But now that the kids are a little older — Mira is 7, Theo is 4 — and we're mostly past the throwing food, spilling drinks and not-being-able-to-sit-in-their-seats-for-more-than-5-minutes phase, we're emboldened to dine out a bit more.
When I found out that South End Kitchen, one of my favorite new Burlington spots, has a Saturday night deal where kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal, I was raring to go.
Jeff and I had both enjoyed dinner at South End Kitchen sans
kids before. The café is open until 9 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, and has different summer dinner specials each night — including pasta, barbecue and burgers — in addition to the regular menu. The last time I went, I had what was — hands down — the best eggplant parmigiana I've ever had: a slab of breaded eggplant cooked to crispy perfection atop a delicious plate of pasta.
Saturday's theme was "kids eat free," so there were no additional dinner specials. No matter; the Blue Bandana pork mole is on the regular menu. It's a hearty dish featuring meat cooked to fall-apart tenderness topped with a rich house-made sauce, accompanied by black beans, corn, rice, posole, cilantro, lime and creme fraîche. Not only is it over-the-top delish, it's big enough to easily bring home leftovers.
Mira and Theo shared two kids meals — macaroni and cheese and chicken tenders. The mac and cheese was actually an orechiette — or little-ear pasta — covered in a creamy sauce and topped with breadcrumbs. The chicken tenders came three to an order and were breaded nicely with a crunchy coating that reminded me of that eggplant parmigiana of my dreams.
The kids meal also comes with a choice of salad, fries or smashed potatoes. Sadly, they were out of the potatoes during our visit, so we settled for two orders of fries. They were yummy, but it would have been nice to have a more kid-friendly veggie option like carrot sticks or green beans.
Two pork moles, plus a glass of rosé and a draft beer, cost about $48, not exactly cheap. But the combination of gourmet food and a laid-back, very kid-friendly atmosphere made up for the hefty bill.
And, lest I forget, we dropped 10 bucks more on two simple sundaes, each with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. They were technically for Mira and Theo, but Jeff and I managed to finagle a couple of bites. It was a delicious ending to a happily uncomplicated family meal.
Going out to dinner with kids can be complicated. On more than one occasion, when our daughter and son were younger, my husband, Jeff, and I attempted to go out for a nice family meal and left the restaurant shaking our heads. "It's not worth it," we agreed.