When one encounters a neon-bright restaurant sign proclaiming "kids eat free!!!" one can usually surmise that the gratis grub hails from the children's menu: burgers, fries, chicken fingers, and so forth is what the offer is all about.
But The Independence Tavern in Santa Monica is putting an unlikely twist on the whole "kids eat free!!!" paradigm, at least for the week of Monday, June 15 through Sunday, June 21. Aspiring gourmands ages 12 and under can eat free, as long as they ask their server for one specific dish that is definitely is not a staple of most, if any, children's menus.
It's grilled octopus, one of the specialties of The Independence, and Chef Tom Block "is calling out a new generation raised on shared plates." The chef reveals that he was "always an adventurous eater" as a kid. "(B)ut back then we were stuck with plain pasta or mac and cheese. Now that I have a son, we're always feeding him exciting new dishes."
For sure, the quest to raise an adventurous eater practically takes up a whole bookshelf in the parenting section down at the bookstore nowadays. Blogs address the topic, again and again: How to broaden your tot's tastes? It's a lively and complex topic.
If your kid is already trying out unusual flavors, though, without too much prodding, this dish, a signature for the tavern, could be her next edible adventure.
Of course, your child won't be presented with just octopus sitting in the center of a plate, and nothing more; the colorful offering bursts with grapes, smoked beans, celery, and pickled chili.
You could be raising a spice aficionado, too, if the pickled chili appeals.
So how does a family with a diner under the age of 12 score this lively seafood delicacy? The restaurant says that a parent "simply mention that the tentacle-seeking youngster is of age."
No one would dare demand that parents permanently stow the ice cream and onion rings in the quest to get a kid to try more variety. Palates, though, tend to take shape, or start to, early on. To grow a kid who says "I'll try that!" is to encourage curiosity at a very basic level.
Also, though: pickled chili. Mmm.