When cooler weather is upon us, my daughter and I like to venture to neighborhood parks to spend some time outdoors. Since I like to eat out and she likes to play, I have found that one of the keys to a peaceful meal with kids in tow is finding a restaurant with somewhere nearby for them to run around first before daring to sit down at a table.
A restaurant that fits the bill perfectly is Cafe Park, a five-minute walk from Ebisu Station. Located next to Ebisu Park — a reasonably large neighborhood park by Tokyo standards, with slides, swings and a jungle gym — Cafe Park is the perfect spot to pop in for a quick bite after playing in playground.
With its casual atmosphere and variety of seating options — ranging from low sofas to larger communal tables — it also happens to be a spot I would choose to meet friends who aren’t bringing their kids along. It’s just adult enough without being inaccessible to children.
The cafe filled up quickly after we arrived at 11:30 a.m., and there was only one other table with children. My daughter was in one of her crazy moods, but thankfully there was enough background noise to cover it.
After perusing the lunch menu, we settled on the mini-burger (¥500) from the kid’s menu, and the assorted vegetable plate (¥980) and hayashi rice (beef stew on rice) with roasted tomatoes (¥980) for the adults. As it turns out, the kid’s mini-burger went virtually untouched; the kids ate most of our hayashi rice, and a surprising amount of the vegetable plate.
Despite its uninspiring name, the assorted vegetable plate was packed with flavor. It included red cabbage with walnuts in a light vinaigrette, tangy roasted pumpkin, broccoli with tuna, shredded carrots and stewed sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes seemed to be the biggest hit with our preschool crowd.
The mini-burger was — as you might expect — tasty with no surprises and, along with the kid’s pasta and kid’s pancakes, a good option for less adventurous eaters.
As there is a short flight of stairs to get into the establishment, and the restaurant does not have a changing table, Cafe Park is best suited for children who are walking and old enough to enjoy playing outside in the park next door.
When the kids got antsy, we walked through the park to Caterina Tokyo-Ebisu, one of my favorite artisanal ice-cream shops in Tokyo.
Perched on stools in the cozy shop, we savored salty vanilla ice-cream and honey ice cream (¥420 for a cup or cone with two flavors). Montelimar, a nougat flavor, is also a must for nut lovers.
The artisanal ice-creams at Caterina include seasonal ingredients and are creamy and light without being cloyingly sweet — the perfect way to end any meal.
Caterina is located at 1-12-10 Ebisunishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; open 11 a.m.-9 p.m., closed Wed.; 03-6455-3553; no English menu, no English spoken. For more information, visit www.caterina145.jp.
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