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Kid-Friendly Cafes: Where to go?

It's been a while since I've had a toddler, but now I have one again.  I've been putting together playdates for me & the little guy, but I have come up a little empty with suggestions.  When my other littles were toddlers, there was SohBet, Sydney's, Sip 'n' Kranz.

To be sure, one old standby is Urban Grind NE (we were just there yesterday).  In the past couple of years, they have expanded their kid amenities to include two whole playrooms stock full of toys and room to roam.  It really is great.

What I've found is that the newest generation of bestest in kiddie joints is Posies in North Portland.  They have pastries (even gluten free!), biscuits (on certain days), lots of kids activities like musicians & puppet shows, and a kids' playroom in the back.  I only wish the place was bigger.

There have to be more similar establishments.  But,  where, though?  Where else can you go, find a good space for a toddler to room to explore bit, and play with an in-house stash of toys?


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In the same location as Know thy Food pickup and Daisies & Dinos consignment.

Cafe au Play is a cute little family friendly coffee shop. http://www.cafeauplay.org/ Or there is always Peanut Butter and Ellies, an oldstandby when my some was younger. http://www.peanutbutterellies.com/

My new favorite is Tabor Space, a beautiful and large community space in the church on Belmont and 54th. They have a nicely stocked (and clean!) kids play area.


Peanut butter and ellies closed a couple years ago. We love Cafe Sip and Play in Vancouver.
Also, the back room at The Albina Press is nice on weekdays.

We were just at Old Town Pizza on MLK, and they have a really cute play pizza kitchen that my kids would have loved a few years ago (now they're content with my iPhone).

Cafe au Play on SE 52nd and Division!

cafe au play is rocking!

Papacinno's (sp?) in Woodstock has cozy chairs and a cool little area with blocks and other toys/books for the toddler set.

I agree with Lori. Papaccino's on 44th and SE Woodstock has a great enclosed play area, with chalk walls, and high stools at the coffee bar enclosing the play area so parents can sit and sip while keeping an eye on the kids.

I second Tabor Space! Plus, they have espressooooooooooo! And pastries, too:O)

You should be able to bring your toddler anywhere. I mean just because you have a tot doesn't necessarily mean every place you go MUST have toys and games and climbing structures. There are places for that (museums,community centers,etc). I would rather teach my tot how to behave in public retaurants rather than teach them that every coffee shop or restaurant is their personal playland. :)

Frog Pond Toys & Cafe here in downtown Lake Oswego is out-of-this-world. A must see for all mamas who are looking for some quiet time with great coffee/tea and healthy snacks.

Sellwood Grand Central Bakery has a children room with toys and small table and chairs.

The Warehouse Cafe in Brooklyn is awesome, and they offer kids classes too!

Flying Cat Coffee has a cute kid space in back, with a chalkboard, toys and games. They also have music on Thursdays and Sundays, and very nice/understanding staff!


I still miss Airplay, too. I loved their morning performances, and it was central for so many people. RIP Airplay!

I agree with jln! Kids need to be taught restaurant manners. Bring coloring, wikki sticks, table toys, whatever to keep your child entertained and SITTING at the table!

We love the New Deal Cafe on NE Halsey & NE 53rd. Nice cafe with breakfast and lunch (and breakfast foods served til 4pm!) and good coffee.
Great play space & only a few blocks from Normandale Park with a wonderful playground: http://www.thenewdealcafe.com/

Not sure I agree with XXX & jln - some kids just are not able to sit at the table for long no matter how many toys and how many times you talk with them.

Thanks for all the recommendations! It's great to hear the ideas, especially with bad weather looming, and the need for places to go inside.

Thank you, StumptownMom, for providing another perspective. We work on teaching our kids restaurants manners, but they are -- hello -- 16 months and 3.5 years. It's a long process for them to get there, and sometimes I want to go out and be around other people without having to suffer through the stress of making sure my kids don't disturb other restaurant patrons. When my husband and I want to go out to an actual restraurant, we get a sitter, and everyone is happy!

my 21 month old robot has been programmed to sit quietly with a book while i sip my latte and talk with a girlfriend about the sales going on at h&m. i just don't get why there are cafes catering to bad parents and their out of control children? *laughing hysterically*
oh yeah, back to the point of the post...Urban Grind has been a great little staple for us. i'm looking forward to checking out some of the other places mentioned. it's nice to have a place to go where you aren't glared at by some 20-something hipster when your kid vvvroooms away with a matchbox car.

Eclectic Kitchen on Fremont has a cute play space and gluten-free food as well...

There are a very few things I feel like I have learned through the first 5 years of parenting, and maybe this is only applicable to my kid, but one is that a child is not an adult. You can't expect them to behave the way an adult does. You can't expect them to even perceive situations and options the same way an adult does, let alone react to them in an adult manner. Their brains are not on our planet.

To set them, and ourselves, up for success (or at least a lack of disaster) we have to take this into consideration. For example, choosing cafes where they--and their big voices and short attention spans--are welcome. It's just a recipe for disaster to imagine that you are going to train a 3 or 4 year old child to sit at a table and eat like an adult. (Well, there are lots of adults who are pretty rude, too, but for sake of argument a well-behaved adult.)

All that said, what I don't understand is the continued interest in Urban Grind. Maybe it has changed in the past year and half, but when I was there the children's area was grungy, the toys were dirty, the area was strewn with stuff, and the little carpeted room with nothing in it was kind of creepy. Why is this always top on the list????

Cafe au Play is doing really well, and does give parents a chance to feel completely welcome. Also, Hopworks Urban Brewery on Divsion has an excellent kids area where adults can sit immediately adjacent to it. They can play while you wait for dinner to arrive, or after they've eaten and you still want to stay a bit longer.

Yeah, my first let me off easy. She could sit and color for hours meaning we could go anywhere so I could enjoy some coffee, literature of various kinds, and good conversation. Then the little man came into my life and THANK GOODNESS for play spaces!

Boy, it's gonna be a long winter! Can't wait to check out the recommendations above.

PS wish there was a "like" button:O)

larissa, we go to UG because it has so much open space. So far, all other places that we have ventured out to see have been too small and busy for comfort. Sure, other places tend to have better/cleaner toys but it doesn't do my child any good if he doesn't ever get a turn with them!
btw, good post. i tend to find that when people get on their high horse, talking about how their children sit quietly with their hands on their laps, i tend to pull out the sarcasm and lose my ability to communicate my thoughts respectfully. kudos to you for being more mature ;)

g, ha ha, I am almost never the mature one in any heated conversation. I'm putting this in my diary.

Urban Grind has gotten a little better of late. They got rid of the gross 'toy trough' and it looked like someone had vacuumed in the last week when I was there recently. It is the most convenient of these cafes for me which is why I go there sometimes. My daughter loves it, so it is sometimes a little special thing for her. I'm excited about these other ideas so we can venture out to other places. Ditto on missing Air Play, that place was so wonderful.

Another favorite bad-weather activity is the indoor play park at East Portland CC. Several of the community centers have them and it is very inexpensive. I meet other parent friends there sometimes so I get some adult time while my daughter runs out some energy.

larissa, I agree with you wholeheartedly :) as someone with one child who very literally Can Not Sit Still (he's standing next to me right now rocking, twisting, twirling, and trying to catch fruit flies, all the while talking to himself in a sing-song voice) and another whose behavior I consider excellent if I manage to keep him from standing ON the tables and jumping off them, but on the other hand an eight-year-old who was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad five-year-old (on several occasions i carried him out of a coffee shop slung over my shoulder while he screamed and swore. SEVERAL) but now is near-perfectly behaved in restaurants: no amount of wonderful parenting will make a three-year-old sit still if his body tells him, 'i need to spin!'

we go very few places as a family, and we try to go during the calmer hours. The Warehouse Cafe is our new favorite; the food is fantastic (and modular: the nosh tray is so brilliant b/c you can get just the sorts of things you and your child want/need/can stomach) and I have never, not for a second, felt badly about how I was being judged thanks to my children's behavior. this is truly rare. it's nice that all the owners/employees (including at the connected daisies & dinos shop) are endlessly patient with kids and their parents.

I too love Cafe au Play; it's wonderful that there is so much open safe outdoor space to play. my three-year-old can get his jumping jollies on big rocks and gravel instead of tables and chairs. the inside is good if you have a relatively calm small baby or toddler. it's not great for a loud child, or a wiggler, or multiple-child families (we've usually gone after dropping brothers off at school in the morning). the food options are a little heavy on the sweet/white flour end for me (standard coffee shop fare) and the coffee -- well, i prefer other roasters. but the employees here are wonderful, too, very attentive and patient and good at making soup.

our other favorite these days is the food cart pods that have sprung up everywhere. lots of options for kids with definite opinions about their food, no worries if there is loudness or a little uncontrolled jumping, and if you have a baby on a bike he/she can just stay aboard while you do your transactions or chat about sales at h&m ;).

and you know, you could do worse than burgerville. it's not really the first choice for a hang-out spot, but it's family-friendly, more responsible food than the other fast food joints, and the one on 26th and powell now has little kids' tables with puzzles perfect for two- to four-year-olds.

and People's Co-Op and New Seasons are great places to go if you're just starving and need to get a bite/drink without enduring an unfortunate restaurant experience. plus, no tipping required :)

I don't understand why anyone would have a problem with setting out to have an outing that is enjoyable for both mom & kid. Sure it is good to learn manners, but does every outing have to be so serious?

I'm not sure why I get so irritated when some one chimes in to criticize a thread, but I do. The writer is asking about places to have an indoor playdate. What's not to like about a cafe that has toys? My child LOVES play cafes and yet manages to behave himself at "nicer" establishments; Papa Haydn, Portland Art Museum, La Bottega...to name a few. It's not black or white. Children can be taught etiquette for both places. Don't be so quick to judge.

There is a fairly new coffee shop in my neighborhood called Open Spaces, Holgate and 26th or 28th, it has a pretty good play area and the staff has always been nice, food is so-so but coffee is good. We have been to Cafe au Play and he LOVES it, also the Flying Cat Cafe on division has been good as long as it isn't too crowded, and the New Deal Cafe on Halsey has a great play area and yummy food. I like to get him out to places like this where there is opportunity for socialization for him, he is an only child and is mostly cared for at home. He gets to learn about sharing and playing with others just like he does when we go to an outdoor park, but I get to have a coffee, and not freeze my tushie off. Win-win in my opinion. I don't really see this as a time to teach him restaurant manners, though I do as much as I can to keep him in the play area and not climbing on the tables or throwing food, etc. We save the restaurant lessons for the restaurants.

As long as there are places that want to cater to my demographic, Mom with toddler, I will do my part and use them...Just like when I was a student and found quiet coffee shops with free wi-fi for studying. Different demographic, different spaces.

Open Space on 28th/Holgate is nice, but there isn't really a lot for toddlers there, either. There's a little nook with some books and cardboard tubes, but I still go there a lot since I love the coffee and it's close to my house. I'm glad they added carpet because it used to be pretty gungy.

Hopworks (actually on 31st or so and SE Powell, not Division) is great - good food, good beer and a cool little train table for toddlers. Not really girl-friendly, but I have a boy so I can't say this has been a personal issue.

When I was a nonbreeder, I just stayed away from kid-friendly cafes. Seems like the "no sh**" answer to the "kids don't belong everywhere" attitude. Now I have a kid, and I go to kid-friendly places. If the kids at those cafes are running feral and getting on my nerves, I leave. Obvious solution is obvious. o_O

I second (or maybe third, or forth?!) Tabor Space! Fabulous coffee, too.

I LOVE AnnaBannanas in St. Johns. As a mama of four, I appreciate that there is something for each one: games for the olders, play area for my 5 yo, and space and smiles for the babe. The baristas happily talk to kids like humans, the college kids giggle at the babies, and the locals know them by name.... it really is a community there.

I even had another customer bring me a cup of water as I was nursing because he noticed that I might need one. Another time, as I was listening to my son excitedly tell me about the giant butterfly on the wall, a woman started complaining to me about his voice being too noisy... the owner calmly explained to her that he was in the kids' area and that she would be welcome to move or leave (and not come back!) if she was opposed to the joy of kids' observations.

...now that's where we are happy... to have a fabulous cup of coffee and feel like we're among family.

Our kids love Hop Works, Porque No, Laughing Planet, Mississippi Pizza, Jam on Hawthorne, and Slappy Cakes.

We like to take our son to Eclectic Kitchen on Fremont @ 50th. They have a big play area and Fantastic food. It is comfortable and inviting they serve breakfast all day, and have a good kids menu, especially the snack plate. We would definitely recommend this place

Did anyone mention Play Date PDX in the Pearl?

I love cafes with a play space if we're having a playdate. It is just so much easier for both parties than cleaning the house and then hosting toddlers who are going to unclean it very quickly. Today we tried Breken Kitchen, which is by Childpeace Montessori. It's on NW 16th Street near Thurman, under the Fremont Bridge. Much of the cafe is devoted to people with laptops, who seem to be saving money on actual office space. A man sitting near the play area, who was busy on his laptop and Bluetooth headphones shot me an annoyed look, which I thought was hilarious -- he's sitting right next to the play area. It's not much, a little Ikea kitchen, play tables, books, play food and plastic animals, but the food and coffee were good and the kids were busy.
My secret, or not really a secret now, for a special dinner, is going to any Japanese restaurant with a tatami room. I have been taking my daugher to Restaurant Murata since she was an infant. We have a whole room to ourselves. It's great for crawlers and cruisers. The tables are low, so she doesn't need a high chair. I only suggest this if you go right when the restaurant opens. The restaurant is small. There is also a tatami room at Miho Izakaya on Interstate, which can be used with a reservation. Miho is much more casual. In the summer, the patio is pleasant for everyone. They have a lot of rocks, which are pretty entertaining for the tiny-tot set. Also, The MAX train goes by and the lights of the Alibi across the street flash.
Hadn't heard of Play Date PDX. Checked out the link. How exciting! I think I might have to try it out tomorrow.

This article really helped out, there are a lot of kid friendly cafes. Here is an article from red tricycle about some other kid friendly restaurants in Portland.

Here's another good resource I just stumbled across. Quite comprehensive.


My name is Ken Bareilles and I am a parent, as well as the owner of the Laurelhurst Cafe. My kids are 3 and 6, so being their Dad definitely informed how we designed the space.
We have a small kid area with some Melissa and Doug Toys, as well as some decent kid friendly options. A couple of noteworthy ones are our "Graze Plate" which is custom built for your kid from menu ingredients they eat. Another one I'm proud of is our bottomless cup of whole white milk. We pour a 4 oz portion in a disposable cup with a lid, and your child is free to bring it up to the counter and ask for more.
We have a changing table in the bathroom, which I clean myself, as well as a kids table in our gated patio area.
Best of all, we carry beer and wine, as well as Water Ave Coffee and Steven Smith Tea, so if you're looking for a place to go hands free for about 45 minutes to an hour, I think our place fits the bill quite well.

Please check us out at www.laurelhurstcafe.com

Ken Bareilles

my guy is just getting to crazy toddler age, so i'm just starting to find these places. we have gone to Fleur de Lis cafe and bakery in Hollywood before - the play area is tiny, basically a sofa for a couple of people and a carpet for kids, but kids are welcome.

also, Old Wives' Tales has a play area. Verio in the middle of Ladd's Addition is good for slightly older toddlers up to children -- games and such if you sit next to the windows on the side that's left of the main counter. the espresso machine noise is so loud there, you won't even hear your own children howl!

i totally agree with Heather. children, especially screeching toddlers like the joy of my life, simply do not belong everywhere. the current trend of having all ages and loudnesses in every kind of restaurant at all hours is disrespectful to people who would like to enjoy an adult night out or a decent conversation --- whether they are parents escaping their kids for an hour of peace, nonbreeders who don't want to be forced to have all their meals at 21+ establishments in order to have some peace, and the grieving childless, such as infertile people who cannot be around young children and babies, period, and have to become hermits in order not to weep every time they enter a cafe or grocery store in Portland.

i think there's room for all of us, and room for folks to establish places that are intended for adults.

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