Best of 2005: Kids’ Menus Mom Will Like

When it comes to kids' menus, most restaurants think being creative means coming up with a fancy name for chicken nuggets. But a handful of chains have gone beyond the yellow food group--nuggets, fries, macaroni and cheese--to offer meals that appeal to b

Rock Bottom (7900 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda, 301-652-1311; 4238 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, 703-516-7688; rockbottom.com) has all the staples, but it also offers a small steak, chicken strips (grilled or fried), and a Make Your Own Pizza: Kids are given dough, sauce, grated cheese, and pepperoni to design a thin-crust pie. Side choices include steamed broccoli and fruit salad.

Legal Sea Foods (locations in DC, Bethesda, Arlington, and McLean; legalseafoods.com) offers the most ambitious kids' menu, including fresh fruit and vegetables as well as downsized items from its regular menu–grilled fish of the day, baked cod, even lobster. There are cod fish sticks and popcorn shrimp for kids who will eat their fish only fried, and fish-shape cheese ravioli for non-seafood eaters.

Italian restaurants are always safe bets for kids, but Romano's Macaroni Grill (several Maryland and Virginia locations; macaronigrill.com) tosses a bone–or in this case, a vegetable–to nutrition-minded parents by offering a salad or steamed broccoli as a substitute for fries or mac and cheese. Along with the usual kid fare, the menu features a grilled-chicken, broccoli, and pasta plate; meat lasagna; and cheese ravioli. Meals include a beverage and ice cream with chocolate sauce, but you can substitute a bowl of strawberries for the sundae. Hey, we can dream.

Washingtonian staffers contributing to this section were Cristina Abello, Susan Baer, Susan Davidson, Ken DeCell, Rebecca Dreilinger, Kim Isaac Eisler, Mary Clare Fleury, Kimberly Forrest, Brooke Lea Foster, Garrett M. Graff, Cynthia Hacinli, Thomas Head, Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Chad Lorenz, Leslie Milk, Aparna Nancherla, William O'Sullivan, Cindy Rich, and Chris Wilson. Also contributing were Cathy Alter, Ann Cochran, and Matthew Graham.

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