Contrary to the conventional wisdom that chicken fingers must be listed on the menu in order for a restaurant to be kid-friendly, we happen to think a fine-dining experience is possible with the little ones along. All it takes is the right attitude (yours and theirs) plus just a bit of advance planning.
A few tips: Arrive early, if possible, well before the crowds and/or romantic couples. Pack a few small toys or coloring books. Make sure everyone is well rested and that tiny stomachs aren’t growling too loudly. It’s also not a bad idea to make reservations or call the restaurant ahead of time to let them know you are coming. This gives the wait staff time to make accommodations like securing booster seats, a booth in the back of the restaurant, or an extra large stack of linen napkins.
Here are ten of our favorite spots in and around Seattle. All include menus that are fairly reasonably priced (think $14 – $30 plates instead of $50+ for adults) and the atmospheres, while decidedly upscale, are also jovial and somewhat noisy so that happy children can blend in nicely with other diners.
With 19 Puget Sound-area restaurants to choose from (as far south as Olympia and as far north in Bellingham) Anthony’s offers fine seafood entrees with sweeping views. Even if you don’t arrive by private yacht, you and your family will get top-deck treatment. Adults will enjoy favorites like Dungeness Crab Cakes, Willapa Bay Oysters or Northwest Cioppino (menu prices vary due to season, usually between $7.95 – $29.95), and kids can enjoy fish and chips ($6.95), beef sliders ($5.95), Wild Salmon Swimmers ($5.95) or a Char Grilled Wild Salmon ($9.95).
Multiple locations in and around Seattle so click here for a full list.
The owners of Ballard-based Bastille searched all over France and the U.S. to create the right ambiance for their French restaurant, and the result is an eclectic display of vintage finds. Take your kids for an inside tour to see if they can find the Art Deco sconces from a 1930s Seattle mansion, a clock that adorned a Paris metro station or a buttress from a Paris church. Popular menu items for adults include Steak Frites ($24) and Moules Frites ($19) and kiddo favorites include the Croque Fromage (grilled cheese sandwich) for $4, the Croque Monsieur (Parisian ham, Gruyere cheese & sauce Mornay on pain de mie) for $6, or Pasta with Parmesan Butter for $6.
5307 Ballard Avenue Northwest
Fans of fine Italian food will fall in love with the handmade pasta at Cantinetta (Wallingford and old Bellevue locations), a delightful Tuscan-themed establishment. The ambiance is warm, rustic and intimate – but not too romantic lest any child want to spoil the fun. Menu items include an array of pasta and meat dishes and seasonal, organic items, plus an extensive list of both North Italian and Northwest wines.
3650 Wallingford Avenue North
10038 Main Street
With ample parking and a convenient location across from University Village, 50 North is a great neighborhood choice for families living in Northeast Seattle. The children’s menu offers a nice range to suit picky eaters (grilled cheese, mini burgers, hot buttered noodles) as well as plenty of healthy choices to make parents’ jobs easier (grilled chicken and farro bowl, fresh fruit, mixed veggies). All children’s menu items are $5.50 each and come with juice, milk or soda; plus fries, fruit or veggies. 50 North also takes food allergies very seriously and is particularly in tune with gluten-free or dairy-free needs (try their famous gluten-free fish & chips for $12!) For adults, there are rotating fine craft beers on tap and a unique Washington wine selection. The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable, and the extra-deep booths are coveted by parents and kids alike.
5001 25th Avenue Northeast, Suite 100
Known for steaks, seafood and a full bar, Jak’s has a classy vibe that isn’t stuffy or pretentious. Let the kiddos split the burger (we think it’s among Seattle’s very best) for $11.95 or order the extra creamy mac n’ cheese for $6.95. Jak’s doesn’t believe in reservations, so be sure to arrive early. On a recent trip to their Laurelhurst location, we arrived at 6:02 and had to wait 45 minutes for a table.
3701 NE 45th Street
14 Front Street North
4548 California Avenue Southwest
Mais oui! Fine dining at the Pike Place Market is a special treat for anyone and Maximilien fits the bill with an outstanding view of Puget Sound and French favorites like foie gras, escargots or the Homard Thermidor (roasted Gulf of Mexico lobster tail topped with a brandy and a Dijon cream sauce and served with goat cheese-whipped potatoes, asparagus and golden beets for $35). For kids, order the Assiette de Fromages (plate of five assorted cheeses served with fresh fruit and nuts for $14) or the Soupe à l’Oignon for $6. Fougasse is also a hit with young ones (flat breads with various toppings, $14 – $15).
81A Pike Street
Just the mere mention of a “Pupu Tower” is sure to entice your offspring to sit up straight and be on their best behavior at Pallisade at the Elliot Bay Marina in Magnolia. With indoor tide pools and panoramic views, there’s plenty to see. Share the Palisade’s Pupu Tower appetizer ($27), which includes wood oven roasted Pacific tiger prawns, Dungeness crab cakes and teriyaki tenderloins or order off the kids menu where all items are $9, including salmon, fettuccini and teriyaki steak bits. Smaller portions of adult-sized entrées are also available for younger discerning diners.
Elliott Bay Marina, 2601 West Marina Place
Of all the trendy new restaurants on Capitol Hill, Poppy on Broadway is perhaps the most kid-friendly. There is a nice herb garden in back to explore while you wait, and the staff will bring crayons and paper. Kids can either make a meal out of starters like the spiced fig, onion, blue cheese and sage tart for $8 or sample mom and dad’s thalis ($22 – 32), a platter which holds a variety of small dishes. Poppy’s kitchen is also adept at creating pasta and rice dishes in several shades of familiar for less malleable young palettes.
622 Broadway East
While parents sip their wine flights at this casual yet elegant wine bar, children can enjoy “milk flights” (that’s flight, not “fight”) including regular, chocolate, strawberry and caramel milk ($5) at all Purple locations (Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland and Woodinville). Kids menu items include shrimp skewers with fresh veggies ($7), turkey and cheddar sandwich with sweet potato fries ($7), cranberry chicken salad ($7), and an assorted cookie plate for dessert ($4). Adult menu items include a wide range of small plates, salads and upscale entrees — plus of course, plenty of wines.
1225 Fourth Avenue
430 106th Avenue Northeast
323 Park Place Center
14459 Woodinville Redmond Road Northeast
The real draw here is the Seattle Art Museum, of course, and what better way to end an afternoon of masterpiece viewing than to enjoy a casual yet elegant meal at Taste in downtown Seattle. The atmosphere is fresh and spartan with a European flair and most dishes are made from local and sustainable produce. Taste has a traditional kids menu full of $5 items such as mini burgers or a PB & J with carrot sticks – but you could just as well order off the adult menu: Smoked Salmon Flat Bread ($12), Nettle Gnocchi ($12), Browned Butter Polenta Cake ($18) or the Skagit River Organic Ranch Burger with Rosemary Frites ($12). Just don’t let anyone indulge in too many “Hammering Man” cocktails ($9) before you head home.
1300 First Avenue
What are your favorites? Any fine dining spots we missed? Let us know!
Also, if travel is in your future, be sure to check out:
— Allison Ellis