Lots of tables in Baristaville, but how about high chairs, crayons or juice without the dirty looks. For our first Kidâ€™s Dining Guide to Baristaville and Beyond, Barista readers weighed in with lots of great eateries where the owners are actually happy to see you — and your brood. Some you may have tried, others might be new, but either way, we hope this gives you an alternative to staying home rather than brave another restaurant meal with toddlers.
Best on-site babysitter: “At Leone’s (South Park Street), proprietor Rose strikes a balance in her sprawling place of calm enclaves for couples and noisier sections where families can feel comfortable. She knows our kids by name and has even been known to keep an eye on them by her stand out front while we enjoy one last glass of BYOB wine back at our table. — Melody
Honorable mention: “The owners at China Gourmet in West Orange on Eagle Rock acted like my kids were their own grandchildren, plus it’s got a cool koi pond in the entry.”
Best alcohol-enhanced experience: “Just Jakes – went to an awesome brunch there before Christmas with live music. Not only was the food terrific, but I call Bloody Marys for just $2.50 ‘parent friendly.’ ” – Patrick
Old Reliable Award: “We love taking our two-year old twins Maddie and Max to the Charbroil on Valley Road, They are absolutely wonderful to the kids (and to us). Every single time.” — David
Best endorsement from a toddler: Willie’s Diner (free ice cream w/kiddie meals, and lots of nice waitresses). It made my toddler’s “favorite things” list at daycare, right up there with Spiderman. — Patrick
Chain favorites: “Fridays at Essex Green. Food isn’t bad, silly non-alcoholic drinks make it seem like a party, and the “dirt & worms” dessert (oreo cookie crumbs, gummy worms, chocolate pudding) dessert won us over.” Other gems: Chevy’s at Clifton Commons, where kids get edible dough to squish in additon to crayons, and ice cream cones for dessert, and Montclair’s Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse (where an ample salad bar ensures you’ll find something your kid will eat).
Most gourmet kids’ menu: Church Street Cafe, for their Black Angus kiddie hamburger.
Best videogame bribe: “Probably not just us (2 boys currently 3 & 5), but one of our favorite kid-friendly dining haunts is Star Tavern in Orange.” –Stuart
(Note to parents: young children think they are playing, no need to put in quarters!) Also: “Town Pub in Bloomfield is extremely kid-friendly, plus they’ve got a videogame or 2. Chicken tenders are quite good and portions big enough for mom & dad to snack from junior’s plate.”
Warm and fuzzy award: “Cosimoâ€™s in Bloomfield on Broad St. feels nicer than a fluorescent pizza joint, more warm and familial. and the ingredients (fresh mozzarella, etc.) are delish.” — Raymond
Best freebies: “Panera Bread in Essex Green – okay, not Baristaville, but my kid loves the free bread samples while he waits for soup.” Also: Desert Moon Cafe in Essex Green, pictured above, has $1.99 kids meals on Thursday night along with balloons, tattoos, free cookies, plus they serve Coronas and margaritas.
Best compromise: Pal’s Cabin in West Orange. “Very understanding about kids, terrific fries and the bathrooms are clean (though no changing tables).”
Best alfresco: “In the warmer weather, we usually go to South Park Bar & Grill and sit outside and enjoy a burger and a drink or two.” — Larry
Best newcomer: Arnold’s Charboil, downtown Montclair. Lunch-counter style makes it easy to get served; Black Angus burgers are the perfect antidote to Mickey D’s.
Best Mexican in a hurry: Tinga Taqueria with nice wait staff, kids menu and kids’ nights on Monday and Tuesday.
Best sushi: Yoshi (Watchung Plaza). Outdoor tables, waitstaff who rubberband chopsticks pincer style for little hands to use and California rolls and green tea ice cream all go over big.
When Only Pancakes Will Do: IHOP on Broad Street in Bloomfield; Wednesday nights are extra kid-friendly (bring your aspirin) with balloon animals, face-painting, magic and more.
Children at a distance dining: “Also not in Baristaville but if you are already out on 46W or 23S shopping, Fuddrucker’s in Wayne on 23N has a warm feel with woodburning stoves in the large dining area and also a separate video room with tons of games and a real carousel You can get a beer if you need one, but you may not because the video room is close enough that you can see the kids, but far away enough that you can’t hear them. Heaven in suburbia.” — Jane
OK, we know we missed some; e-mail your faves and we’ll add them to the list.