Photograph by Lisa Romerein
Even at L.A.’s more ambitious restaurants, the children’s offerings are often the culinary equivalent of a well-worn SpongeBob DVD—already enjoyed way too many times but popped in yet again to keep Courtney or Eli occupied while their parents sup on something more sophisticated. Searching for the city’s best kids’ menus (for those 12 and younger), we cast aside spaghetti and meatballs, chicken fingers, and hot dogs in favor of dishes that speak to a child’s sense of adventure and help broaden developing palates.
For budding Frank Sinatras or Doris Days, the Smoke House (4420 W. Lakeside Dr., Burbank, 818-845-3731) provides a fitting introduction to the classic Hollywood good life. Kids can opt for an entrée of top sirloin or prime rib or a serving of fried chicken and fries so generous that it could feed a family of four. The same bartenders who prepare Mom’s gin fizz will concoct an eight-ounce Roy Rogers or a virgin piña colada that underage patrons can sip while listening to the smooth stylings of Morris Wade or Irene Cathaway, who often perform in the adjacent lounge.
Open for lunch and early dinner, the Larder at Tavern (11648 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood, 310-806-6464) is alive with the mealtime sights and aromas of a charmed childhood. Inside this combination bakery, provisions shop, and café, no high-fructose corn syrup dare intrude on impressionable tastes. Entrées on the Little Tavernista menu, such as grilled chicken with carrots or Asiago grilled cheese on challah, top out at $12. Desserts range from apple pie à la mode with a cheddar crust to monkey bread cinnamon brioche boules. Although the Larder stops serving at 8, the Little Tavernista menu is available a few steps away, and until 9:30, in Tavern’s dining room.
Home on the Range
With its weathered clapboard and corrugated metal, the decor at Mr. Cecil’s California Ribs (13625 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-905-8400; and additional locations) is part honky-tonk, part Splash Mountain. The cuisine, meanwhile, appeals to the junior cowpoke. Abridged versions of beef, baby back, and St. Louis ribs come with down-home coleslaw, corn bread, or hush puppies and a tall glass of soda, juice, or milk. The complete meal costs no more than $7. For dessert: lemon squares, chocolate mousse cake, or pecan pie.
A Little Schmear
The juvenile bill of fare at the Westside eatery Factor’s famous Deli (9420 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 310-278-9175) is longer than many menus that cater only to the fully grown. In addition to the all-day breakfast selection, kinderlach can indulge in Mandy’s Matzo Ball Soup, Miles & Mikey’s Latkes, and Zeke’s Choice of a Sandwich—pastrami, corned beef, or practically any other cold cut on white, wheat, or rye (don’t worry, everything’s scaled down for young tummies). If you’ve somehow saved room, share the molten chocolate cake.
The chefs at the hibachi house Mori Teppan Grill (120 W. Stocker St., Glendale, 818-548-4227) can make a fiery volcano out of an onion or launch a morsel into a triple back flip with a twist, then catch it on the tip of a spatula. The sizzling results—mixed vegetables, top sirloin, chicken, or shrimp—come with miso soup, salad, steamed rice, and an appetizer on the $9.25 all-inclusive Ninja Menu. Diners who draw a crayon likeness of the ever-present Mr. Mori may find their artwork accepted into the Mori-san student portrait gallery that flanks the restaurant’s entrance.