As a single parent and food writer, my biggest fear was having a picky eater. Second to that, I worried that I would have to spend the next several years relegated to “kid” or “family” restaurants–ones with cartoony logos, anthropomorphic spokes-animals, menus loaded with nuggets and fries, and zero chill.
Luckily, while I have managed to pass on a fierce fondness for the White Spot Pirate Pak to my now 4-year-old, I’ve also managed to enjoy dining with him in some of the best restaurants in Vancouver (and Portland, and Los Angeles, too).
Now, I’m not advocating that all families should be taking their broods to fancy spots at inopportune times; no one enjoying a tasting menu while having an intimate date at 9 pm on a Saturday should have to hear tantrums or residual iPad cartoon noise from a nearby table. And, to be fair, many a parent will know their kids aren’t zoned for restaurants that don’t include play spaces in their design. Use your best judgement.
But when you are grown up who happens to enjoy good food in a grown up setting, and you happen to be a parent with a kid who can hang without being pandered or catered to, Vancouver is full of great choices.
YEW seafood + bar
Parents take note: the hospitality at any Four Seasons Hotel is absolutely legendary, and they make it a breeze to have a nice meal with children without being saccharine about it.
At YEW, kids are presented with a plate of fruit to snack on while the table goes over the menu options, including the thoughtful kids menu that does have chicken strips, but also a salmon, veggie, and rice plate as an option.
Attentive servers help make sure any dropped crayons, napkins, or cutlery get handled quickly, and little diners are made to feel very welcome and important. All the nicer to know the kids are okay while the grown ups feast on YEW’s wicked good modern seafood dishes and top-notch cocktails.
This East Vancouver Italian darling is meant to be a real neighbourhood joint, and though it can be hard to nail down a reso, once you’re in, you’re like family. Kids dining at Savio Volpe get a cool cardboard fox mask to play with (and take home, if you don’t get pasta sauce all over it); “volpe” means fox, incidentally.
There’s no children’s menu here, but then there doesn’t need to be–the kitchen is turning out beautiful handmade pasta dishes, homey classics like roast chicken, and unfussy sides and starters that yield plenty of good eats little mouths can easily nibble on.
If your destination is the new Parq hotel and casino complex and you’ve got kids in tow, Honey Salt is the best choice. This bright, cheery, approachable all-day restaurant has plenty for the younger set to enjoy.
Honey Salt has a menu for kids 10 and under which includes easygoing eats like veggies and dip, Mac & Cheese, and Pizza Toast, but kids with a bit more adventurous palate will find lots on the regular menu that appeals, too. And a little birdie tells us that candy is always close at hand if there’s a kiddo at your table. Hooray for treats!
The restaurant at Vancouver’s lovely Shangri-La hotel comes with a pedigree, but that doesn’t mean your kid has to. There’s always an on-point sensibility when it comes to dining at Market; they can get you in and out and back to your office without sacrificing quality or elegance, and they have plenty of options for diners who need a little flexibility in their food.
When it comes to kids, Market has lots on their menu that will appeal to younger palates, whether it’s some of the simpler pizza, roast meats, or fries kind of options, or if you’re dining with a kiddo who is ready for truffles and sashimi. Personable service means the little one at your table can get everything from colouring sheets and crayons to adapted mocktails for clinking glasses with the grown ups. I’ve left brunch there with my preschooler and he was so delighted he hugged our server. Always a good sign.
Honorable mention: Kissa Tanto
I don’t think Kissa Tanto’s menu is consistently kid-approved approachable, but when I dined there not too long after they won enRoute Magazine’s Best New Restaurant in Canada for 2016, they did something absolutely genius. When making my reservation online, I not only selected a slot when they first opened for dinner service at 5 pm, but I also indicated I was dining with a child.
Smartly, they seated us in a front corner, where my son could see the room but largely not be seen by everyone else. He was also surrounded by a narrow wall, a street-facing window, and me, which meant he wasn’t going to inadvertently crash into anyone. Service was upbeat, swift, and very, very kind and attentive, the bar crafted a killer mocktail for the minor, and the pasta and octopus salad were a hit with us both. Class act.