Face it, the odds that you will at some point ride the Seattle Great Wheel are heavily tilted in the direction of 'excellent' if you have children. The Ferris wheel might be for lovers, dreamers, and/or tourists, but more than anything it was made to attract families. And one of the best parts of forking over $13-a-head for a spin on the Wheel is that, if nothing else, you can work good food into the mix. When the waterfront Mickey D's or Red Robin aren't going to cut it, hike up the hill and settle into your consolation prize--a hot meal.
Thank you, Mrs. Jones, for opening the venerable Three Girls Bakery with two friends in Pike Place Market in 1912. There's a walk up counter serving molasses cookies, challah bread, and other sharable pastries near Post Alley. But the real action happens around the corner at the shop's small sandwich counter.
While Three Girls has been open for a century, it's not clear how many of those years there's been a meatloaf sandwich on the menu. However, it's obvious that the recipe was perfected a good while back. Reminiscent of Bakeman's famed version, thick slices of fresh loaf are dressed to order and laid to rest on hearty white bread. Kids might prefer the lighter hummus or sweeter turkey cranberry. Note that the counter only houses a handful of stools and closes at 6, so plan on ordering to go and eating lunch or an early dinner down by the water.4. El Puerco Lleron
It's hard to know if kids take more to the food or ambiance at El Puerco Lleron, a jewel of a Mexican restaurant on the Hillclimb that sits a vertical stone's throw from the Ferris wheel. The restaurant's tastes and digs both get gold stars, with colorful, mismatched tables arranged under hanging lights holding steamy plates ordered by number. Try the trusty #7, with carnitas in homemade tortillas served next to above average beans and rice.
3. Mae Phim
Inevitably jammed during the weekday lunch hour but pleasantly accessible for dinner, Mae Phim offers no frills Thai that's equal parts cheap and satisfying. Both attributes make it especially good for families. The sister restaurant of Mae Phim's original location on Columbia Street, the spot churns out orders at lightening speed from a small, well-used kitchen. The not-too-oily noodle dishes or the cashew chicken with its heaping of roasted nuts and veg are solid options. For an extra dollar, the health-conscious parent can request brown rice.
Museum cafes are built to withstand a daily battering of every sort of visitor, from infant to senior, and SAM's Taste Restaurant is no exception. Kids are bound to get swept up in the 'downtowniness' of the oft bustling dining room. Clean lines, curved booths, and fancy plates holding burgers, mac and cheese, and other familiar foodstuffs form the minor's menu. Adults can do better, ordering grilled salmon or the classic Louie Louie salad with deviled eggs and shrimp trucked in from Oregon.
1. Il Corvo
If you want scratch-made pasta and you're headed to the Wheel, you can't do much better than Il Corvo on the Hillclimb. Daily specials are outlined on the restaurant's website, with recent bright spots including lasagna Bolognese with roasted garlic Bechamel and flat spaghetti with chickpea and walnut pesto.
Il Corvo is a lunch place, closing at three with limited indoor seating. The pasta is so good it's worth dealing with the short hours, and eating a plateful can soothe the sting of waiting in line to loop around the waterfront on a half-giant wheel. Oh, and it shares space with a gelato place, so even if your kids pout through lunch they'll be bouncing up and down for dessert. Closed through July 11 for a summer holiday.