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Arts & Life

Food critics: Best kid’s meals in Kansas City

An overhead shot of a rectangular white bento box container divided into two sections at the top and three at the bottom.  The top left section has green edamame, the top right is cooked cubes of tofu with the lower left holding rice and the lower right containing orange sections and raspberries.  The very middle section is empty and crossed chopsticks are resting across the container.
Blue Sushi Sake Grill
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The Little Bento Box at Blue Sushi Sake Grill gives the choice of maki roll, all natural chicken tenders, shrimp tempura, crispy sweet tofu or pan seared salmon and is an opportunity to introduce them to sushi.

From hand-pulled noodles delivered by cat robots to a pick-it-yourself Mongolian grill, KCUR’s food critics and listeners offer suggestions for Kansas City restaurants your kids will love.

Almost every parent has experienced a picky child. At home, many families have an arsenal of kid-friendly foods like chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, or anything with cheese. It’s more difficult to take a picky eater out to eat: Fast food is always an option, but what if you want to expand your child’s palate?

“A lot of kids love McDonald’s, Burger King, the kid's meals because they have toys with them, and they always have the food kids love — French fries. But I think it’s good to expose kids to a wider range of foods, get them into a place where they start to enjoy vegetables,” chef and food blogger Carlton Logan told Steve Kraske on Up To Date.

Carlton says there are two things that make kids happy at a restaurant: the ability to see their choices and have a say in what they eat, and being entertained. As a godfather to five kids (some of whom are now adults), Carlton has sought out the best kid-friendly restaurants in Kansas City and surrounding areas.

Here are his recommendations:

Carlton Logan, Kansas City Eats:

  • Spin! Pizza — Kids Meal. What kid doesn’t love pizza? The Kids Meal comes with an entree (a small cheese or pepperoni pizza, macaroni and cheese, or half a grilled cheese sandwich with chips), a drink, and gelato for $5.50. There’s also a great opportunity to introduce kids to roasted eggplant, which can be ordered as an appetizer. For kids older than 12, the Mini Mia meal offers a 7-inch customizable pizza served with soup or salad for $10.50.
  • Chicken N Pickle — Lil’ Peeps menu. Restaurants with attached play areas are a nice choice when dining out as they provide a source of entertainment. Older kids can play pickleball, and there’s another play area for small children. The kid’s menu has three options: a grass fed burger, quesadilla, or chicken strips, all of which come with tater tots or fries.
  • Char Bar’s website has a line that always makes me smile: “Char Bar – Smoked Meats and Amusements.” It’s a fitting description; the menu has classic barbecue fare but with a twist. Items like cheesy hushpuppies, a charred bits and grits platter, and a jackfruit sandwich make the restaurant stand out against other barbecue joints. There’s also an outdoor area with a cornhole game and sand volleyball for kids and adults to enjoy.
  • Genghis Khan Mongolian Grill — Buffet. My three youngest godchildren grew up eating Genghis Khan and went often enough that the owners knew them. They loved going through the buffet so they could choose their own raw ingredients and then watch a chef prepare their concoction on the enormous grill.
  • Cinzetti’s is an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet where guests can watch chefs prepare their food.
  • Tabard’s Kitchen — Dirt and Worms Ice Cream. There’s a pretty extensive kids menu at Tabard’s, which ranges from sliders to mini corn dogs to chicken tenders. Every kids meal comes with dessert, a Dirt and Worms Ice Cream sundae, and kids eat free on Saturdays.
  • Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant offers entertainment for all ages, as food is served by a train that circles around the dining room. The Lil’ Engineers menu comes with an engineer hat and features a variety of old fashioned hamburgers and other kid meal staples.
  • Blue Sushi Sake Grill — Little Bento Box. Sushi is bright and fun to look at, and it’s gaining popularity among young people. The Little Bento Box is a fun way to introduce kids to sushi.

Listener recommendations:

  • Magic Noodle provides diners the opportunity to watch chefs make authentic Chinese hand-pulled noodles, and dishes are served by the restaurant's resident BellaBot, a cute cat-themed robot sure to pique a child’s interest.
  • Free State Brewery has a delicious kids menu with fun finger foods, like fish and chips and chicken tenders coated in buttermilk batter. It’s also a brewery, which offers added fun for parents.
  • Jerusalem Cafe  — Gyro Sandwich. Full of rich smells and Middle Eastern music, Jerusalem Cafe is a fun place to introduce kids to Mediterranean food.
  • Ruchi Indian Cuisine has a lunchtime buffet, which allows children to see what the food looks like and tailor a plate to their taste. While most people harbor the misconception that Indian food is spicy, not every dish is, and the impressive range of flavors in Indian dishes help expand a child’s palate.
  • Ginna’s Cafe is a hidden gem inside the sportswear store Scheels in Overland Park. The cafe serves sandwiches, soups, and sweet treats like homemade fudge and ice cream. Also within Scheels is a giant indoor Ferris wheel.
  • Chelly’s Cafe has a wide variety of Mexican food, and a kid’s menu featuring mini burritos.
  • Grinders Stonewall serves pizza with tons of unique toppings and has outdoor space with heaters in the winter.
  • Sakura Sushi Train is a fun way to introduce kids to sushi. A train carries a la carte items through the restaurant allowing for an interactive experience.
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