Tingles Cafe is one of the restaurants that opened (re-opened?) in Asheville during my “Mommy Hiatus”.  I saw it advertised in The Laurel and also noticed it as I was driving through town in early March; both sightings occurred the week I decided I needed to get out more.  When baby girl and I had an opportunity to spend a chilly afternoon downtown yesterday, it was on the top of my list of new eateries to check out.

When: Saturday, March 26, 2011, about 3:45pm

Where: Tingles Cafe, 27 Broadway Street, Asheville, NC

Who: S & me

What: Four Side Plate – Mac & Cheese, Savory Bread Pudding with Mushrooms and Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted Vegetables (Veggie of the Day), and Marinated Avacado Slices

How: 4 out of 5 Sticky Fingers

Kid-friendly Assets: Crayons at the tables, child’s menu

The front dining room was full of light, even on a rainy day, with its tall ceilings and bright floor that echoed the floor of the original Tingle’s Cafe from the early 20th century.  We were welcomed immediately and taken to a small table close to the street.  The hostess brought a clean wooden high chair for the wee one.  The tables were covered with brown paper and there was a small glass full of thick crayons.  (We’re not quite ready for those yet, but I’ll keep Tingles in mind when we reach that age.)  Other details older children might enjoy are the large Holstein cow keeping her eye on the main dining room and the cute little cow salt/pepper shakers on the tables.

The menu covers most of the Southern food bases and the cafe has an extensive soda-fountain with gourmet styling.  For the grown-ups in the crowd, they also have a nice offering of local brews and several wines.  The menu could be more descriptive for the large vegetarian/vegan/local-foodie segment of Asheville (for example it would have been nice to know if the gravy that came with the bread pudding was vegetarian).

I decided on an assortment of sides so I could easily share with S; all four selections were at least tasted by my burgeoning foodie (a plus – kiddo is still only eating soft, squishy food).  The bread pudding was excellent and came with a brown mushroom gravy not mentioned on the menu.  The roasted vegetables had a nice flavor.  I ordered the avacado purely for S, but I also enjoyed it.  The mac and cheese, however, was very disappointing.  There was nothing exciting, interesting or in any way memorable about this comfort food standard; it was downright blah and boring.

The service was fast and friendly with the right amount of attention.  The ladies’ restroom in the front dining room was large and clean, but lacked a changing table, a necessity in our lives.

Tingles only received a 4 out of 5 for several reasons.  The quality of food vs. the price just didn’t match up, no changing table in the restroom is a big fail in my world right now and the menu was not informative enough.  This is a restaurant we’ll definitely be visiting again, though.  Their house-made baked goods and ice cream need to be sampled and I’m looking forward to tasting their Egg Creams and house-made sodas when the weather warms up!

When our little girl was born last May we still wanted to enjoy the great food scene here in Asheville without finding a baby sitter.  Our first forays into the restaurant scene were to find outdoor spaces where we could enjoy a cold local beverage with our newborn in tow.  Now that she’s closer to toddler-hood, dining out with our little one has changed.  Periodically I’ll post reviews and rate local “adult” restaurants on food, beverage selection and kid-friendliness.

Granted, our ability to eat out with our baby girl has a lot to do with her temperament.  She’s a happy, easy-going kid who is easy to redirect as long as mama has remembered to pack a few surprises.  We’re also more into baby-wearing than slogging around car seats and strollers which makes it easier to fit in restaurants with tight spaces.  Most of the time we eat out as a family of three, but every once in a while just baby girl and I head out on our own.

Eating out Essentials

  • Mid-afternoon is the best time of day to dine out with a kidlet in tow.  Lunch rush is over, dinner rush has yet to begin.

Newborn:

  • Comfy baby carrier.  My favorite was a stretchy wrap (like a Moby), my husband’s was the Ergo with the newborn insert.

Older Infant:

  • Comfy baby carrier that I can nurse in.  I joined the Ergo fan club when S reached the 15 pound mark.
  • Favorite small toys.  Right now S is into rhythm eggs, Sophie the giraffe, taggie blankets and small board books.
  • High chair cover.  I have two from this Etsy store that are very nicely sewn and machine washable.*
  • Reusable placemat.  We use a Summer Infant Tiny Diner Placemat that is dishwasher safe and rolls up to a very portable size.  The crumb trough is quite nice for catching food, too, which keeps the mess of our tiny diner to a minimum.*

*Not necessarily essentials.  I use them when I’m carrying a bag big enough to store them easily, but if we’re walking around town I carry a much smaller bag and I tell myself I’m helping build her immune system.