AT PARENT-FRIENDLY LEXINGTON RESTAURANT POPPY & OLIVE
Words by Ashley Hurst
Susan Arimes is a foodie and a mom, so she’s always looking for a restaurant that is accommodating for kids but where she can also get a glass of wine. It’s uncommon to find somewhere that walks that fine line.
She and husband Cole always felt they were encroaching on the dining experience of others. As owners of two restaurants themselves—Epping’s on Eastside and Coles 735 Main—they decided to open a third place that fit the bill. Nestled inside (but separate from) Epping’s on Eastside, Poppy & Olive is named for the sizes of their babies when they found out they were pregnant with each—an olive and a poppy seed.
Cole says that Poppy & Olive is unique in that it isn’t kid-friendly, and instead is parent-friendly. But what does that mean? Everything is about facilitating the parents’ experience. It’s decorated cleanly, so it doesn’t feel like your typical kids’ restaurant, and everything down to the table layout and bathrooms are designed with the parent in mind. Plates and silverware are at the front of the table, so kids can scoot straight in with minimal opportunity to grab them. The check is always ready to pay just in case a meltdown leads to a need for a quick exit. The family restrooms feature both adult and kid-sized toilets that are quiet-flush—something that many parents have expressed helped tremendously with potty training!
Poppy & Olive strives to occupy its young patrons so parents can enjoy their meal. As your family takes a seat a
your booth, your server delivers a craft basket with house-made playdough (colored with food powders and completely non-toxic), a custom coloring sheet featuring Lexington landmarks, and fun conversation cards with kid-friendly questions such as “If you could have any animal tail, what would it be?” And if those things don’t keep your kiddo occupied, you’ll find that your server quickly appears with additional entertainment such as birdseed treasure bottles. Cole is also working on installing a tower garden where kids can interact with herbs by touching, smelling, and even tasting, as well as a scavenger hunt based on sculptures he’ll be placing around the restaurant. Additional activities are always in the works as Susan gets advice from the kids’ nanny, their preschool, their cousins, and the owner of ARTplay, the children’s art studio around the corner from the restaurant.
Cole and Susan also recently started showing Saturday and Sunday morning cartoons during brunch. “The first kid to get here gets to choose what we watch, and it ranges from old-school Scooby-Doo and Tom & Jerry to Big Hero 6,” Cole says. He goes on to say that there’s also a weekly movie night in the works.
Now, I know what you fellow parents are thinking: That all sounds fun, but what about the food?
So many kids’ menus feature the same three options: chicken tenders and fries, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese. But as a parent, Cole is always looking to introduce his own children to new foods. The menu at Poppy & Olive encourages kids to explore. Items are familiar, but with a twist, with offerings such as grilled chicken tenders, buttered noodles with parmesan, fried pickles, and a char “fruit” erie board. Parent options include a multitude of artisan sandwiches, steak frites, shrimp and grits, soup and salad options, and Norwegian salmon. Parents also have the option of ordering off of the Epping’s menu, including any of their wines or cocktail offerings.
Poppy & Olive is the best of both worlds—a place where you can help your children learn how to behave in a restaurant, but if there is a meltdown, you don’t have to feel like you’ve ruined anyone else’s experience.