The term “Kids eat free” can conjure thoughts of mediocre national-chain dining. But Cambridge chef Tony Maws — known for his signature fare of local meats and hearty seasonal veg — aims to change that, by serving free kids meals Sunday-Thursday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at The Kirkland Tap & Trotter.
This isn’t your typical kids menu of frozen chicken fingers and buttered noodles. The Kirkland offers options like a housemade hot dog, spaghetti with meat sauce, fried all-natural chicken, or fish and chips. Our toddler devoured the local beef burger, which arrives on a toasted sesame bun, with a side of golden fries and buttery carrot coins. The server even asked how he likes his burger cooked, and met the mark on rosy medium-well.
With a house full of families, many coloring with provided crayons, walking antsy children past the open kitchen’s mesmerizing wood-fired grill and craning their necks to watch the game in the bar, it can take a while for all the plates to hit the table, but it’s well worth the wait. Plus, they offer to bring the kids’ food first, so you can enjoy a craft cocktail like the Henry Morgan’s Downfall, a tiki-ish blend of gin, Velvet Falernum, Orgeat, lemon, Mirto, and bitters ($13).
A crisp and juicy fried half chicken special ($20, available Sundays) arrives with housemade pickles and a vinegary celery seed slaw, plus three homemade hot sauces for dipping: pineapple habanero, green chili, and red chili. Tender sirloin skewers from the Maine Family Farms Meat Co. are topped with a zippy salsa verde and the server happily switches out the mashed Macomber turnips for schmatlz roasted Brussels to accommodate a dairy allergy. Catering to dietary restrictions and rambunctious children gets them extra points.
Other enticing options include housemade rye macaroni with lamb ragout, arugula, and pecorino ($22, $14 for appetizer portion), grilled house-cured pork belly with sauerkraut, carrots, and potatoes ($22), and a grilled chermoula-spiced half chicken with sweet potato mash ($22).
In the end, our kid didn’t exactly eat free, but that’s only because we bought more time to linger for the price of a kids sundae ($7). With vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and real whipped cream — in a portion generous enough for parents to sneak bites and still keep kids happy through a second adult beverage — we’ll call it a bargain.
The Kirkland Tap & Trotter 425 Washington St., Somerville, 857-259-6585, firstname.lastname@example.org.