Dining out is more than just nourishment that saves you from chopping onions and doing dishes; it’s an experience - an opportunity for everyone to try something new, expose your kids to new food cultures and different types of cuisine, while forcing the family to sit together around the table, free of the distractions of home. There are some restaurants that immediately come to mind when you think ‘family-friendly.’Here are some you may not have considered where you can eat well and experience something new, with the whole family.
1. Sidewalk Citizen. Located in the newly-renovated Simmons Building in the East Village, Sidewalk Citizen is more than just one of the best bakeries in town; they offer some of the best sandwiches, pizzas, soups, salads and stews in the city, with daily specials. With counter service and a casual seating area overlooking the river, it’s perfect for stopping in with the kids when you need something to nibble right away. Sidewalk Citizen is located in the Simmons Building, 618 Confluence Way SE; phone: 403-457-2245; website: sidewalkcitizenbakery.com; Twitter: @sidewalksunny.
2. Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse. It’s a whole new kind of dining experience at Pampa, based on traditional Brazilian barbecue. Besides the extensive (and impressive) salad bar, (which kids tend to love), their gauchos provide continuous tableside service, carving 11 types of cuts of beef, pork, poultry and lamb directly onto your plate. It’s all you care to eat - everyone is provided with a small tag that’s red on one side, green on the other, signaling ‘more please’ or ‘enough-stop!’ Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse is located at 521, 10 Avenue SW; phone: 587-354-3441; website: pampasteakhouse.com; Twitter: @eatPampaYYC.
3. Boxwood. For those nervous about bringing kids to the River Café, Boxwood is a casual alternative, owned by the same people who value simple, well-prepared food by local producers. Its location in Memorial Park means kids can run off some energy before or after, you can check out the fountains and peruse books in the city’s oldest library. Boxwood is located at 340, 13 Avenue SW; phone: 403-265-4006; website: boxwoodcafe.ca; Twitter: @boxwoodcalgary.
4. Without Papers (WOP). Most kids love pizza. At WOP, it’s done well, and you can order some of Angelo’s famous meatballs to start. One of the most appealing parts of the Without Papers experience is the films they project onto both walls (so you have a good view wherever you sit). Sometimes it’s kids movies, more often they’re cult classics - but it’s always interesting. Without Papers is located upstairs at 1216, 9 Avenue SE; phone: 403-457-1154; website: wopizza.ca; Twitter: @wopizza.
5. Cibo. At Cibo, pizzas, pastas and scodellina are designed to share - perfect for family dining. On weekdays from 3 to 5pm, it’s pizza happy hour - you can go after school for $5 pizzas - and the kids’ menu was actually designed by kids, and contains pint-sized versions of the same food as the regular menu, not a separate list of frozen burgers and chicken nuggets. Cibo is located at 1012, 17 Avenue SW; phone: 403-984-4755; website: cibocalgary.com; Twitter: @CiboCalgary.
Julie is a food editor, a best-selling cookbook author, food writer, cooking instructor, and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio. For more information, visit dinnerwithjulie.com. And be sure to check out her and Elizabeth Chorney-Booth’s website, rollingspoon.com, or on Twitter, @RollingSpoon, exploring their mutual love of music and food.
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