Dining Out: Cafe caters to parents with young children

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Why: Meeting in public with small children in tow to enjoy a cup of coffee or a bite to eat can often be anything but relaxing. Several fast-food chains have brought the idea of playtime and mealtime together, but Little Cups & Grown Ups is a different sort of place. It’s a play café that provides an environment that caters to parents with small children in a laid-back setting similar to home. It doesn’t exclude the passer-by from coming in for some homey victuals and Wi-Fi — as long as they don’t mind the sounds that accompany children at play.

Food options are simple, fresh and wholesome, and beverages are comparable to that of a coffee shop.

Atmosphere: It is obvious that great care was given to detail in order to bring a vision to life. Among the uniquely appointed elements that give the space personality are dainty chandeliers, which provide some of the lighting, and decoupage alphabet letters that adorn the walls.

A little less than half the space is dedicated to an enclosed play area filled with toys and playhouse stations that encourage domestic play while engaging the imagination. A low counter with chairs flanks the play area and allows grown-ups to keep a watchful eye while indulging in conversation or food. A living room area provides a sofa and cushy chairs, and tables and chairs fill in the open space without crowding.

What I tried: Being the cold, rainy day that it was, I settled on the soup of the day, which happened to be cream of broccoli. It was served with a slice of sourdough bread and I had a hot cup of tea to drink. I also selected a Butterfinger brownie and a single-serving size banana bread topped with a dollop of cream cheese frosting drizzled with caramel to take home and try. The soup is made in-house and may be served in a bread bowl, though I did not choose that option. My soup was instead served in a paper bowl atop a paper plate, on which was placed the slice of fresh sourdough bread and a plastic spoon. I was surprised by the lack of refinement, yet as I sat eating it, all the while taking in the atmosphere of the establishment and observing the other diners, it seemed somewhat appropriate. Serenaded by Winnie the Pooh theme music, it felt like we were all part of an indoor picnic on a blustery day.

The soup had various-sized pieces of broccoli flowerets incorporated into a thick, creamy base. The flavor was rich and hearty, but unfortunately it tasted a bit scalded. The sourdough bread was a wholesome cracked wheat variety sliced for sandwiches.

Of the two desserts that I took home, my favorite was the banana loaf. It was a mini Bundt cake shape with frosting piped in the center. It tasted similar to a plain sweet muffin with a light banana flavor. The brownie was dense and rich with a peanut butter frosting topped with crumbled Butterfinger. The result was a chewy brownie experience, with a flavor that reminded me of gourmet fudge.

Menu highlights beyond what I tried: Kid-friendly options are abundant and range from a grilled cheese sandwich to an apple plate with apple slices, crackers and cheese cubes served with milk or juice.

Breakfast includes a croissant sandwich with ham, egg and cheese; toasted bagel; a breakfast wrap with eggs, feta, spinach and tomatoes; and pastries.

In addition to the soup of the day, sandwiches, wraps, salads, pita pizza, and a hummus plate are available for lunch.

Among the snack items available are string cheese, yogurt and popcorn.

Other observations: Little Cups & Grown Ups brings the comfort of home and the fun of playtime together without the preparation and clean up that is an inevitable part of the experience at home. The food is healthful and very likely on your menu at home. It’s a super place that offers an inexpensive excursion away from the house for parents with infants and/or toddlers.

Cost: Playtime costs $4 per visit or $30 a month for unlimited playtime. All menu items are less than $6 and most of the snacks are less than $1.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday unless a private reservation has been made — then close is at 3:30 p.m. Sunday is for private reservations only.

Telephone: 360-687-2045.

Where: 614 E. Main St., Battle Ground.

Health score: Little Cups & Grown Ups has received a pre-opening inspection and is due for a routine inspection sometime in the near future. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.