Getting a restaurant to cross from red to black is a process best suited for the strong-hearted. To thrive, eateries need a buzzy chef and/or memorable food, and often some other hook, be it purportedly nutritious brown rice or a built-in play area. Vios nailed the later at its original Capitol Hill location. So much so that in 2012 the owner took measures to better serve diners without kids. As Rebekah Denn reported, booths were built to replace a communal table and a glass partition was installed between the dining and play areas to appease a broader cross-section of the community.
"Is it possible that a restaurant loved for welcoming kids could welcome them too much?" Denn asks in the article's footnote. Which begs another question: how do you succeed in operating a neighborhood restaurant that's comfortable and desirable for singles, couples and families?
To find an example of a space where all-ages customers happily co-exist, look no further than the second Vios location inside Ravenna's Third Place Books. Yes, Vios Cafe at Third Place works for patrons from the womb to the tomb for an obvious reason: it's big. But it's also well-divided, with partitioned spaces for eating, drinking, shopping, and playing. All of these little pockets mean customers--from diners to readers to drinkers--are accommodated.
The 21+ Pub at Third Place opens at 4 p.m. on the lower level. Stairs connect the kid-free hobbit hole serving beer and wine to Vios and the bookstore.
Upstairs from its pub, Vios maintains a small, well-organized play space where parents can keep one eye on their kids and another on the New York Times. Families filing up tables near the kid section can order from a walk-up espresso bar (inexplicably serving beans from Illy as opposed to a local roaster) and a pastry case.
Finally, Vios offers table service in a main seating area that stretches across the back of the building. Breakfast and brunch cover the basics, including homemade sesame almond granola and steel cut oats with plenty of walnuts, raisins, and diced apples. A few breakfast options give nods to Mediterranean flavors, including the pita egg sandwich: Flat-leaf parsley and roasted tomatoes rest on a frosting of tzatziki smeared over an open-faced omelet. Then the whole thing is folded into a pita that's wrapped in parchment. (Is anyone else thinking of SNL's Taco Time short?) Eating one in a single sitting might require skipping lunch.
If you go for dinner with children, try the Deluxe Family-Style Feast--it's an easy way to get kids to try as many new flavors as possible. The three courses include dips with pita (green olive tapenade with pine nuts and feta with peppers are good picks), two salads (try the roasted beet and classic Greek), and a pair of entrees (including lamb souvlaki and moussaka). If you're done with dinner and have time to kill before bedtime, there's a well-stocked section of kids and young adult books waiting near the front of the building.