Can healthy kids’ menus also be fun and interesting?
Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Richard, executive chef of Downtown Disney’s Portobello Trattoria in Walt Disney World. Portobello and its sister restaurants, Fulton’s Crab House and Wolfgang Puck Cafe, have debuted some brand new children’s menus that aim for healthy as well as fun.
Since healthier — and more grown-up — kids’ eats is a growing trend among Disney-area restaurants (for example, check out the kids’ menu at the new Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom), I was interested to hear all the new menus and the impetus behind them.
Portobello continues to offer freshly-prepared rustic Italian fare, with an emphasis on slow cooking and local ingredients. And the family-friendly atmosphere provides a cozy-yet-refined alternative where families with children can relax.
Though I’ve seen some negative reviews for Portobello, my experiences here have pretty positive. And the new kids’ menu focuses on freshness and whole foods, without sacrificing kid pleasers, like pizza.
It seems that choice really was the driving motivation for the recent updates to the menus at all three restaurants. “We wanted to offer choices,” said Chef Steve. “People are on vacation and they might be inclined to be indulgent. With all the menus, we feel it’s important to offer healthy choices as well.”
The choices emphasize a balance between indulgence and smarter eating. “We think the best approach is to offer healthy meals for kids as well as something that mimics the adult dining experience,” he explained.
“We are trying to offer things that are indulgent, like the option to have an ice cream sundae made with locally-made gelato at Portobello. But then we also have grilled meats and fresh fruits, as opposed to things we normally see on children’s menus.”
Chef Steve and his team have also included fresher choices for beverages, like 100% juice options and low-fat milk.
Fulton’s Crab House
Fulton’s Crab House has retained many of their classic dishes, while offering a new flair featuring sustainably and responsibly harvested seafood.
They continue the emphasis on fresh and healthy on the new kids’ menu. Some of the newer options available for smaller diners include fresh fish of the day served with corn and chicken tenders that are grilled, rather than fried. They also offer a sautéed shrimp pasta and fresh veggies and fruits as sides.
Wolfgang Puck Cafe
The upbeat and colorful atmosphere at Wolfgang Puck Cafe offers a terrific option for parents and kids who enjoy an exciting, somewhat sophisticated dining experience.
Puck’s continues to offer a unique California-Pan Asian menu, and has extended that influence to the kid’s menu as well. While Puck’s offers some grilled fare for kids, they also offer a fun and unique option for the small fry: kid’s “sushi”.
You’ll find delicious pizza here as well.
But Will Kids on Vacation Really Eat Healthy Food?
As we all know, getting kids to eat healthy food — especially on vacation — can sometimes prove to be challenging. I asked the Chef about the often-chosen route to avoid restaurants that offer “mature” kids’ menus, which may not have the staples their children want.
Chef Steve stressed that a combination of healthier options, together with more traditional “kids’ fare,” was the goal of Levy Restaurants. “Certainly there are kids out there who might not find grilled fish all that appealing. So we’ve kept the things that are traditionally associated with children’s menus,” explained Chef Steve.
“There are still hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, and chicken nuggets. Pizzas are great at Portobello and Wolfgang Puck. The reality is, kids eat pizza. Right now, it wouldn’t make sense for us to take pizza off the menu. We don’t have any intention to take them off.”
As he sees it, Portobello, Fulton’s Crab House, and Wolfgang Puck Cafe offer good variety and fine dining in a family-friendly atmosphere, with an emphasis excellent quality. “This is the kind of cooking that you don’t see in every restaurant, and we’re committed to making the food a focus.”
What do you think of the healthier menu options? Weigh in below!