Impress your mini-me with a midday dining experience that goes beyond chicken nuggets and coloring mats. Get gourmet with grilled cheese, cook up your own pancake storm or relax in fancy bistro that has a play area. There’s even a spacious restaurant that offers free pasta to hangry, waiting foodies under 12. Scroll down to find out what makes these 6 eateries an ideal Portland lunch spot with the kids below.

mothers bistro

photo: Bistro side of Mother’s, courtesy Sandee T. via Yelp

Mother’s Bistro and Bar
For us, just going downtown with a toddler qualifies as a rare and adventurous experience, and Mother’s is a cozy yet tasteful enclave that can add delicious food to the equation. Servers are known to be patient and easy with kids and the lunch menu (served 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday) offers a nice mix of recognizable comfort food with a special twist, like pierogies or the Mac and Cheese Du Jour, along side a bit more daring fare such as the fried calamari or liver and onions. Entrees run $9 to $13. As with most every popular restaurant in Portland, be advised that coming during weekend brunch hours is asking for an almost certain, minimum 30-minute wait. Oh, and they also have a play area, just in case.

212 SW Stark St
Online: mothersbistro.com

laurelhurst cafe

photo: Laurelhurst Cafe via Yelp

Laurelhurst Cafe
At last check, the Laurelhurst Cafe remains one of those rare spots that serves tasty weekend brunch without an ever-present line ala Portlandia‘s Brunch Village sketch. So if you happen to feel brunchy, or if you just want a lunch date on a weekend with a low risk of a long wait, consider adding this place to your deliberations. They offer a substantial kid’s menu and a solid line-up of classic Portland scrambles starting at $9.75 and breakfast sandwiches starting at $4. If you’re going straight lunch, they offer more small plates and sandwich options than you can shake a carrot stick at. Lunch prices range from $3 small plates up to $10 burgers. Hours are weekdays 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

4611 E. Burnside St.
Online: laurelhurstcafe.com

slappy cakes

photo: Slappy Cakes by Claire and Amy A. via Yelp

Slappy Cakes
Of course you can get pancakes all day in Portland, and of course you can create them yourselves, right at your table. That’s the Slappy Cakes “wish you’d thought of it” concept and it’s quickly become a popular, Brunch Village sort of place. The forecast for a long wait on weekends is close to 100 percent, but if you’re willing to brave the lines or able to hit them up for lunch on a weekday, Slappy Cakes provides that great combination of fascinating toddler entertainment and functional, enjoyable adult activity. You and your date can choose from several different batters (including vegan/gluten free), a bunch of sweet or savory fixin’s and toppings, and then go to town with griddle artwork. There are also non-pancake menu options for party poopers or those with diet restrictions. Obviously, the temptation to go sweet and fatty is probably irresistable for most wee ones, so keep that in mind if you’re making health calculations. Slappy Cakes is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

4246 SE Belmont St.
Online: slappycakes.com

all hail kale veggie grill

photo: Veggie Grill, courtesy Lid C. via Yelp

Veggie Grill
Are we leaning heavily on the old standbys of classic kid cuisine for this list? Yes, but here’s our nod to parents attempting to broaden their tiny diner’s palate or just fighting the good fight of keeping it healthy all the time — or maybe you’ve got the next Upton Sinclair on your hands. Whatever your reasons, if you’d like to keep it vegetarian, the Veggie Grill offers up a nice combination of no-frills fresh vegan and vegetarian fare, as well as hearty faux meat options that might appeal more to little ones who are normally carnivorous. Snacks run $4 and up and entrees and sandwiches start at $8.50. The Beaverton location is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The downtown Portland location opens at 10 a.m. weekdays and 10:30 a.m. on weekends.

3435 SW Cedar Hills Blvd.
Beaverton

508 SW Taylor St.
Portland
Online: veggiegrill.com

 

grilled cheese grill

photo: The Grilled Cheese Grill, courtesy Caron S. via Yelp

Grilled Cheese Grill
If they could create their own utopian society, for most toddlers, it would probably include the regular consumption of grilled cheese sandwiches inside a brightly painted school bus. If you’re ready to fulfill that grand vision, Portland is here for you with the Grilled Cheese Grill. One of the early NePo food cart pioneers, this place has reached nearly institutional status. They start with the basics like the Kindergartner, melted cheddar or American cheese on your choice of bread ($4.50) and amp it up with more decadent adult options like the Hot Brie on sourdough with roasted red peppers, tomato and spicy mustard. They also offer kid-sized portions starting at $2.50. They are open 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday to Thursday, close at 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and close at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.

1027 NE Alberta St.
Online: grilledcheesegrill.com

 

mac at pause

photo: Pause by Joe D. via Yelp

Pause
If you’re looking for a wallet-friendly spot that doesn’t tend to get crowded, Pause may be your joint. With a spacious interior filled with comfy booths and a good sized patio, we’ve never had to wait for a seat. And then there’s the free pasta for kids under 12. While elbow noodles with butter might not be YOUR idea of special lunch date food, this is like filet mignon for some of the smalls, and it can really come in handy to avoid any “hangry” episodes whilst you wait. We certainly appreciate the management’s olive branch to families by making it free, and try to repay them by maintaining reasonable decibel levels. Should your lunch buddy decide to go with a more sophisticated order, there’s a kids menu with most of the usual suspects starting at $4, as well as a regular menu that trends toward the heavier, meatier side, but also some reasonably priced salad and veggie options. Entrees range from $8 to $14 and Pause is open Monday through Saturday, 11:30 am to 1:00 a.m. They open at noon on Sunday and close at midnight.

5101 N. Interstate Ave.
Online: facebook.com

 What’s your favorite lunch spot? Let us know in the Comments section below.

—Ty Adams