Tom Sietsema's Dish: Kid-Friendly Offerings at Firefly

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

KID STUFF: As the father of two young sons, Daniel Bortnick can speak with authority on how children like to eat. Now the chef is putting some of that expertise to use at Firefly (1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202-861-1310), which introduces a clever kids' menu this week.

One game plan features iceberg lettuce with blue cheese, macaroni and cheese, and hot dog bites; a second option offers broccoli, buttered noodles with Parmesan, and meatballs with tomato sauce. Created for the 5-and-under set, both multi-course menus cost $12, and both end with sugar cookies that the recipients get to decorate before the cookies are slipped into the oven.

"Big kids" (6 and older) can choose from a la carte items including chicken matzoh ball soup ($6), a BLT Sam'which ($8) and a cheeseburger ($12) "bigger than your head," or so the description reads. Bortnick is leaving it up to parents to decide where to draw the line defining "big kids," although he says he hopes "some 30-year-old guy" doesn't take advantage of the deal.

Though the dishes sound familiar, their presentation makes them special. Each item is served in a kid-size pot or saute pan, so "nothing's touching" on the plate, Bortnick says. He even offers smaller utensils for his pint-size patrons.

Why the addition? "We get lots of families" at Firefly, says the chef of the American restaurant near Dupont Circle. "I felt bad that they had to order off the regular menu." Besides, the children's choices take advantage of what the kitchen is already cooking. Broccoli comes with Firefly's beer and cheddar fondue, for instance, and the kids' burger simply leaves off the bacon and truffle fries that accompany Firefly's $17 sandwich.

Maybe Bortnick should consider sneaking in vitamins at his restaurant the way he does at home with 3 1/2 -year-old Jonah, a fan of pesto. Dad's trick? He makes the sauce with spinach.

-- Tom Sietsema

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