With the credit card bills on their way, the time is here to ease the holiday hangover by grabbing a drink. But wait, what about those small people who inhabit your house and must accompany you out because you blew the baby-sitting budget on presents? And not so fast, smug anti-breeders, no fair shunning your college friends once they start to reproduce.
We live in a city that fearlessly combines alcohol and children...well, at least if there's more eating than drinking happening at the establishment (the OLCC's rules, not mine). I sacrificed my beer buzz to uncover the best place to grab a pint and relax with the little ones. The criteria were simple: Each eatery needed to feature alcohol and a play area and had to be an adult place that was child-friendly, ruling out places like the kid-centric rumpus room Peanut Butter&Ellie's (which is really good and serves beer, but isn't a place where childless people are likely to meet up to knock back a few). Besides, acting excited about plastic monkeys and wooden blocks is so much easier with beer. Cheers!
OLD WIVES’ TALES
With quilt squares on the walls and vegan food on the menu, this hippified family restaurant on East Burnside has Deschutes and Lagunitas in bottles, as well as several wines. Unfortunately, its playroom is in an unwatchable corner of the restaurant. If you have toddlers in tow, you'll be standing there nursing your Fat Tire ($3.50) with them as they navigate the stairs up to the loftlike play area painted like an underwater wonderland. Older kids (up to second grade) can make believe they're captaining a ship headed straight toward the giant iceberg that is the old 7-Up factory across the street.
Supervision: Older kids need none, but toddlers need to be watched.
Highlights: Loftlike ship with stairs, a back room for the non-kid-friendly folks.
ROGUE ALES PUBLIC HOUSE
With an eau de beer fragrance that smacks you in the face as you enter, televisions in each corner showing sports, and a kids' Lego table stashed next to the fire exit and the vaguely marked restrooms (barley, I believe, refers to women), this Pearl District brewery is the most adult place on the list. While the Lego table is not enclosed, the blocks are enough to keep even the squirreliest youngsters engaged. Rogue serves its own beers (around $5), plus guest taps like Guinness, but where it excels, for my purposes, is with its spirits. Rogue also acts as a distillery, serving its own gin and three types of rum alongside Buffalo wings and burgers. Think of Rogue as a place that's perfect for the sports bar set whose children don't startle when adults raise their fists and scream every time a whistle is blown.
Supervision: Some needed, but plenty of tables within view.
Highlights: Sports-bar feel with touchdown spirits.
This St. Johns cafe is a little dim on a sunny day, but come nighttime the four locally made beers ($3.25-$4.20) on draft—right now Snowcap and Terminal Gravity's Triple are flowing, while a rotating IPA and Panty Dropper are standard—and a castle play-area are where it's at for North Portland parents. The play area is walled in with books and toys for boys and girls, and a healthy selection of board games for adults. Anna's is primarily a cafe, so if you're a single person stuck with the kiddies, this might not be the place to schmooze the hot chick with the suds. But, for people who just need to sit on a couch other than their own and drink, Anna Bannanas does quite nicely.
Supervision: Little, though indoor voices are encouraged.
Highlights: Enclosed train tracks, solo patrons staring at laptops.
Tucked right next to the Pearl's Jamison Square, Sip and Kranz has a glassed-in play area. If you've never hung around a 2-year-old, that sentence seems a little bland, but for those who have, that writing deserves a Pulitzer. And Sip and Kranz deserves a Nobel Prize. Sit at the cafe's long tables outside the play area and enjoy a pint of Ninkasi Total Domination IPA ($4.75) or a bottle of Widmer Hefeweizen ($4) while little Harper draws random squiggles on the chalkboard or plays choo-choo with the train tracks. No shoes are allowed and adults must put a to-go lid on their drinks if they want to be in the play area, but who really does that when you can sit outside and feign interest through the glass? And for the non-children folk, the play area is glassed in, which means the golden rule, at least at Sip and Kranz, holds true: Children are better seen than heard.
Supervision: Low, watch 'em through the glass from most any table.
Highlights: Chalk, kids' desks and chairs, less than a latte toss away from Nolita.
LAURELWOOD PUBLIC HOUSE&BREWERY
The crowning jewel in Portland's beer- and kid-friendly culture is Laurelwood. All three of the local chain's restaurants feature kids' areas, but Laurelwood's new Northeast Sandy Boulevard location is the most kid- and parent-friendly of the bunch. With a full bar and two play areas, Mom can tell Johnny she's a little tired, stir her Tom Collins with a pinkie and rest her forehead on the tabletop as her pride and joy acts out Lord of the Flies in the cordoned-off play area. The food might be a little bland, but can anyone resist the take-home growlers ($13, refills $9) full of Laurelwood's award-winning draft beer for those stay-at-home evenings when a 64 oz. brown glass jug of beer solves all of life's problems?
Supervision: Little, there's a view of the kids' area from most tables.
Highlights: Trains, dinosaurs, princesses and cars, award-winning beers.