Don't Kids Deserve a Better Menu at Restaurants?

This might work out pretty deliciously — and affordably — for grownups, too.

<p>Ronnie Kaufman / Getty Images</p>

Ronnie Kaufman / Getty Images

Most restaurants offer a children’s section on the menu with lower prices and more “kid friendly” items. Go into almost any chain restaurant in the United States and you’ll find chicken fingers, mac and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches — almost always served with an order of fries and a beverage. But what about kids who have a more sophisticated palate than the average 8-year-old? Or maybe there are parents out there who don’t want their kids to be satisfied with processed chicken in the shape of a T-Rex. Kids menus have smaller portions at lower prices and are almost always restricted to people younger than 12 years old. Restaurants are doing parents a favor by offering lower priced fare since they have to order so many entrees, but it’s time for restaurants to elevate the kids menu.

Related: How My Kids Learned to Love Blood Sausage and What I Learned About Parenting in the Process

A few weeks ago, I heard two parents on the subway talking to their kids about going to a Japanese grocery store to buy fish cakes for dinner and the kids were excited about it. I also noticed that the two tots were wearing analog watches. Who are these unicorn children who cheer at the thought of fish cakes and know how to read a clock? They probably read cursive, too, and these kids were more mature than I was at that age. When I was a kid, the closest I ever came to a fish cake was a Mrs. Paul’s frozen fish stick served with tartar sauce from a jar. I grew up eating from a kids menu and routinely ordered a hamburger with “meat, cheese, and mayo” only — and when I said mayo, I meant Miracle Whip. Consequently, my food palate is about as wide as strand of fine merino wool. Children today deserve and expect more than a corn dog and a side of applesauce when they go out to eat.

"Restaurants should offer half portions of regular menu items for kids at a discounted cost."

Darron Cardosa

Restaurants should offer half portions of regular menu items for kids at a discounted cost. That way, kids can experiment with food without a family of five having to take out a second mortgage just to go out to dinner. It’s also great for adults who have smaller appetites or can only eat limited portions. Many times while wearing an apron for a living, I had to explain to grown-ups that they couldn’t order the $7.99 chicken finger basket. It wasn't cost effective for a restaurant to offer it to adults. Each chair in the restaurant needed to bring in money, and selling things like buttered pasta and cups of chocolate pudding to adults wasn’t going to cut it. It mattered not that they were on a diet or had a gastric band that restricted their intake. Rules were rules and they had to order off the full menu and take the other half home, fully knowing that warmed-up salmon the next day wouldn’t be the same.

Related: Raise Your Kid to Be a Great Restaurant Diner

And let’s stop allowing sides for kids to be limited to fries or pasta. Maybe there are some kids who only eat fries because they never had an opportunity to try brussels sprouts. I never even knew I liked them until a few years ago. My mom never made them for dinner and they were never served with my hamburger as freely as deep-fried potatoes were, so I missed out for years. Then again, it was the '70s and '80s when brussels sprouts were pretty much just boiled, so probably not the best example. But it’s possible that my food horizons could have been much broader at a younger age if not for the limitations of the kids menu at restaurants.

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I’m sure there are restaurants that already offer this option for children, but most chain restaurants don’t and that’s where so many families go out to eat. Children today grow up so much faster than they used to. Second graders have cell phones and AirPods now. Shouldn’t they be able to order a smaller and less expensive portion of Shallow-Poached Salmon with Leek Beurre Blanc if they want to? It’ll give kids more options, resulting in well-rounded food-loving adults who don’t balk at the idea of raw onion on a hamburger like I do.

Related: Our 17 Best Brussels Sprouts Recipes

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