Admit it, parents -- you're hungry. Hungry for a meal out that goes beyond pizza, burgers and pancakes. Hungry for that ethnic food you used to like to try, before the picky toddler entered your world. Hungry for a place where the "kids' menu" isn't really the whole menu.
And yet, you can hire a baby sitter only so often. You'd like to take the whole family to a restaurant and -- miracle of miracles -- make everybody happy.
We've come up with a few places in the Baltimore area that have something for eaters big and little. The list is far from complete, but it offers a range of options to encourage further exploration on your own. We can't guarantee a happy experience -- kids being the unpredictable darlings that they are -- but we can at least offer the prospect of culinary detente.
10 Art Museum Drive, Charles Village, 410-889-3399.
John Shields' restaurant in the Baltimore Museum of Art offers minimalist decor and Chesapeake Bay cuisine fancy enough for adults, but the white paper and crayons on the table encourage kid creativity. A visit to the museum makes your outing educational.
For the grown-ups: Lots of choices, including create-your-own combinations of entrees, sauces and side dishes.
For the kids: A complete menu of standard kids' favorites, plus a rare fruit bowl. And when the young ones get tired of sitting, they can explore the BMA's outdoor sculpture garden.
7624 Belair Road, Fullerton, 410-668-5100.
This earth-toned Mediterranean restaurant, tucked away in the Belair Beltway Plaza, is known for letting kids make their own 10-inch pizzas. The menu includes kebabs, calzones, salads and sandwiches, along with 25 kinds of pizza made in a wood-burning oven. BYOB.
For the grown-ups: Appetizers like falafel, grape leaves, hummus and baba ghannouj offer cheap transportation to another land.
For the kids: If they're not making their own pizzas, they might enjoy the belly-dancing performances on Friday and Saturday nights.
1002 W. 36th St., Hampden, 410-243-1230.
This homey diner offers comfort food for all ages. Parents of early birds will appreciate its 7 a.m. opening time on weekdays and a kids' breakfast menu that includes cold cereal.
For the grown-ups: Salads topped with the fresh-tasting house-made dill vinaigrette.
For the kids: The popular "toddler combo" -- two slices of American cheese, a slice of white bread, cucumber slices, fries and pickle for $2.75 -- is a meal made with small, finicky palates in mind.
Golden West Cafe
1105 W. 36th St., Hampden, 410-889-8891.
This is the kind of funky place where you lingered, pre-kids, over big breakfasts and fresh Southwestern-style food. Well, you and yours are still welcome. There's a nook with children's books, a baby swing and healthful menu options like peanut-butter sandwiches with apple slices.
For the grown-ups: You'll reminisce over the kitschy album-cover menus, then dig into huevos rancheros or a Vietnamese salad.
For the kids: Instead of the usual crayons and paper, they'll get neon-colored, bendable "wiki sticks" to play with before the food arrives.
5809 Clarksville Square Drive, Clarksville, 443-535-9400.
You won't believe kids are welcome at this vegetarian oasis of calm in the Clarksville Square shopping center. But not only is there a "Little Sage Menu," it's full of options for those who are allergic to gluten and casein.
For the grown-ups: With a full slate of sandwiches, vegetarian burgers, soups and entrees, you won't miss the meat. And the nice presentation and sleek decor feel very adult.
For the kids: They don't need to know that's organic peanut butter or that those "chicken" fingers aren't really chicken.
Rocky Run Tap & Grill
3105 St. Paul St., Charles Village, along with locations in Columbia and Glen Burnie, 410-235-2501.
This local chain is the place to relive your college days, have a microbrew and let the kids color on the tabletop kraft paper.
For the grown-ups: There's plenty of predictable bar food to choose from, along with a decent Cuban panini.
For the kids: The Rocky Runt milkshakes ($1.83) are just the right size. Smoothie offerings may even trick them into consuming fruit.
Mari Luna Mexican Grill
102 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, 410-486-9910.
This family-owned, BYOB rest-aurant offers authentic Mexican cuisine, including dishes like Carnitas Uruapan and Pollo en Mole along with the standard tacos, enchiladas and burritos.
For the grown-ups: Try the Cordero Jalisco ($14) -- lamb shanks baked in banana leaves until they're falling off the bone.
For the kids: There's no kids' menu, so think quesadillas, the Mexican version of the grilled-cheese sandwich. They'll also love the multicolored chips that arrive when you sit down.
Crepe du Jour
1601 Sulgrave Ave., Mount Washington, 410-542-9000.
Who knew that along with delicious crepes and a sunny yellow exterior, this small Mount Washington eatery had kids' chicken fingers and crisp fries that put most greasy competitors to shame?
For the grown-ups: Maybe you can't go to Paris, but you can enjoy its favorite street food, stuffed with ingredients like prosciutto, pesto, tomato and fresh mozzarella.
For the kids: Decadent dessert crepes feature combinations like Nutella and bananas.
Legal Sea Foods
100 E. Pratt St., Inner Harbor, 410-332-7360.
Combine your trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore with lunch at this popular chain a few blocks away.
For the grown-ups: Salads, wood-grilled fish and lobster in a prime Inner Harbor setting.
For the kids: A coloring book with fun fish facts accompanies the kids' menu, which -- along with predictable items -- offers fish sticks, oatmeal-nut-topped scrod and an easy-to-eat shelled lobster.