My preschooler and I recently spent a string of chilly gray days visiting these nine local coffee cafes to give you an idea of where you might bring your little one(s) for both a cozy indoor play space and a decent cup of joe. If you know of a similar place where kids can spread out in an area dedicated to them, please drop us a line.
813 East 48th St., Minneapolis
Details: Owned by one of our charter school families, I was especially eager to get to this coffee spot. Also, I’d heard about their recently renovated play space for kids. This is a place that takes children seriously; hence the full name Sovereign Grounds Indoor Playground & Coffeehouse. Sovereign Grounds tops our list of java joints to bring the kiddos because the space is large (an entire dedicated room), clean (don’t forget to remove your shoes to save the new carpeting), and stocked with quality playthings. Tables are a little squeezed, but their proximity to the toys means you can easily keep an eye on your kid while you sip great coffee and chat with a friend (should you be so lucky to do so). Prepare for a buzz of morning activity that eases up after the lunch hour. A bathroom is conveniently nearby and the coffeehouse menu includes fresh bakery items, interesting salads, and plenty of inexpensive child-pleasing snacks. Don’t miss this one — the biggest thumbs-up from my 3-year-old.
Taste of Love Bakery
870 Dodd Rd., West St. Paul
Details: There’s a whole lot to love here, much more than just a taste. The prices are restrained (donuts for a buck, cupcakes for $2.50 and very reasonable coffee), the baked goods are dreamy, and the play space is ample. 2016 update: The original playroom real estate was needed for other purposes, but a nook remains with a play kitchen, small table and coloring supplies.
Dunn Brothers Coffee – Linden Hills
2814 West 43rd St., Minneapolis
Details: Kids can enjoy a small space with a chalkboard and a shelf of toys while parents might manage to get their daily caffeine intake at a very nearby table. In my experience with Dunn Brothers, I think many of the franchise locations carve out a spot for kids; this particular locale is my favorite because it’s located in lovely Linden Hills. There’s so much within walking distance for kids to enjoy (5 Spots to Stop in Linden Hills, Minneapolis) that it’s easy to make an afternoon of it, once properly caffeinated, of course.
3753 42nd Ave. S., Minneapolis
Details: Props to the Riverview Cafe for having a carpeted nook set aside for the preschool-and-under set. There are not large tables nearby to accommodate food, drink, and mom gear, but there a couple couches with a clear vantage point of the littles. Mine had an absolutely wonderful time playing with the generous assortment of plastic vehicles (thankfully nothing noisy). If you pop in over the lunch hour, there are sandwiches, salads and yummy (but spendy) desserts as well as snacks and juice boxes for kids.
721 N. Snelling Ave., St. Paul
Details: Ginkgo’s little space for children is tucked away between some shelving and is fairly no-frills. There’s a shaggy patch of carpet to sit on and blackboard along the wall to scribble on with a few stubs of chalk. A few toys and books will entertain preschoolers for a short while – maybe long enough for mom to nosh on a grilled panini or some of Gingko’s special veggie lasagna? A kid-sized scoop of ice cream is an inexpensive treat.
3800 37th Ave. S., Minneapolis
Details: The play space is more aptly described as a corner – a corner of a small back room big enough for, I believe, three tables. But, if you’re lucky enough to snare a spot back there, the corner is charming and stocked with good books, wooden puzzles and a big comfy chair to curl up on. Plus, there’s no way your kid could escape! Try coming for a breakfast sandwich or burrito, a special quesadilla, homemade soup and Sebastian Joe’s ice cream.
A Cupcake Social
3800 S 28th Ave , Minneapolis
Details: Just down the road from both Riverview Cafe and Fireroast is this sweet little corner cupcake-and-coffee shop. Kids are considered important customers here as there is a nook dedicated to them complete with a a junior tea table and a retro kitchen set where they can “bake” to their heart’s content.
The Goat Coffeehouse
699 E 7th St., St. Paul
Details: For another kid-friendly option try this spot near downtown St. Paul. The coffee and breakfast sandwiches are swell and the playroom is tucked away on the second floor of the building, which may make for a quiet respite.
Polly’s Coffee Cove
1382 Payne Ave, St. Paul
Details: Polly’s has a new space dedicated to kids and is quite a bit more charming than this cell phone picture can show. The reason I didn’t have my more cumbersome camera out to snap pictures of my young ones as they settled in? Just so happens I was out on a rare coffee run – alone! The kids can’t give you their seal of approval; you’ll have to take my word for it.
I hope these suggestions can help make a dent in your winter. My little sidekick and I thoroughly enjoyed our research and would love to hear about where YOU meet up for coffee, conversation and a little playtime.