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.
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.
Bistro and bar in Armatage
5411 Penn Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55419
OWNER / CHEF: Kevin Sheehy / Burke Forster
Tuesday-Thursday 11am-2pm, 5-10pm
Friday 11am-2pm, 5pm-12am
Saturday 9am-2pm, 5pm-12am
Sunday 9am-2pm, 5-9pm
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