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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

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Cempazuchi: Yay or nay for los niños?
Cempazuchi: Yay or nay for los niños?

Are these restaurants kid friendly?

October is Dining Month on All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!

Sometimes it’s obvious which restaurants are appropriate for kids and which ones are not. Obviously, youngsters are welcome at most chain restaurants like TGIFriday’s or The Chancery, but potentially less welcome at a place that’s fancier.

Some Milwaukee restaurants, however, are questionable as to whether or not kids are welcome. Recently, I considered bringing my kids to a few restaurants that are more "grown up" eateries, but wondered if we would get looks of disgust.

I recognize it depends on the age of the kids, the way they behave and how busy the restaurant is, but in general, do you find any or all of these restaurants to be appropriate for children?

1.    Emperor of China, 1010 E. Brady St.
2.    Roots, 1818 N. Hubbard St.
3.    Comet Cafe, 1947 N. Farwell Ave.
4.    Cempazuchi, 1205 E. Brady St.
5.    Marchese’s Olive Pit, 1100 S. 1st St.

For best results, avocados used for guacamole must be perfectly ripe. (Soft but not mushy.)
For best results, avocados used for guacamole must be perfectly ripe. (Soft but not mushy.)

Daily dish: Chunky guacamole El Condor

October is Dining Month on All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!  

Do you remember El Condor, the Mexican restaurant on Downer Avenue that during the ‘80s was below the space currently occupied by Café Hollander? (It was a laundry mat back then.)

El Condor -- one of Milwaukee’s few "walk down restaurants" like the now-defunct Ardor -- was known for their great guacamole, and here's the recipe. (It might be a slight variation since this recipe probably traveled from friend to friend.)

Although the recipe calls for five avocados, feel free to cut it in half. However, if you’re serving this at a party, you’ll want to spring for all of the ingredients since your guests will devour every last green smidge. Guaranteed.

Chunky Guacamole El Condor

• 5 ripe avocados, cubed
• 1 1/2 tsp. salt
• 2 tsp. pepper
• 2 limes, juiced
• 1 tbl. vinegar
• 3 tsp. chopped cilantro
• 1 tbl. oil
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 1 or 2 jalapenos
• 2 small tomatoes, chopped

Mix, taste, adjust accordingly if needed and serve with lots of tortilla chips. Occasionally, I add garlic to this recipe.

They really are kinda cute.
They really are kinda cute.

Praying for a hamster?!

Parenthood makes us say and do things we never thought we would, and last night was no exception.

Without going into too much detail, my son’s new hamster, Lavender, was clearly dehydrating. My son absolutely adores this twitchy-nosed fuzzball, so despite terrible after-work traffic, I rushed the rodent back to the pet store.

"Come on, Lavender," I said in my head. "Scamper away from the light, little buddy."

So I’m talking to a hamster now? Hell, yes. I would pray to the Patron Saint of Rodents, if I knew of one. After all, my kid is weeping.

The ironic part is that I’ve never been much of a critter person myself. I might have had a gerbil or two as a kid, but I’m not one to fill my space with furry things. I prefer plants and people.

But this, like most aspects of parenting, has little to do with me.

It turns out, the hamster has "wet tail diarrhea," a condition I’m told is serious but potentially treatable. Unfortunately, Lavender has to undergo two weeks of antibiotics, and there’s no guarantee she’ll pull through.

It just might be little Lav's time to visit the sprawling Habitrail in the sky. But I really hope not.

While I’m quietly and proactively researching ways to talk about death with little kids, my son is X-ing off the days on our family calendar until Lavender comes home. The sight of this is quite possibly the most heartbreaking part of it all.

The dragon head bobbed up and down when kids bounced.
The dragon head bobbed up and down when kids bounced.
Understatement: The bouncy house was a hit.
Understatement: The bouncy house was a hit.

Bouncy houses put spring in the birthday kid's step

My sons have been to a couple of birthday parties in the past with "bouncy houses," and to this day, those parties remain in their mental Birthday Party Hall of Fame. I decided to rent one for my son's 5th birthday last weekend, and the bottom line is: if you can stomach the price (about $225 for the day), having a bouncy house at your kid’s birthday party is never a bad idea, as long as you enforce basic safety rules.

My son is the kindergarten version of Napoleon Dynamite, so naturally he wanted to have a "mythic creatures" birthday party. I started brainstorming ideas for the party about a month in advance, scouring the Internet for inspiration and ideas.

I came across a dragon bouncy house, offered by a family-owned Oak Creek company called Fun Services, Inc. I knew immediately that I had to rent this thing. (On a side note, Fun Services was a superb company to deal with. They have outstanding customer service reps and their drivers were friendly and timely.)

Aside from the dragon bouncer, I came up with a variety of games to play at the party: pin-the-horn-on-the-unicorn, a dragon egg hunt in our large garden, a gargoyle piñata and jousting with swords twisted from long, skinny balloons.

But none of it really mattered because, for the most part, my son and his seven little guests just wanted to bounce. And bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce.

Bouncing, mind you, is hard work. I spent about 10 minutes in the bouncy house and found it a massive cardiovascular challenge. My kids spent hours in there without issue. This leads me to the hidden bonus of the bouncy house: you’ll end up with kids who, by nightfall, are exhausted and sleep like a sedated Pegasus.

I was slightly concerned about bounce-related injuries, but luckily, other then one bit lip, we didn’t have any. The key is to let the kids bounce in small groups and to make sure the groups consist of kids that are generally the same size. Obviously, you wouldn’t put a…