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Last weekend while heading home from a weekend medical conference in Canada we exited off the interstate to drive through the Skagit Valley on the country roads. The skies were clear and the valley stunning. The land is so spacious in the valley, stuck between the mountains and the sea, it inspires a feeling of brimmed, fertile opportunity. The moment we exited the highway the drive home immediately felt more of an adventure.

Unsurprising to any parent who drives with children in the car, as I ate up the scenery the boys got hungry. We pulled off the road to grab a late, impromptu lunch. For once we weren’t in a hurry so spontaneity governed as we honed in on a spot where we could sit down and eat while looking over the Puget Sound. The plan was nearly thwarted–as we opened the door to the tiny restaurant just off Chuckanut Drive I immediately saw a sign declaring they didn’t serve children under age 9. Instead of being outraged by the ageism, I asked if we could have lunch. The boys were tucked under my arm. They’re 5 and 7 and clearly look nothing like a near 10 year-old. The restaurant was nearly empty as it was close to 2pm. The waitress smiled.

Turns out we looked like better business than no business and we were seated in the back corner.

Of course because of their no kid policy there was no kid menu. Thrilling! We didn’t even mention the lack of kid’s menu to the boys. But a detour from chicken strips, French fries, pizza, hamburgers, mac and cheese and carrots with ranch dressing is like a quick flight over the Atlantic — foreign. What I find most depressing about kid’s menus (outside of the obvious nutritional deficiencies) is how ugly, bland, fattening and uninteresting a kid’s menu typically is. Think how unexciting the eating part of dining out can be for children who get handed the pint-sized menu.

The boys perused the menu. Our 7 year-old chose the seafood chowder.

It arrived in a huge bowl with clams still in their shells, a colorful array of potatoes, locally caught seafood, broth, and spices. The boys are adventurous eaters so it’s not unusual, really, that they would try something new. But this was:

About halfway through the meal he looked up, unprovoked and unprompted he declared,

This is the most delicious meal I’ve ever eaten.

Imagine if children everywhere had the opportunity to find delicious, inventive, local food they’d never once seen or never eaten before. What if this was the norm when dining out with our children — what if we didn’t have to compete with the horrid kid’s menu. When will America just say no to the kid’s menu?