K is for Kids
Friendly Farm · Hacienda Mexican Restaurant · Fuddruckers · Overlea Diner · Funk's Democratic Coffee House and Bistro · Mount Vernon Stable and Saloon
It's hardly Bawlmer, but it's worth the 35-minute drive to Friendly Farm (17434 Foreston Road, Upperco,  239-7400), a long, unadorned shed where portions the size and shape of the region's rolling hills help the family get in touch with its agrarian roots. For $5.95, the kids get heapin' helpings of either roast beef, chicken, shrimp, ham, pork chops, flounder, or oysters (kids eat oysters?), plus dibs on the bowls of "family-style" fries, cole slaw, apple butter, rolls, and pickled beets. Since the Farm is usually packed with up to 175 yakking people, kids don't have to bite their tongues like at those stuffier places, and when they're full they can enjoy visiting the Canada geese and domestic ducks that waddle around the grounds' three ponds.
If it weren't so groovy for adult lovers of kitschy cheesiness (or is that cheesy kitschiness?), Hacienda Mexican Restaurant (4840 Belair Road,  488-9447) could easily carve out an existence as a haven for kids. After all, the walls--with their sombreros, loud mosaic motifs, pepper-shaped lights, and recently added murals--scream overstimulation. The crayons and coloring paper allow the children to, er, focus. And the food--either the nachos, the taco platter, or the chicken fingers and quesadillas (all of which come with fries)--is almost strictly kids' stuff, and, at $2.99 per item, easy on the big folks (as is the long margarita list). Fried ice cream will guarantee that the kids will bounce off the walls when they get home too.
After touring the National Aquarium with the small fry, believe us--you and the kids will need nourishment. You'll find it nearby at Fuddruckers (125 Market Place,  625-0995). The bright and shiny burger palace offers a nice selection of edibles on its very affordable kids' menu--hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, and grilled-cheese sandwiches. The menu for grown-ups isn't bad, either, if you're into meat on buns. But the real thrill is the dessert menu--after downing a thick, frosty Fuddruckers milk shake or the marvalicious brownie sundae, the wee ones will be plenty pumped for a hike over to the Maryland Science Center. When the kids are bored in the 'burbs, there's a second outlet in Pikesville (1700 Reisterstown Road,  653-7750).
There's nothing special about Overlea Diner (6652 Belair Road,  254-8356), and that's precisely why kids (ours, at least) love the place. Oh, there's some nicely shaped metalwork on the walls and waitresses that call you "Hon," but for no-frills young eaters, it's the Overlea's directness that counts--even if the place doesn't officially have a kids' menu. Huge, delicately battered chicken tenders qualify as a hit, as do the freshly made quarter-pound burger and the Coney Island dog. Large portions ensure that even overgrown kids walk away from their booth full.
What? A coffeehouse a good place for children? It is if it's Funk's Democratic Coffee House and Bistro (1818 Eastern Ave.,  276-3865). Our kids are enthralled by this Fells Point joint. Our preteen loves the humongous mugs of cocoa. The toddler loves munching on brown rice and staring at the eclectically diverse crowd of working Joes and Janes, multipierced art students, and business types who drop in for lunch or coffee. Both love the Baltimore-kitsch-meets-elementary-school-classroom atmosphere. And where else can you nosh on tasty vegan cuisine and play Clue?
Don't get us wrong: Mount Vernon Stable and Saloon (909 N. Charles St.,  685-7427) is primarily populated with adults, and rightfully so. With two bars and a diverse menu of items ranging from racks of ribs to Tex-Mex specialties to the sinful onion loaf, it's a fine place for grown-up fun. But we love taking kids there. For all the adult ambiance, the Stable makes the junior set feel right at home. High chairs are quickly and cheerfully provided. Paper menus and crayons keep the little ones gainfully occupied. And the wait staff showers attention on them--blowing up balloons, telling kid-friendly jokes--which allows the adults in the party to relax and enjoy the meal too.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201