Fried crap with a side of wooze

Being away last week we were eating out quite a bit. You take for granted the whole eating 3 meals a day thing at home until you are eating out breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks when you are on holidays. I realised a few things.

: Eating out costs money. Der
: Kids food when eating out is shit house
: The cost of what you pay for what you get is beyond warped

The first night we looked around for something open early as the girls (and us) were a little frazzed after a long trip and the only option was a pub. This suited us because it meant that Rob and I could legitimately down schnooers of Coopers at a rapid rate and fit right in. This pub’s menu was no different to a number of places we ate at over the course of the week. The same crap offered each and every time. Even the kids weren’t eating the stuff by the end it was: Fish and chips. Nuggets and chips. Chicken schnitzel and oh, chips and perhaps a pasta with tomato sauce. Depressing isn’t it? I’m all for the occasional Happy Meal or bowl of chips, heck, I have been known to feed my kids dinner from the vending machine at the pub (what? Burger rings are so a meal and you know it!) but when you attempt to feed your kids semi healthy meals every night, it’s so disconcerting to only have this sort of shit on offer. Sure, it’s pretty rare that you are eating out all the time, but if you were – then it’s not pretty and it wouldn’t take long for the novelty to wear off. And if you think it sounded like shit on the menu, just wait till you see it when the plate hits the table. A few dried up bits of something with some chips.

A few months ago I saw my mate Ruth from Gourmet Girlfriend sharing a kids menu from a local place. I was amazed and jealous at the delicious, simple food. It’s the sort of stuff that kids would devour: chicken wings, rice paper rolls, ribs – all done with some care and nutritional insight and hey! Even some herbs! Sure, the stuff looks great on screen, but I bet it would taste a bit better than some fried nuggets even if it looked half as good as these shots.

Why is it that the food offered is so nasty? If it’s the cost, then surely cutting some carrot & celery sticks and chucking some hummus into a bowl wouldn’t cost more than that? Is it the cost of the labour involved? Throwing something straight from the freezer into the fryer is easier than marinating ribs I suppose. Why do kids meals exist? Why don’t they just offer the one menu and you have to adapt from there? We went to one place for lunch that did just that and we ended up getting the kids a cheese platter. They turned their noses up at the blue, but gave the olives, and figs and other crackers & cheeses a red hot go and with more enthusiasm than the other crap too.

What sort of stuff would you put on a kids menu? I think I would throw on ribs & rice, marinated chicken wings, stirfries, cutlets and on the side of everything I would throw on cherry tomatoes, cucumber/carrot/celery sticks/avocado/cheese and it would be eaten. I know there is the notion of “treats” when eating out but do you guys find this kind of thing depressing? And expensive? Would you eat out more if you had better food on offer? Can I ask any more questions? I’m trying to be a blogger that starts conversations. Can you tell?

The photo at the top is of Daisy (a little younger than Harper is now) when we were in Paris. If you are in Paris chips are Pomme Frites and that’s OK don’t you know? Snort.

Comments

  1. Oh I’m SO WITH YOU! This totally gets my goat. The ‘healthy’ kids option at our local is penne smothered in what I can only assume is Kraft cheese spread. Yummy.

    Im with you. Rice paper rolls, lamb cutlets. Flathead tails and a bit of salad. Mini burritos, mezzo platters w veggies, hommus and cheese. Kofta and tabbouleh. Mini pita bread pizzas.

    There’s a local place here and the head waiter/owner refuses to serve under 12s Coke. Gold.

  2. Oh my gosssshhhhhhhh YES. My kids are so over chips – remember when they used to be a treat?! When we go for a pub meal these days we don’t even bother ordering for the kids, we just feed them off our (GIANT OVER FLOWING) plate bits of schnitzel, salad and, of inevitably – chips… Or we do a sneaky sneaky and bring some snacks from home for the kids. Oh that’s embarrassing. But hey, they’d rather eat a sachet of baby food, a yogurt or a vegemite sanga than any dried up, deep fried ‘chicken’ nugget!

    Sunny and Scout would request a cous cous salad, tacos, bangers and mash and maybe a skewer with some meat on it. Because everything tastes better on a stick!

  3. it is a huge hole in the hospitality industry.
    it gets my goat.
    that’s why I posted that menu months ago.
    Yep. kids are sometimes fussy.
    mine can be too.
    but what joy is there in feeding them that rubbish?
    it’s just insulting.
    simplifying the menu to cater for kids doesn’t mean feeding them food with no imagination & ZERO nutritional value.
    another top resto that does it well here in Melbourne is Karen Martini’s Mr. Wolf.
    Excellent quality pizza served with a San Pellegrino drink & an ice-cream for dessert for a tenner!
    And dining starts at 5 and they end their kids session at 7.
    not surprisingly it is booked out every. single. night.
    there is a need for more quality offerings to kids.
    yep. it can be done.
    we actually CAN serve good quality grub to kids that has nutritional value as well being a great experience in a restaurant environment.
    Offering nuggets (that invariably do not actually have chicken in them) and chips is not just a darn insult to your bank balance as well as your palate!
    Thanks for posting Beth.
    xx

  4. Couldn’t agree more. The last time we went out for dinner there was nothing on the kids menu that didn’t include chips. Apart from the horribly long time it took to deliver (which, as we were one of only 2 groups in the restaurant – I was astounded by), when it arrived their nuggets were dried, overcooked and I wouldn’t feed them to my dog (if we had a dog!!).

    Considering they eat absolutely everything we feed them at home (mexican, japanese, chinese, thai, indian – well, you get my drift) you can see why we don’t go out that much anymore.

    My 6yo doesn’t eat chips even at home – unless they are real potatoes that we have chopped in wedges or chips and covered in herbs. Go figure.

    (trust me, BBQ shapes are a main part of their day so I’m not saying we are super duper healthy either)

  5. I’m at work today so can’t put a proper response up.

    But kids’ food and not feeding them utter rubbish is something I am completely passionate about (in a good way!).

    Am going to respond properly when I have a sec. Thanks for bringing this up – so important Beth. xx

  6. I’m not sure what kinds of options you all have in Australia, but because I hate fast food, and you are so right, it isn’t worth paying for!!….I started taking my kids out to sushi at a really young age. My son even decided to have his 4th birthday at a sushi restaurant. They like octopus, crazy kids. Now they are way bigger, and even at the fast food place (because sometimes there is no other option) they opt for mandarin oranges instead of fries. True story.

  7. I certainly won’t pretend to be an expert on kids meals as 2 of my children have to be the fussiest eaters in the world! However, I completely agree with you. Surely more options can be given to children. I have tried to ask for smaller versions of the mains for my children, but we usually still have to pay the adult price.
    On another note which gets up my nose is why is that in some places a child over 12 is considered an adult? They are not old enough to work, so why do we have to pay full price? This happens on an airline and if you are not travelling with them you are expected to pay an unaccompanied minor fee?But they pay an adult price ticket? A bit off the track, but something else that should be looked at. x

  8. Kids eat a MUCH bigger variety of food than we did 10, 15, 20, 30 years ago. I would NEVER have touched a piece of sushi when I was young, but these days, kids see sushi/hummus/rice paper rolls/cous cous etc as being normal and delicious! I just think kid’s menus are seriously stuck in the past. I swear they haven’t changed at all in the whole time I’ve been alive! xx

  9. I always think little pies would be good. Kitchens could get a little pie maker and just make pies out of the adult meals. Things like bolognaise sauce, beef bourginon and whatever else is of the right consistency and on the adult menu could just get popped in some puff pastry. My kids eat any left overs if I pop a bit of puff pastry around them.

    It is frustrating to pay a whopping amount for frozen nuggets and frozen chips that haven’t even been cooked that well…..

  10. Amen.

    I am fed up to my teeth with the lack of nutritional foods on offer to our children. I am with you.

    The expense of eating out means that it is a once in a blue moon acitivty for us. Im not going to sit and eat my crispy skin salmon and vegies while they munch on fried mcfat. We all eat well or we all dont go. I would definitely eat out a more if there were healthy kids meals on offer at kids prices. And i would travel quite a distance to a good cafe/restaurant that offered this if I just knew where to find them.

  11. Forgot to add that my two yr old goes crazy over sushi and its not that she hasnt had a happy meal once or twice, she seriously prefers a good old brown rice chicken and avo hand roll and as a parent Im stoked by that. A lot of food places are stuck in the past with their kids menus. Not all children want chips and nuggets.

  12. ‘Tis for this exact reason that we don’t do going out for dinner much as a family. All the places around here offer the same shithouse kid’s menu – Fish and chips, nuggets, calamari and pasta with sauce. No thank you!

  13. I loathe kids menus. We don’t feed Tricky chips (yet) so have to take his food with us all the time. Once we went to a restaurant and I’d forgotten his food so I asked for a small plate of vegetables for him, which I knew he’d gobble right up. The man came back and with a wink of the eye said “I thought this might be a bit nicer” and put down a plate of nuggets and chips… Tricky was only 10 months old.

  14. I think the fried fatty food on kids menus is a reason why kids are picky with their food choices. If a plate of chips and nuggets is presented alongside a healthy piece of fish and salad the kid will probably choose the unhealthy option.
    Why can’t restaurants and pubs serve smaller portions of the main meals?
    If I made a kids menu I’d serve veggie pizzas, spaghetti and tiny meatballs with hidden veggies, healthier fish fingers made with real fish, Thai beef salad served in lettuce cups….
    Anything but fried food! You may as well go to maccas.
    Great post Beth :) I don’t have kids but can certainly relate x

  15. Oh yeah sushi and rice paper rolls are also great foods that I think kids should try!

  16. Our favourite restaurant Bisto Tartine (remember?) does the best kids menu. At a glance it looks normal: roast pork and vegies, steak and potatoes, fish, salad and chips – but the steak’s real steak that can be cooked medium rare, the roast pork is pork belly!!!!! and the fish is blue eyed cod, salmon or similar. They’re just smaller versions of our meals, just like we eat at home.

  17. It’s funny you say this…a new cafe opened in town last year and you can rarely get a table. They don’t have a kids menu (just one standard menu) but there are ALWAYS kids there. All the food is made fresh on the premises, right down to the homemade cordial with fresh fruit.

    We were in a rush the other day and the kids got takeaway meals – that they ate!

    1. Miss8 had a poached egg on sourdough toast with fresh grated beetroot and fetta. Yes, takeaway – it’s amazingly tasty!

    2. Mr3 had a savoury muffin filled with vegies that he had no idea about.

    3. I had an Italian beef parcel with salad which made my mouth water.

    There’s no reason that pubs and restaurants can’t move away from deep fried kids menus. My kids aren’t fussy, and I’m sure they’d eat chips for every meal. However, offering them some healthy options like sushi, rice papaer rolls, chicken lasagne etc would keep the parents coming back.

    Jumping off my soapbox now.

  18. Why not just order one adult meal for the kids to share? Makes sense to me…

  19. When we eat out I generally ask for salad with the kids menu to at least temper the chips with everything crap. And I always insist on no salt after having to literally wipe down nuggets and chips before my kids would touch them. Most pubs are pretty good when I ask for salad – although I do occasionally get the blank stare in which I explain that the salad they put on my plate is fine, just in miniature. Sometimes I have spell it out and that makes me cranky as hell “Le-ttuce, car-rot, to-ma-to”. How hard is it?
    Basically I want to be able to order a mini serve of what they are offering me. I don’t cook two dinners every night so why can’t my kids have what I’m having? We get around it by ordering a nice entree for miss 9, which she enjoys waaay more than a microwaved bit of frozen pizza.

  20. Drives. Me. Nuts.
    I just don’t get it. We end up ordering entre as mains for our kids. What I find just as annoying is the patronising way staff speak to my kids when they eat their non kids menu meal. FFS they’re not imbeciles, they’re children who eat real food. Or when we order something and it comes without the salad, because “I knew he would rather not have that green stuff hey Mum” Ah.. actually he loves salad you dick.

    One of my favourite cafes offers half serves of their main meals. I love that.

    It’s not hard, I just wish more places would do it.

  21. When we got married we had a lots of children attend (day wedding), and the initial childrens menu by the caterers was all CRAP! I had to design and ask for a healthy menu. Honestly did I really want kids hyped by on red cordial and lollies running around my reception, it wasn’t a 5 year old birthday party :)

  22. We eat out a lot with the kids. At least once a week. We mainly take them to Asian restaurants because a) they love it; b) we can share everything so don’t need to order individual meals; c) kids are also so welcomed and catered for in Asian restaurants. Their number one favourite is dumplings from any restaurant in Ashfield. They also adore sushi.

    If we go to a restaurant where the meal isn’t shared we usually order them an adult-sized entree or main for them to share. It usually works out cheaper and is always nicer.

    To be honest, I can’t actually remember ever ordering from a kids’ menu, but would if there was a decent and reasonably priced one.

  23. I take a cursory glance at the kid menu, just to see what’s on it, because I know I’d never give my kid (at this age at least) anything that’s there – not only because there’s never a veg option, but you explained it so well – some dried up bits with chips. I can’t wait for the day when they realise nuggets and chips are probably not going to cut it any more. I’m SO pro the occasional treat, but honestly… it looks like shit.

  24. Oh Beth, this is one of my big gripes too!!! As I dream of opening my own cafe and creating menus in my sleep (yes, I am a freak!!), one of the main things I think about is having real food for kids!!!! If we take our kids out to dinner we go to a proper Italian woodfire pizza place or out for dumplings – I know the kids will love both options plus the restaurants are family friendly without a playground or nugget in sight! Dumplings, proper mini veggie pizzas, dinner boxes with bits and pieces, mini meatballs, mini veggieballs, rice paper rolls, risotto, risoni with veggies and sauce and chicken mince, proper crumbed fish with oven baked sweet potato “chips” – I could go on for days!!! I think it could be so easy and I don’t know why more places don’t do it and capitalize on the opportunity to get families in. You don’t need to use expensive ingredients! I also agree that it’s often a rip off paying a lot for nothing at the places with the crappy kids meals.

    I love that Mr Wolf does 5pm-7pm young family sittings – brilliant idea and I love their food! I haven’t been there since having kids but now I know about that early session I will – thanks Ruth!!xo

    I don’t mind the kids having a treat when we go out for dinner, but I’d rather them eat a proper meal and then have scoop of ice cream rather than deep fried nothingness!

    Something to keep in mind when you’re planning a holiday – I hadn’t really thought of that – thanks Beth!!!xoxo

  25. Are the unanswered questions…;) I am with you on nis one, how hard it is to make a healthy burger, just slap on some lettuce, tomato, cheese and some thing that resembles meat and Bob’s your uncle…and you can do that with pizza too.

    Just lack of care factor involved..

  26. I agree, so, so much! Mr Monkey is a chef and created a menu just after Lily started eating. He’s the Head Chef for a pub in Sutherland and he got so much objection from the owners when he tried to make some of the kid’s meals without chips! “But kids want chips! They won’t eat anything that doesn’t have chips on it!”
    This is the current kids menu:
    - Grilled Chicken Breast with Pea and Basil Risotto $7
    - Grilled Fish & Mash $6
    - Fettuccine Napolitana $5
    - Mini Burger & Chips $6
    - Ice Cream with Chocolate or Strawberry Topping $4
    It’s no where near what he wants but it’s better than a lot of the others I’ve seen. He also had to fight to keep the risotto on when they changed the menu as the owners didn’t think kids like it, even though it’s one of their most popular meals. Plus it’s Lily’s favourite :)

    A local cafe really caters for kids – friendly waitstaff, fully decorated, seperate kids menu, babycinnos with every meal. Except EVERY SINGLE one of the 20 something meals on the kids menu comes with chips! I just wanted a sandwich for Lily. It came with chips. That for me, is just insane.

  27. Ok, I’ve found time to reply.

    Kids’ menus in restaurants are generally woeful. They don’t contain an ounce of vegetables (potatoes don’t count) and everything is fried. I find them insulting to kids and their palates. They seem to ignore the fact that kids need between 4 and 5 serves of vegetables a day.

    Have you ever seen Jamie Oliver recreate chicken nuggets for a bunch of school kids? It’s one of the most revolting forms of ‘cooking’ I’ve seen. If you haven’t, look it up on you tube. It’s worth it.

    The only way around it is to order from the adult menu for the Big Girl and Little Guy, and get a few decent sides. My kids are worth more than chips and nuggets featured on the kids’ menu.

    PS: My nomination for restaurant that doesn’t serve my kids shitty food is a place called Whet in Cape Tribulation (http://www.whet.net.au/menu.html). On a rainy November night a few years ago, my daughter, then 2, downed THE best kiddies meal ever – beef, broccoli and sesame stir-fry with jasmine rice. That can’t be much harder than frying up some nuggets, yo.

    PPS: Yum cha and sushi train places tends to be awesome for helping kids get more adventurous in a fairly cheap and easy way.

  28. Agree agree agree. I’m happy to let my son have fish and chips as a treat now and then. He loves it, it keeps him quiet and it’s a TREAT. He knows it too and gets really excited about the whole thing. But totally agree that the endless chips, chips, chips on kids menus does get annoying. I also agree that all kids menus are exactly the same. It wouldn’t be so bad if the chicken was fresh grilled chicken skewers or something, but deep fried mashed up bits of not-quite-chicken – urgh.
    And what I don’t get is that the chefs wouldn’t expect us adults to eat that kind of food every time we went out, so why is it ok to feed it to our kids?

  29. Agree with everything. I run a local school canteen (in the highlands) that has gone totally radical and only serves home cooked food. Apart from a few icecreams, everything the students eat is cooked by myself and volunteer parents and the food is delicious (if I may say so myself!). Our oat/choc chip cookies are made with local belgian chocolate, we have choc/beetroot muffins (they know there is beetroot and still go for them), pizza is made from scratch on the day with home made passata full of veges. The thai chicken burger is full of herbs and spices, and our beef burger is made with chuck steak mince. Sausage rolls are made with pork and veal mince and loads of veg and herbs. Today, because the weather is rather revolting, we have fresh chicken and vege soup on the menu for recess. I know the students can taste the difference because they tell us.
    When we started and old supplier said it would never work as the kids would not like the lack of packaged food, but not only have we been successful, but we are making more money than the canteen has ever made which will be returned to the school. The parents like it because it is good for their children and therefore order more frequently, and the kids like it because it tastes great. Funnily enough, home cooked food is cheaper to produce than the packaged stuff, something so many cafes and restaurants forget.

    • Sounds great Justine! Our little local primary school has a smaller version of that (one parent is rostered on per fortnight and they choose something to offer that they make at home like soup, or pasta/risotto and the kids love it). I can’t wait for my turn to put something together for the kids that is healthy AND delicious. It’s not hard!

  30. There really is nothing more insulting.

    I take pride in what I cook for Max, & live in fear of what the pub counter meals have to offer him later down the track.

    To be honest, I think I would just bring my own meal for him.

    I have heard that there are some incredible places for kids in Melbourne.

    When it comes to my turn, I plan to do some serious research ;)

    Well written!

  31. Great post! Im sure Burger rings are part of the 5 food groups!! Little Bit declared the other day she was over the kids menu and shared a tapas plate with me,olives, goats feta, fresh sardines, cherizo and marinated chook…had to fight to get some off the plate :0

  32. Excellent points and well made. We don’t go out as often as we used to, and then rarely to anywhere with a separate ‘kids menu’. When we do eat out the kids generally eat what we eat. I agree that the Asian options are often easiest – dumplings, noodles, yum cha, sushi, chicken rice… The local Italian joint has home made gnocchi which is pretty good. Other ideas for kids’ menus I’d like to add – vegie fried rice, home made baked beans (cheap and not hard to make)

  33. Couldn’t agree more lady, when you’re on the road, it’s a stress and a half trying to work out where to go for meals. Dinners I find the hardest, because precisely what you say here, it is ALWAYS the same old shit and they’ve kind of got you by the balls because you need to feed your children. When we were away recently, we ended up letting the kid’s share ours, or just buying an extra normal meal and letting them share that. I kind of understand the places where it’s kids eat free, but many of these joints are charging almost as much as an entree sized serving of an adult’s meal anyway. What the?? I like the sound of your kid’s menu, my two would devour it ;o) xo

  34. Its the same thing here in the States. Same menu of deep fried junk. My husband runs a pub here in Seattle and one of their best sellers is a “kids plate”. It has rolled up meats and various cheese triangles, mandarin oranges, sliced olives, cucumbers and dressing, and is served with pita bread. So much better than fish and chips. (especially better for me since I am the one usually eating toddler leftovers.)

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