Becoming a parent doesn’t have to mean the end of going out for beer and pizza. You just need to find a place where the kids are welcome. And more importantly, where they can have just as much fun as you can.
Welcome to Chatterbox Pub (4501 France Avenue South, Linden Hills). Admittedly, the name evokes Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon, and the menu is far from that of a neighborhood dive. The pizzas and burgers are gourmet, not from a freezer in the back, and they’re joined by a similar range of soups, salads and sandwiches. There are also plenty of options for something a little stronger, with a boutique wine list and a selection of micro-brewed beers.
Of course, that last part isn’t what will interest grade-school children, unless they go to a pretty tough grade school. Yes, there is a kids’ menu, but it’s not the food on it that impresses; I always say that any restaurant with an extensive kids’ menu doesn’t know kids. No, it’s the games.
When you walk in the door, the tall cabinet on your right turns out to store a collection of classic and newer games, from Battleship to Yahtzee. What better way to pass those potentially fraught minutes spent waiting for your order to arrive than a few rounds of Connect Four?
Okay, maybe a video game. In among the booths and tables are a few couches set up in front of two TVs hooked up to old Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and even Atari 2600 machines. If you’re tired of your kids thumping you at Super Mario Whatever 2011 at home, give them a little history lesson with classic Donkey Kong.
While there are plenty of board games to go around, timing is important if you’re planning on a video game outing. Avoiding the lunch and dinner rushes are your best chance to go right to a console instead of a waiting list. Head right over after work a weeknight and you should be fine. Also, if you’re within walking distance, take advantage of that fact rather than braving the tiny parking lot that also serves the other establishments in this packed strip mall.
But don’t let the location scare you off. Once inside, the atmosphere is funky and friendly. One or more of the plasma screens is even likely to be tuned to a kids’ channel like Nick or Noggin. And if it’s not, they’ll probably be happy to oblige.
Chatterbox also has locations in Midtown Minneapolis and Highland St. Paul, but the Linden Hills spot stands out as the best of the three to bring kids. For families who can’t decide whether to make it Game Night or a Night Out, the Linden Hills Chatterbox Pub offers the option of a Game Night Out.