Cafe Maude in Armatage

Family Hour menu at Cafe Maude in Armitage

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

When I first started writing these “Take the Kids?” stories a couple of years ago, more than a few people told me, “You know where you shouldn’t go? Cafe Maude.” I had never eaten there, but I found it hard to believe that a neighborhood bistro would be so unwelcoming to children. After all, I’ve seen kids eat at restaurants where the cheapest entree is a $40 steak, so why would a cozy cafe be off limits? But after a recent meal there with my two boys, ages 3 and 8 months, I came to understand what those naysayers were thinking. Cafe Maude is definitely not a no-man’s land for the 18 and younger set, but for the noisier and squirmier youngsters, it’s probably not the best choice.

It’s not that Cafe Maude doesn’t try to be accommodating. It has established the 5-6pm hour as “family hour” — though the decal on the cafe door still reads “leisure hour” — and the special menu offers a variety of kid-friendly dishes for $8.50 each. The entrees, ranging from standbys macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese to BBQ ribs and grilled chicken skewers, come with a side of buttered broccoli, milk, and a choice of hot fudge sundae or chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, making them a good value. Family hour also boasts drink specials for Mom and Dad, including $5 glasses of wine, $3 pints, and a $5 featured cocktail of the day. I don’t know any parents who would balk at the offer of a discounted drink.

Interior photo of Cafe Maude in Armitage

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

But with kids as young as mine, dinner was more stressful than satisfying. Though the staff didn’t flinch when we entered the restaurant at 5:03pm, the diners at the other three tables gave us glances that ranged from curious to disdaining. My husband and I both breathed a sigh of relief when another family walked in about 10 minutes later, hoping that the presence of other children would take the spotlight off ours. However, those kids, whose ages ranged from preschooler through elementary school, were able to sit nicely in their booth, while the leisurely pace of service was too long for my younger children to handle without fuss. If we had been there sans kids, I wouldn’t have minded waiting 10 minutes to get our drinks and another 20 minutes to get our entrees, but every minute seemed like a lifetime. A loud burst of babble from the baby generated unpleasant stares. Once we got the food, it was hard to enjoy it because we felt the need to rush through the meal and exit ASAP. When we told the waiter that we’d skip dessert, even though it was included in my 3-year-old’s meal, he looked relieved.

While family hour at Cafe Maude wasn’t that enjoyable for my kin, I wouldn’t discourage other families with older children — or impeccably behaved younger children — to try it. It’s a more sophisticated choice than your typical family restaurant, and $5 wine always goes down easily. But until my boys are older, I’ll only be going for date night or brunch with girlfriends. There’s no point in dining out if you’re too stressed to enjoy the carefully and tastily prepared food.

Cafe Maude
Bistro and bar in Armatage

5411 Penn Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55419
612.822.5411
OWNER / CHEF: Kevin Sheehy / Burke Forster
HOURS:
Monday 5-10pm
Tuesday-Thursday 11am-2pm, 5-10pm
Friday 11am-2pm, 5pm-12am
Saturday 9am-2pm, 5pm-12am
Sunday 9am-2pm, 5-9pm
BAR: Full
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / Yes
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $8-16 for small plates and a la carte items, $18-28 for large plates

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Jill Lewis

The great-granddaughter of an Eastern European Jewish baker, Jill Lewis cannot escape her genetic predisposition to carbs. Her love of baked goods, wine, cheese and chocolate may not come in handy for her day job as a Twin Cities PR professional, but it proves infinitely helpful for her gigs as a contributing writer for The Heavy Table and the co-author of the Cheese and Champagne blog. A former resident of Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin and suburban Washington, D.C., Jill now lives with her husband, two young sons and cat in St. Louis Park.

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23 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review. We try to make a point of taking our four kids (ages 1, 4, 7, 10 now) to a “real” restaurant at least once a month — how else are they going to learn how to behave? — but I’m not interested in places where they will be viewed with disdain!

    The existence of a kids menu or discounted drinks or a so-called “family hour” doesn’t much affect whether we feel out-of-place at a restaurant. Every parent knows (I hope) that “family hour” at any restaurant is early on a weeknight! If you ask me, the factors that make a restaurant really easy to enjoy with several young children are these:

    – some lively background noise to mask little outbursts (unless the children are sensitized to it — mine aren’t).
    – high-backed booths (thank you, Black Sheep Pizza!) or tables tucked into corners
    – unbreakable cups available on request
    – spacious bathrooms with changing tables
    – french fries in some form on the menu (face it, everybody loves french fries)
    – servers who behave as if children are people who might grow up to come there and spend money

    Things that scare me away include
    – tables that are made of slate so that a glass breaks just from being tipped over
    – glass-topped tables — they are LOUD
    – dangly tablecloths that little feet get tangled in
    – tippy chairs
    – layouts where the only tables for parties of six are smack in the middle of the room at giant round tables

    One of the biggest factors is something that successful restaurants probably can’t do much about without altering their customer base, and that has to do with the expectations of the other people who dine there. Every restaurant has a “culture” (it may be different at lunch vs. dinner, or weekday vs. weekends, of course) of the customers who come there and have a certain expectation. Some restaurants, kids just aren’t what the diners expect when they go there. And we’re going to feel it if we walk in and people stare at us. And so, you know, we’re not going to come back. Nothing wrong with that; our money will go where we feel comfortable. There are plenty of restaurants around town who help us feel comfortable, some not what you would expect. Wasabi is one. Muffuletta is another.

  2. From your article, I would guess that your children aren’t badly behaved, they’re just their age. It’s encouraging to see, from what you write, and from the comment above, that there are still parents out there who want their children to learn how to cope in certain environments, not expect the environment to cope with them!

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Miki – yes, that’s pretty accurate. They’re not little monsters, but they are a baby and a 3-year-old, and they do make noise or squirm or act in other age-appropriate ways. That’s why I don’t think Cafe Maude is off-limits for kids, but it’s probably a better fit for older children.

  4. “Leisurely” pace of service is probably being kind from what I’ve experienced. Unless you sit at the bar, which obviously you wouldn’t with kids. But they NEED to hire more help there in my opinion.

  5. During my most recent experience at Cafe Maude, I learned that they are not very pregnant woman friendly. The items with made raw cheese aren’t identified on the menu- you have to ask. One dish was made with ham and it turned out to be deli ham, which surprised me for a fancier place. If you aren’t trying to eat lots of fish and seafood or steak/ duck, you are are left with a burger or some vegetarian risotto. (I’m not even sure if the risotto wasn’t made with raw cheese).

  6. Get a sitter.01/11/2011Reply

    My feeling is that if there is even a shadow of a doubt, people shouldn’t take their kids anywhere nice to eat. Let them discover fine restaurants when they are old enough to appreciate them and behave. Even more, let all the rest of us who don’t want to be around your kids when we are out for a nice dinner enjoy ourselves!!! Other people’s kids have so often disrupted my meals that I do not return to restaurants that encourage families to come, or that families “crash” when they aren’t actually welcome. You know those irritated looks from other tables? They’re justified. Having kids involves many sacrifices, and not having dinners out en masse until they’re older should be one of them. Please get a babysitter and encourage other parents to do the same.

  7. It’s funny: I just took my 3-year-old daughter to Maude’s for the first time during the holidays. We had a decent time there. Her only “annoying” thing was talking to the people in the booth behind us, but they were luckily charmed and not irritated by it. I try to gauge those situations quickly–make sure the people she chats up actually want to talk to kids, and not let her do that when they are just tucking into their meal.

    I also noticed that food came out of the kitchen slowly, but we ordered the fries with truffle fondue first and that helped. I also went for brunch, so that might be a better time of day for the kiddos. They didn’t have a kids menu, but were happy to make a kid portion of whatever, which I actually prefer since I don’t need every meal out to involve chicken fingers, burgers, or grilled cheese sandwiches. I can make those myself!

  8. Jason Walker01/11/2011Reply

    The atmosphere at Maude is oddly quiet anyway. I live nearby but rarely go. Something about the place just rubs me wrong. I guess it’s a combo of oddly behaved servers and jam-packed seating. Although I have taken my son there at least twice and don’t remember anything particularly bad happening regarding service/angry looks.
    Get a sitter, you’re a little jaded, but I understand your point. And as a parent who tries very hard to make sure his kid behaves, it pisses me off, too, when other parents let their kids run wild and ruin others’ meals. The whole guilt-by-association thing. But I’m not going to stop taking my kid to restaurants. Sitters just aren’t that easy to find (or afford).

  9. I don’t have children, but I find it interesting when people complain about how “noisy” kids are. It makes me feel like they believe adult talking/movement is acceptable, but not from younger people. I think if people want peace and quiet – they should eat at home where they can control their environment. Otherwise, people in a public space usually move and talk – you can’t dictate what’s appropriate.

  10. My feeling is that if a restaurant has high chairs and a kids menu they’re OK with having kids.

    As far as the other restaurant customers go there seems to be an understanding that before around 7:00 small children are to be expected. If I have my kid there after that or at a really high-end restaurant than I would understand the scorn. Smarter restaurants will also tend to seat families near one another and a little out of the way which I have no problem with.

    My 2 year old is generally well behaved and not noisy or disruptive. If she starts causing problems one of us takes her out until she calms down.

    I’ve never noticed restaurant patrons seeming irritated by her.

  11. “You know those irritated looks from other tables? They’re justified.”

    If your kid is throwing a tantrum and disrupting the experience of other diners and you do nothing to stop it, then yes, an irritated look is justified. The mere presence of children at a restaurant does not justify these types of reactions, however, especially when you choose to dine at the family-friendly hour of 5:03pm.

    No hard and fast rule is going to work for every family and every restaurant, but my hope is that these articles help parents and other people dining with children take some of the guesswork out of the “should we or shouldn’t we?” discussion when choosing a restaurant.

  12. To “Get a Sitter:” Great; your family would sneer at mine, and so my family sneers at you. I suspect that you and I will not be frequenting the same restaurants at the same hour, since I hate to spend money at places where the diners make me feel unwelcome.

  13. My son is only 7 months old, but I’ve definitely learned that going out to eat is fine, but it has to be at a place where I know we can be in and out in under 45 minutes. And places where you order/pay at a counter are even better.

    There is nothing more frustrating than waiting, whether it be to order or pay, longer than normal when you have a kid with. I understand it’s part of the deal, but every minute counts.

    Also if I notice other tables staring at me and my kid if he is acting up, I’m bringing him over and changing his diaper on your table.

  14. As someone who’s toddlers are now teenagers, I agree with Jill. There are plenty of other choices–these days especially! Mozza Mia seems to be the place loaded with younger kids these days. And Big Bowl is always kid-friendly.

  15. I work in a restaurant and have made it a goal to teach my daughter good eating out habits. She is now 5 years old, but has been in most restaurants in the area. I have always tried to shy away from kids meals, as I want her to seek out other things on the regualr menu, or share along with our meals. It makes me so sad that there are servers and diners out there who would assume we can get a babysitter. Dining out with your children is a wonderful and horrible experience (at times), but I have found my favorites, as I assume most parents have. As a parent, I want my family to be together when we eat. I love servers who understand that, and treat my daughter as a customer too. But I also make sure she is well behaved when we go out, and have left in a rush when I knew she was disrupting others.

  16. As an employee of Cafe Maude, I find it surprising and sad that you would overlook the things we do well (food and adult beverages) and instead choose to discuss us as though we were a family restaurant. We are a bar/restaurant that tries to include children to the best of our abilities – and from the sounds of it, our staff did just that for your family.

    That said, I am sorry you didn’t feel appreciated by the guests around you. We honestly, sincerely try to accomodate families, due to our chef’s love of dining with his own children. If you are interested in giving us a second chance, please feel free to email me and I will do my best to make things right.

  17. As a neighborhood resident and (admittedly childless) regular patron of Cafe Maude, I must say that I rarely see children in the restaurant, even during leisure hour, so I think it’s really nice that they’re making an effort to welcome families. I would take my four year old twin niece and nephew in a heartbeat during family hour. While I might snap my head in reflex to any loud wail (be it child or immature adult), I commend you in taking your children to such a great establishment. Perhaps your own apprehension colors your experience? It would be a shame to discourage others from the place, if your main concern was one of social anxiety.

    Whatever the case, I have never encountered anything but stellar drinks, food, and service at Maude . . . and I am quite certain I’ve behaved like a child on occasion.

  18. Bobby Brown01/11/2011Reply

    Cafe Maude is not a “kids restaurant”. It is surprising that people would bring young children to Maude, with unfounded expectations, and then write a negative review about an excellent restaurant because it did not transform into Applebee’s just for them during their visit.

    It is a shame that this piece denigrates such a fine place to enjoy food and drink based on whether or not it is kid friendly. Not kid friendly does not equate to bad restaurant. In fact, that Maude is an “adult” restaurant is one of its many charms.

    Maude has excellent, always well prepared food and easily the best cocktails in the cities. I love to go there without my kids, and recommend everyone try it that way.

  19. funky racho01/12/2011Reply

    Every time I’ve gone to Cafe Maude, I’ve left tipsy on stellar personal service, awesome food and amazingly prepared drinks.

    Its really great Maude has made an effort to equally please families and what a wonderful place for kids learn new tastes (they can leave the drinking to me) as well as appropriate dining behavior. I hope kids would get taught this along with, I don’t know, the polite way to behave at religious services and at grandma’s house. Makes sense to me.

  20. Seems like some of the later commenters are missing the point of this article: it is part of a series on whether restaurants around town are good places to take one’s kids. It is not a “review” of the restaurant overall.

  21. We’ve taken our two year old to Cafe Maude several times for dinner – no problem. The surroundings aren’t as “kid friendly” as some more casual restaurants but the staff has always been super friendly. As for other guests. . . if you dine at 5pm you have to know that kids will be there.

  22. “While family hour at Cafe Maude wasn’t that enjoyable for my kin, I wouldn’t discourage other families with older children — or impeccably behaved younger children — to try it. It’s a more sophisticated choice than your typical family restaurant, and $5 wine always goes down easily. But until my boys are older, I’ll only be going for date night or brunch with girlfriends.”

    This doesn’t read as negative to me and seems to align with what other patrons are saying – great restaurant, maybe not the best for young children.

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