Okay, guys. Brace yourself. This is big.
Or, rather, not so big. More like kid-sized -- but amazing.
I have recently discovered that even if you are, in fact, 29 years old, you can be a kid again and order from the kids menu at a restaurant.
This changes absolutely everything. Here is what I have learned.
Reasons to order from the kids menu
- The food is obviously better than the regular menu.
- No more "I can't eat at this restaurant because the food is too fancy for me!"
- Cheaper. Most of the time, it's under $5.
- Usually comes with apple slices or grapes.
- Always -- not usually, but always -- comes with chocolate milk.
It all started a few months ago, at L. Woods, a restaurant I visit often because it's in a good location, but a place where the only menu item I enjoy is a flatbread pizza. This flatbread is so flat that it always feels like I'm eating nothing but air -- which is fun, but not filling.
"One of these days, I'm just going to ask for the kids menu!" I said to a colleague in her 50s.
"Waitress, we'll take a kids menu!" she yelled, hands in the air.
Even though the kids menu said that it was for kids ages 10 and under and not for "jealous" adults, I asked the waitress very nicely if I could possibly order something from the kids menu. She agreed, I ordered, and my 50-year-old colleague said she'd have the same. Minutes later, out came a delicious meal of grilled cheese, French fries, and a bowl of grapes plucked from their stems. This is what heaven looks like.
Since then, I've been on a quest to learn more about kids menus. This is what I've learned so far.
So far, Potbelly has been the least impressive kids menu. I enjoyed a delicious mini version of the PB and J sandwich (it was like a finger sandwich at a tea party!) for under $4, but it did not come with ANY side dishes. Come on, Potbelly, what about my balanced meal? I'm a growing girl!
Slightly outranking Potbelly is Panera. I ordered a grilled cheese that came with a choice of apple, baguette, or yogurt. This didn't impress me because all meals come with a choice of apple, baguette, or chips, so this didn't make me feel special or kid-like.
My friend, who is around my mom's age, got excited and ordered a kids Greek salad along with a side of apple. It was good, but this is pretty inauthentic. I mean, seriously, what kid orders a Greek salad?
I very much enjoyed my kids meal at Subway. It sadly does not come with one of their amazing cookies, and you don't have a choice of bread (just white or wheat), but you get a mini sub (if a 6-in. is their small sub, this must be a 3-in.) plus apple slices and chocolate milk.
Ahh, Chipotle. I didn't even think there was anything I could eat here until I learned about their secret kids menu. If you're a kid at Chipotle -- or just an adult who asks for the kids menu really nicely -- you get two cheese quesadillas, two or three sides (I got different answers depending on the location), either grapes or chips (depending on the location), and, of course, chocolate milk. At the time of this picture, I enjoyed the quesadillas with rice, grilled vegetables, grapes, and chocolate milk. I do not understand why this place does not have a Michelin star!
The winner of my kids menu research is definitely Culver's. It's hard for me to imagine any kind of competition that Culver's would lose, because I'm so in love with their frozen custard, but I'd say this is pretty fair.
On the Culver's kids menu, while taking a break from a long drive from Chicago to Minneapolis, I enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich, applesauce, chocolate milk and a scoop of vanilla custard. And I'm pretty sure that they gave me back my change from a $5 bill. The custard there is so delicious but it's even more delicious after you know that you've earned it -- you've eaten your protein (cheese in the sandwich), fruit (applesauce), and calcium (chocolate milk), so there's really no guilt.
I challenge all of you to go out there and see which places have the best kids menus. You'll save money, eat healthier, and you'll feel like you did in the good ol' days.
I'm hungry … I wonder what they serve to kids at Alinea!