I have often wondered why, in a society of parents who are wait-listing their barely conceived children at private schools and enrolling toddlers in immersion language schools and advanced tap dancing, that we so neglect the education of the palette. America is fostering a culinary culture unmatched in our history and there is no reason to be ordering your kids mystery nuggets or plain pasta.
Here in Central Oregon we have many, many options beyond over stimulation and bad burgers. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern options have become easy and kid friendly for open-minded parents. The happy hour at Merenda offers all sorts of Northern Italian/Southern French influenced dishes for cut-rate prices. Get there at 4:30pm, sit in the dining room and order off the bar menu. Kebaba has great Lebanese food and a relaxed atmosphere - especially in the summer months. I've yet to meet a kid that won't eat hummus or falafel with a little tzaziki. Demetri's has Greek food in a low-key atmosphere. Try the spanikopita to introduce them to spinach and finish off the meal with the baklava - a kid favorite.
Getting beyond Chinese fried rice is also getting easier and easier. Sumi's Japanese Restaurant is the perfect place to introduce your kids to sushi (they can even choose the ingredients), tofu, and vegetables that you may not commonly serve at home. Tempura, sunomono and moyashi salad are mild and flavorful and beat French fries dipped in ranch dressing any day. Also Sumi's has udon, ramen and yakisoba - basically pasta with different sauce or broth - that are always a hit. Since Thai food has a tendency to have some spice, make sure you order something mild - tom kai gai and paht thai are good bets as well as some of the stir-fry dishes. Toomies and Thai on the Fly are good bets. Soba Noodles is ideal for kids with room to roam and lots of mild noodle and rice dishes to mix it up.
Bottom line: your kids will eat what you eat. If you vary the menu for yourself as well as your kids, you and your children will become healthier and hopefully avert inclusion in those scary obesity statistics. The bonus is an educated culinary palette, and someday your children will thank you. - Laurie J. Rice