Mexican restaurants may be nirvana for parents dining with young children. The dining experience can be summed up simply: margaritas (or other strong, tequila-based beverages) for the moms and dads and tortilla chips for the kids. Lucky for us, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area boasts a number of such family-friendly establishments, and our recent dinner at Cocina Del Barrio in the 50th and France shopping district proved that there’s room for everyone — date-night couples, bachelorette gatherings, and the toddler and preschooler crowd — at this Mexican restaurant with cosmopolitan flair.
Though with an adult-only party I prefer Cocina Del Barrio’s rustic red front-of-the-house bar, the long dining area near the kitchen was a perfect fit for our family of four. Not only is there ample room between the round tables for diners to maneuver, but the view of the kitchen provides entertainment to a generation raised watching the Food Network with their parents. “Mom, that man is wearing a Twins hat!” my 4-year-old excitedly observed as we waited for our food. (Nothing ingratiates a line cook to a baseball-loving boy more than seeing him share his love of a favorite team.) The waiter also became a rock star, at least in this mom’s eyes, when, noticing I had moved the knife away from my 1-year-old, he quickly removed it from the table altogether.
Despite eating avocado since infanthood, neither of my kids would eat guacamole… until we ate at Cocina del Barrio. The chunky guac featured slices of jalapeño resting lightly on top of the mixture, making it easy to push away from young dippers and add to your scoop. We literally scraped every bit of guac from the molcajete, even requiring a second basket of tortilla chips, which, by the way, will set you back an extra $1. (Hint to the waiters: Please mention that to your table when you ask if we want more chips. Knowing about the charge wouldn’t have made me say no, but I prefer not to be surprised when I get the bill.)
A reasonably priced kids’ menu — all dishes are $5 — makes you feel less guilty about your second $9 margarita, and there are no chicken nuggets to be found. Instead, choices like chicken tacos and a black bean and cheese burrito seem relatively healthy compared to the usual kids-menu selections, and if your kids demand soda, at least here they’ll get Mexican Coke or Jarritos made with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. But if you order the cheese quesadilla, inspect the contents before handing it over to your hungry kid. Ours was filled with chicken and chiles instead of cheese, and that didn’t make for a happy toddler — he’s still working on handling heat.
With other kid-friendly restaurants like Edina Grill and Salut nearby, Cocina Del Barrio offers another tempting option for families visiting 50th and France. And if the kids don’t sit still, you can threaten to skip the post-meal trip to Sweet Retreat or Edina Creamery across the street. That’s enough of a warning to get many adults to behave themselves, too.
Cocina Del Barrio, 5036 France Ave S, Edina, MN 55424; 952.920.1860