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Ban the Kids' Menu?!

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Ronda Kaysen: Nicola Marzovilla thinks that children's menus are the death of civilization. You know the ones he's talking about, with the standard fare of macaroni and cheese, cheeseburgers and maybe (if you're lucky) spaghetti with marinara sauce.

Kid's Menu

If you walk into Marzovilla's Manhattan eatery, don't expect to find any chicken fingers with French fries. He doesn't offer up anything "special" for the kids, and he plans to keep it that way. Instead, he tells inquiring moms, "I'm sure we can find something your child will like." The New York Times sat down with Marzovilla's kids and confirmed for the rest of us that they eat practically everything -- including snails, raw fish and rabbit.

Moms have come to expect the kids' menu, with its smaller portions, cheaper prices and totally unadventurous options. When a pizzeria in Mom Central (otherwise known as Park Slope, Brooklyn) opened earlier this month without a kids' menu, there was practically a mommy riot.

But Marzovilla doesn't think we're doing our kids any favors by shielding them from the myriad flavors available to grownups -- and he's on a mission to wean our kids off of it.

I feel him, I really do. It makes me cringe when I walk into a restaurant with a lovely, yummy menu and the kids' menu is filled with the same bland, boring things.

But at the same time, I'm not about to drop $14 on a plate of something my 2-year-old might not even touch. Five dollars seems like a much more reasonable amount of money to spend filling his tiny tummy.

It would be great if more restaurants would offer smaller portions of regular entrees at smaller prices. But it's outrageous to think that most parents these days would consider buying an adult-sized entree for a small child.

Entrees at I Trulli, Marzovilla's restaurant, will set you back anywhere from $24 to $38, which is just a silly amount of money to spend on a kid. Not only will he not finish it -- if he even likes it -- but he probably shouldn't, given that it's large enough to feed a person several times his size.

Moms, what do you think of the predictable kids' menus at restaurants? Do you wish they'd mix it up, or are you just relieved when there's something on it your kid will actually eat?

next: Top 5: Memorial Day Childcare Solutions That Won't Work
15 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous May 28, 2010, 4:07 AM

If it’s large enough portions, I’ll share mine with the kids. But yeah, I want to pick my battles and if grilled cheese is where it’s at with my young three year old, then that’s what I’m getting. He tries stuff off of my plate so he’s getting exposure but then he’ll eat his grilled cheese or whatever. I go out to eat to have a good time, not to battle with a toddler. So if that restaurant doesn’t want my business, so be it. There’s more places to choose from.

Danielle May 28, 2010, 5:07 AM

I choose what my kid eats and it’s not off the kids menu. If we go out to eat it better be good, or I might as well have stayed home and whipped something up.

Alison May 28, 2010, 5:17 AM

Eating out has always been a treat for our family so they were allowed to order off the kids menu when they were toddlers. I wouldn’t let them do that if we ate out more often because the food offered is terrible for them. I never picked food as a battle but I didn’t offer them processed junk food at home, either. They are 10,8, and 5 and will eat anything and do not want the kids meal food so will often share an entree or two. We do take home food almost every time because the portions are too big, but then I get lunch the next day so I don’t mind that! I am confused about why a pizzeria would need a kids menu, though. Isn’t pizza kid friendly already?

Kelly May 28, 2010, 5:44 AM

Who cares.

Tracy K May 28, 2010, 7:16 AM

If a restaurant did not offer a kids menu, I would hope they would offer a la carte on side dishes and even main dishes and/or smaller portions for kids and adults. I remember being pregnant and not having much room for food but a restaurant would not allow me to order smaller portions or senior dishes. I don’t need a Texas size plate at a high price. I would gladly pay 1/2 plate for half price. I can’t always take home food and keep it safe from food poisoning. So give me choices and my kids choices.

Mother Nature May 28, 2010, 7:29 AM

Wow… @Kelly If you took the time to respond “Who cares” then obviously you did enough to type that out.

As for the article, I don’t think there isn’t a parent who hasn’t had the same feelings. My question has always been why not just offer a smaller sized portion of the “adult” menu? If not for kids, for those of us who always take home a to-go box that never gets eaten the next day and winds up in the dogs dish bowl anyway.

Christopher Burgess May 28, 2010, 7:41 AM

Thanks for the piece and I agree with Tracy K - restaurants should offer a selection of smaller portion entree’s for the child diner. Growing up “kids menus” didn’t exist - my parents would order one entree’ and split it between the siblings - we cultivated a love for various foods through the exploration of cuisine. Wouldn’t have happened in the manner it did if I was regulated to burgers, hotdogs, mac&cheese and fish sticks.

Again thanks for the piece.

Katie's Mom May 28, 2010, 10:40 AM

Thanks for the article - you raise some good points.
When my kids were little I (and they) would have loved to see smaller and cheaper portions of “real” food instead of the bland and patronizing choices that appear on most menus.
That being said, I tend to divide restaurants into two groups - the ones where I would happily take my little ones and where I didn’t begrudge spending the (moderate) price of an entree from the main menu. That’s where we went for family meals.
Then there are the other kind of restaurant - the ones that are an occasional treat for adults only - where the prices are higher, the cuisine is special, and you go to experience the food and the adult company. The ones where you leave your kids at home with a babysitter and hope that other people do so as well - especially if you have a reservation after 8pm.
I don’t think you can group all restaurants together - they all have different target audiences - different groups of people that they are trying to attract. The trick is to find some where you and your children can have a happy experience. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Then avoid the ones that don’t provide the services that you are seeking. You can’t force all restaurants to change - but you can vote with your wallet.
Also, there is stuff that parents can do as well - you will probably have more choices if you share a wide variety of foods with your kids at home - and encourage them to think of dining as a pleasurable experience to be savored. And other diners will thank you if you teach your children good table manners and don’t allow them to scream and run around when other people are trying to enjoy their food (OK - it’s a pet peeve of mine - Parents who cannot say “NO” to their children in public - definitely not doing the kids any favors.)
I’m happy to report that my now 20 and 16 year olds enjoy eating a wide variety of foods - whether at home, in restaurants, or, now that they are older, cooking them themselves.

Kelly May 28, 2010, 12:04 PM

I think those that can afford to take a family out to eat in this economic climate should stop complaining, not all of us can. Many families just have enough trouble paying for groceries from the food store. I hope that clarifies my ‘who cares’ comment from before. I don’t care about complainers.

Jill @BabyRabies May 29, 2010, 7:40 PM

I think we’ve used a kid’s menu a handful of times we’ve been out, and I always regret it. The truth is, those potions are too big for even a grownup to finish, so why not just share something with your kid? My husband and I always make sure there’s going to be a good mix of stuff we know our son is going to like between our 2 meals. We just ask for an extra appetizer plate and dish it out for him. We’ve never treated him any different when it comes to food. He eats what we eat, always has, at home and out. I credit his adventurous appetite and love for vegetables and fruit to that.

Jeanne @JollyTomato May 30, 2010, 9:41 AM

We just talked about this over at Jolly Tomato too. The article encouraged us to make some new resolutions about eating out: helping the kids be more adventurous, encouraging them to try new things, ordering smaller portions from the regular menu when possible, and dining out with families whose kids are more adventurous than ours. : )

Anon May 31, 2010, 2:26 PM

and we care because why?

Barb June 4, 2010, 2:39 PM

I hate children’s menus. It kills me that a restaurant will have grilled chicken with vegetables and rice on their menu, but not on the children’s menu. That menu is full of hot dogs, cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, and french fries. We just let our daughter enjoy what we’ve ordered. But, I would like to see restaurants changes their offerings for children.

artemis fowl and the atlantis complex March 15, 2011, 11:46 PM

As a Newbie, I am always browsing online for articles that can help me. Thank you. %WEBSITE%

Lynell May 21, 2011, 1:43 PM

Wow! That’s a really neat aneswr!

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