There's a fine line between convenience and compromise, and Twirl Cafe in Queen Anne rides it. Twirl is part of the kid-centric cafe trend that started several years back. Essentially, parents pay for coffee and food, then plop down a few more bucks for their offspring to gain entrance into a walled-off play zone.
Twirl's business model centers around diversification. One part café, one part community center, and one part retail space, there's a rack in the front of the house selling sherbet colored tutus, a small gift shop in back, and a separate room for events, birthday parties, and scheduled programming like story times.The concept of letting kids loose in a constricted space while gal pals catch up on the latest this and that is not fit for the self-conscious and/or heavily tattooed. In a way, it's another sad example of how some parents eagerly raise their hands to 'opt out' of patronizing quality restaurants and cafes and succumb to another blaze pizza night fighting waves of amped up youth.
But in a different sense, places like Twirl are a godsend for families, because the very prospect of dealing with especially wild children is enough to keep a parent and youngsters at home for the afternoon. If you can roll with it, kid play cafes provide some balm to soothe the tarried parent. Similarly, childless patrons can breathe a little easier knowing that more ruffians are at their own designated establishments, therefore taking up less space in Victrola or Milstead.
The menu is set to appease a bland palate, with a passable cheese and crackers plate served with pre-sliced berries and green apples. The café uses organic ingredients and still manages to keep prices reasonably low, which especially makes sense if you're going to have to pay to play. Several sandwiches, including the Galer with bacon, turkey, cheddar and fixings, are served hot with a mound of fresh greens. There are breakfast sandwiches and pastries in the morning and several snacks lining shelves by the register. Vegans and gluten intolerant diners can find options on the menu as well. There's also a full espresso bar serving Zoka beans.
On a trip to Twirl earlier this week, a lone kidless patron appeared to have mistakenly wandered in expecting a conventional coffee shop. For whatever masochistic reason, she sat awkwardly for a while reading a book in a row of seats near the counter in the midst of toddler shrieks and squeals. At Twirl and its sibling kid cafes, it's obvious that the pint-sized set drives the menu and rules the roost. But hey, that's smart business.