Brunch, family-style, at Sellwood’s Pied Piper Play Cafe.
When you have three children under the age of 5 — or one child under the age of 5, for that matter — going out to eat can be overwhelming, not unlike carrying an infant onto a packed red-eye cross country flight.
Not so at the Pied Piper Play Cafe, the newest in a recent slate of play cafes that have opened in the Portland area over the past few years. This is a place designed by parents for parents of small children, and every detail of it — from the seating overlooking the large, clean play area to the baskets of wipes and diapers in the changing room — makes parents (and their children) feel welcome.
My family headed out to Pied Piper on a rainy Sunday morning right at the 8 a.m. opening, and we were able to enjoy some relatively quiet time in the play area as we waited for our breakfast. The area was clean and filled with playthings that appealed to all of my children. The oldest (age 4) was most taken with the large play structure; the middle (age 2) by whatever the oldest was doing, as well as the trains; and the youngest (almost 1) by a ball, toy guitar and my knees.
The kids worked up an appetite as they played, and everyone was ready to dig into breakfast when it arrived about 20 minutes later. My husband ordered the breakfast panino ($6.50), a yummy blend of eggs, cheese, veggies and meat that was perfectly grilled. My oldest had the breakfast sandwich ($5.50), egg and cheese with his choice of meat on his choice of bread. My daughter went with a yogurt parfait ($3) and a muffin ($2), and the youngest had scrambled egg ($2) and toast ($1.50). I also had the yogurt parfait, a delicious blend of sweet fruit and tangy yogurt that comes with the granola on the side.
Although it seemed like quite a lot of food when we ordered, there was not a crumb left on the table by the end of our meal.
(Although truth be told there were quite a few crumbs on the floor, which the owner kindly and promptly cleaned up without a lick of judgment.) And most important for tired parents, the coffee was delicious. The lattes my husband and I ordered ($3.25) were smooth and strong with the perfect blend of coffee to milk. That Happy Cup coffee is good stuff!
Pro tips: The play area is least crowded before 9:30 a.m. and after 2 p.m., so if your kids get a bit anxious around crowds, best to go early or late. Socks are required to play in the play area. Finally, there can be a bit of a wait for the food given the lean staffing, so a small pre-snack might be in order.
Pied Piper Play Cafe is located at 8609 SE 17th Ave, Portland OR.
Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. piedpiperplaycafe.com.
Portland is full of great places to take the small fry for the most important meal of the day. Here are a few more of our favorites.
Liz’s Creative Cafe: This new addition to the Milwaukie cafe scene features a large playspace with plenty of room for parents to observe while enjoying a latte. Your kids will go crazy for the blueberry pancakes ($3) and you can enjoy some of the made-from-scratch baked goods. lizredesigned.com
Poa Cafe: This snug, sunny cafe in NoPo has one of the most thoughtfully designed play spaces we’ve ever seen. And the breakfast is top notch — try the mashed avocado on whole grain toast, served with two eggs and a pile of fresh greens. ($12). Oatmeal with cinnamon and maple syrup for the kids is just $2. poacafe.com.
JoLa Cafe: An under-the-radar neighborhood spot, tucked into the Johns Landing neighborhood in Southwest Portland. The small play area has some nice books to choose from, and the food is delicious. Kids will dig the nutella-banana panini — made with Jacobsen’s sea salt, no less — and we’re fans of the simple ham-and-cheese breakfast sammy. The coffee’s top-notch, too. jolacafe.com.
photos by Ali Wilkinson
Pied Piper Play Cafe boasts a full menu.
A pre-eating photo was impossible with all this deliciousness.
Building up an appetite.