

Best Noodles on a Budget
For the budget conscious, and let’s face it who isn’t these days, Gustav’s is one happening place. Perfectly al dente penne comes out with a dusting of parmesan and butter. But the real happiness comes in the form of the price tag – free for kids three and under.

Best “Naked” Noodles
Got a kid who turns and runs at the very sight of anything green or heavily sauced? Marco’s in Multnomah Village offers the perfect compromise – delicious “naked” noodles served with cheese on the side. Now your little one can sprinkle on as much (or as little) cheese as they want. Kids are happy, ‘rents are happy, the couple having brunch next to your table is happy. It’s like Noodle Nirvana.

Best Noodles for Spaghetti Lovers
If your little noodler prefers red sauce and meatballs to butter, the Old Spaghetti Factory is tops both in ambiance and deliciousness. From the train caboose in the middle of the restaurant to the chandeliers dripping with stained glass, the Old Spaghetti Factory is sure to inspire the whole family. And with kid’s pasta choices that come with a side, drink and ice cream for under six bucks, you won’t break the bank. Fun fact: the Old Spaghetti Factory located riverside in Southwest Portland was the original restaurant that started it all.

Best Noodles with a Side of Old World Charm
Gino’s in Sellwood delights with white linen paper table cloths, lit candles, delectable smells coming from the kitchen and bubbling hot, made to order, honest to goodness pasta dishes dripping with cheese and sauce.

Best Kraft© Mac-n-Cheese Served with Brews
As much as we parents prefer anything real to the processed stuff, kids flip for good-old, neon orange macaroni and cheese from a box. Enter Columbia River Brewing in Northeast Portland. Their kids menu features, among other things, Kraft macaroni and cheese. No more turned up noses as an asiago version comes to the table, this is the real deal. With a great full menu and brews made on sight for the ‘rents, Columbia Brewing may just be the best noodle combo of all.

Best Mac-N-Cheese on a Warm Summer Night
Talk to anyone in this friendly NoPo neighborhood and you will hear serious gushing about Pause, a kid-friendly restaurant that boasts a great outdoor patio area. The macaroni-n-cheese will keep the kids happy while you enjoy a cocktail and Portland’s warm summer evenings. Trust us – this place feels miles away from the nearest kiddie franchise restaurant.

Best Oodles of Noodles
If your brood can’t decide which noodles they like best, head down to Noodles and Co in Beaverton, Clackamas, Hillsboro or downtown. This casual restaurant pulls together noodle dishes from America, Asia and the Mediterranean and serves them up to your liking. Tantrums be gone!

What’s your favorite noodle place in Portland?

–Laurie Halter

Photo credit: PatCastaldo via Flickr & mollypop via Flickr