Sometime a few years ago, your typical lunch out likely went from three martinis to three Martinelli’s. But just because you have a toddler in tow doesn’t mean you have to give up your special lunch dates—they just may be a tad messier now and involve more French fries. Check out these casual eateries for a midday meal you and your little one will both enjoy.
Chef Lisa Nakamura used to run a fine dining restaurant on Orcas Island; she just opened an uber casual Capitol Hill spot based around one of her most popular dishes: gnocchi. There’s soup, salads, and focaccia sandwiches, but you’ll want to order the signature dish—potato gnocchi with roasted portabellas and spicy pickled peppers for you, polenta gnocchi with meatballs and tomato sauce for your tiny diner. A little secret: the sweets here are just as good as the savories. Pastry chef Adana Protonentis is a whiz with butter and flour, and you can still get a scoop made by former tenants D’Ambrosio Gelato to round out the Italian experience.
Before or After: Walk the few blocks to Cal Anderson Park, where you both can burn off that sugar high in the acres of green space or take advantage of the wading pool, play area or fountain.
photo: Sky View Cafe’s Facebook page
Sky View Café
Looking for a better view than the Space Needle? Head to the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center, where the Sky View Observatory recently launched a modern, stylish café catered by Ravishing Radish. The menu is perfect for kids, ranging from snacks like popcorn and cookies to full meals like minestrone soup or a ham and Swiss sandwich. And for working parents nearby (or even in the building), this makes an ideal noontime family meet-up.
Before or After: Since you’re spending $12.50 on admission (kids under 5 are free, thankfully) to the highest public observatory on the West Coast, take your time to look around and enjoy the bird’s-eye view.
photo: Chelsea Lin
Kukai Ramen & Izakaya
When the weather (or this week’s preschool bug) calls for a bowl of steaming soup, there’s none better than the real-deal ramen at this Northgate location of a Japanese chain. Do as we do: order a bowl of simple shio or more complex tonkotsu shoyu ramen and a side of extra noodles—you can share the broth and toppings. It’s also easy to make a meal out of the small plates, like veggie tempura, fried chicken, or edamame.
Before or After: Catch a flick at Regal Thornton Place, just steps away. The theater is running $1 movie tickets to popular kids’ movies from June 23 to August 19 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
photo: Pike Place Market’s Facebook page
Pike Place Market
This may be an obvious choice, but Seattle’s most quintessential hotspot is also one of its best places for a parent/kiddo lunch. The best way to approach your date is a progressive meal: mac ‘n’ cheese from Beecher’s, fresh fruit and veggie samples from the stalls (try to find something your hungry munchkin has never seen before), a baggie of hot doughnuts from Daily Dozen. There are plenty of people to watch, you can sit for a while to check out the ferries, and it’s loud enough that no one will notice a tantrum or two.
Before or After: Walk down the Harbor Steps and take your pick: the aquarium is a delightful place to while away a few hours, or you could simply spend the time watching the sea wall construction machinery.
photo: Senor Moose’s Facebook page
Señor Moose Café
Seattle may not be known for its Mexican food, but this Ballard restaurant breaks the mold—it’s cheesy enough for selective eaters but with options both spicy and authentic for more adventurous ones. There are quesadillas if you must, but we recommend the spectacular chilaquiles (tortilla chips tossed in green or red salsa and scrambled with eggs), any of the sopes (thick tortillas made from masa and filled), and the fried plantains. Weekend brunch means long waits, but weekday lunch or brunch is generally breezy.
Before or After: The Seattle Gymnastics Academy’s Ballard location is within walking distance, and their drop-in indoor playground—where your tot can bounce and run to her heart’s content—opens at noon on weekdays.
Did we miss your favorite go-to lunch spot? Share your favorites in the Comments below!