Remember that time before you had kids when going out to eat was fun? You’d talk with your partner, enjoy a relaxing adult beverage and actually get to finish your meal without breaking up a fight or taking a small human to the potty? Well the closest you may get to that restaurant ideal while your children are still preschool age may be the fast casual etc… eatery in Southwest Portland.

My family arrived early on a Saturday evening and checked out the menu of Pacific Northwest-inspired fare. The organization of the menu is a little strange, separated by states (Oregon, Washington and Idaho) instead of appetizers, salads and entrees. But we figured it out easily enough and ordered at the counter.

We had plenty of seating options and found a table that allowed us to keep an eye on the kids as they headed over to the sizable and well-stocked play area. (My husband really liked the old local maps that decorated the table tops; ours depicted the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.) The play area, dubbed The Finntastic Forest, boasted a bounty of kids’ books tucked into cubbies, building blocks, a play kitchen and a creation station stocked by Art ala Carte mobile. My 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter spent most of their time stamping, cutting and stickering with the art supplies. This meant my husband and I could sit and drink our beers ($6) by ourselves while waiting for our food to arrive. Ahhh.

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I tried the Brussels sprouts poutine baked potato with peppered bacon from the Idaho section ($13), and found it cheesy and satisfying. Even my son liked the crispy Brussels sprouts I shared from my plate. My husband went for the etc… eatery dog, loaded with bacon, onion, barbecue sauce and candied jalapeños ($9). I think he was almost done with it by the time I had wrangled the kids back from the play area. In a fit of health-consciousness, we tried to balance everything by splitting a beet and arugula salad ($9), which was tasty, but not superlative. My daughter ordered the kids’ dog ($5), which came sans toppings. She promptly ate most of it so she could go back to the play area. My 3-year-old’s chicken nuggets ($5) were clearly made in house and very good — even if he was in a picky mood and only had a few bites. I do wish that the kids’ meals offered a choice of fruit or vegetable side instead of only the option of potato chips. And I wish that either of my kids had wanted to try the intriguing kids’ menu offering called a “pizzadilla” — a fusion of two of their favorite meals.

After eating, both kids headed back to the play area to finish off their creations. And my husband and I got to relax … again.

6500 SW Virginia Ave. Monday-Friday: 11 am-9 pm, Saturday: 11 am-10 pm, Sunday Brunch: 10 am-3 pm. Etceaterypdx.com.

Neighborhood faves

We love the fresh twists on classic pub fare at Tabor Tavern. Case in point: The kids fish ‘n chips meal comes with a side of minted peas. 5325 E Burnside. Tabortavern.com.

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Old Portland in the best sense, Sckavone’s in Southeast dishes up hearty comfort food for the whole family. Bonus: Complimentary fresh warm scones at brunch. 4100 SE Division. Sckavones.com.

Station Public House offers a well-rounded kids’ menu (kid-sized chicken nachos and pork tacos, yum!), with many choices accompanied by a fruit cup.  2703 NE Alberta. Stationpdx.com.

Denise Castañon
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