Family-friendly dining in Calgary

My husband and I have always avoided taking our children out for meals at restaurants. Frankly, an eternity can pass between placing the order and the arrival of the food, and the experience can go off the rails faster than you can whip out an iPhone for entertainment. Why pay for good food we won’t enjoy when we can eat passable fare at home in relative peace? (That’s our rationale, anyway.)

I remember eating brunch at Humpty’s on New Year’s Day one year. Bennett, then just a newborn, was supposed to sleep in his carseat. Instead he woke up and I had to nurse him right when my French toast arrived. By the time I got to it, it was cold and rubbery and I just scarfed it down, all while he bawled. Another time at King’s Bennett threw a fit when the food finally showed up because we took the iPhone away. He screamed and cried and refused to eat (cue the rest of us inhaling wor wontons while avoiding eye contact with the other diners).

Now we pretty much only take the kids out for dim sum at the Regency Palace in Chinatown. It’s loud, it’s crowded and chances are there will be another baby or toddler screaming louder than our kids. Since the food comes by on carts at approximately three-minute intervals, we can start eating immediately without having to wait. As a bonus, Avery and Bennett love sticky rice.

The rice is so sticky, it sometimes gets in your hair.

Not quite ready for chopsticks.

 At the entrance there’s also a fish pond filled with koi. You can buy koi food for $1 and watch the fish (which may actually be carp, come to think of it) fight over the little pellets. It’s so entertaining, there’s no need to bring crayons or hand-held electronic distractions.

Let's hope these giant fish aren't being farmed to make koi dumplings!

Plus, there are fortune cookies for dessert! But just in case we get sick of tripe and pig’s feet (kidding! We stick to the rice, pork buns and shrimp dumplings), I polled Calgary moms for other kid-friendly Calgary restaurants, below. A couple moms recommended places such as Notable and Belgo, but we’re a ways away from a fine dining experience just yet. And I can’t imagine spending $12 on the Belgo Poutine & Sausage for my son to take one bite and say, “No, I don’t like it.” Sigh.

  • Stick to “chain-type” restaurants and you’ll be gold. One mom of two active boys swears by the Olive Garden, East Side Marios, Boston Pizza, Montanas, the Old Spaghetti Factory and Milestones.
  •  The Danish-Canadian Club is great for brunch on Saturday mornings, says another mom with two school-age boys. “There are always lots of kids there, and we all enjoy it.”
  • Little Chef in the Strathcona shopping plaza serves up burgers, sandwiches and meat pies.
  • Without Papers Pizza in Inglewood plays kids movies on Saturday afternoons. What kid doesn’t like pizza and movies?
  • And everyone agrees you can’t go wrong with Chinese food, or anywhere in Chinatown, such as the Silver Dragon.

But no matter where you go, remember to bring distractions in the form of crayons and colouring books as many places do not offer these items. For those restos without a kid’s menu, order off the appy list or just a bowl of soup. And if your kid starts screaming, “just eat faster.”

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