The Best in Kids’ Menu Design

With the end of 2009 only a few days away, I thought I’d create my own “best of” list. No, I’m not going to play music critic, movie buff or literary snob. Instead, I thought I’d concentrate on a topic that I can claim at least a hint of expertise in: restaurant menus for kids! After all, with a 3-year old daughter living in the house (not to mention a couple of busy parents) I’ve had more than my share of experience with kids menus of all shapes, sizes and colors.

So what are the parameters for making my list? I’ll admit it’s a pretty simple formula: first and foremost, a kids’ menu must be more entertaining than flicking a straw or tossing sugar packets across the table. If it can’t accomplish this simple goal, than it’s going to be a long, difficult meal. After that, it’s pretty subjective: I simply like menus that are unique and leverage a restaurant’s brand. So with that, here’s my list for the Top Five kids’ menus based on my fine dining experiences in the past year:

Number Five: The Slidebar Rock ‘N Roll Cafe

With a kids menu designed by a local tattoo parlor, it’s easy to see why the Slidebar (located in Fullerton, CA) is a favorite of hipster parents in the O.C. Talk about nailing the brand with a kids menu!  My only recommendation: I’d really like to see some kids activities on the back page.

Slidebar kids menu

Number Four: California Pizza Kitchen

One of my pet peeves with kids menus is small type and  puzzles that are dwarfed by your average crayon stroke. The CPKids menu does it right with eight colorful pages filled with large graphics, big fonts and fun puzzles made for big crayons.

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Number Three: Ruby’s Diner

Ask for a kids menu at Ruby’s Diner and you’ll be given a large piece of cardboard with instructions for building a toy plane. Although a little intimidating at first, the plane wasn’t too difficult to put together. The best part: the whole family was involved in the process.

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Number Two: Corner Bakery

The “neighborhood” theme of this menu made me nostalgic for old school shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. It’s a great lesson in community and goes a long way in helping extend the Corner Bakery brand as community-minded. The menu is filled with age appropriate puzzles and a graphic style that sure to appeal to kids. This is simply kid-friendly design done very well.

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Number One: Claim Jumper

Who says eating out can’t be educational? The Claim Jumper menu is loaded with historical facts and puzzles that teach kids about life as a prospector in the 1800s. Featuring eight pages of kid-friendly content, this menu goes a long way in keeping kids entertained at the dinner table.  It’s just one of the many reasons this restaurant was named one of the 10 Best Family Restaurant Chains by Parents Magazine.

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And that’s it for the First Annual Kids Menu Top Five. If you know of a restaurant with a unique kids menu, let me know, or better yet, send it to the Subcat office. I’ll be sure to consider it in next year’s roundup.

(And just for the record, I didn’t receive any comped meals or other type of compensation at these restaurants. They’re just places I visited because I was hungry.)

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