Not too long ago I bitched and moaned about a sorry list of kid-friendly eat spots in Denver put together by someone that I can only hope wasn't really trying all that hard. I also promised I wouldn't turn this blog into a kid-centric restaurant blog-- and I won't--- but when you go out to eat with a pair of toddlers on a regular basis, places that treat your kids well and keep them happy go quickly to the top of your list. And sometimes it happens when you are least expecting it.
Such was the case with Denver's relatively new Ace Eat Serve, which has become instantly popular due to its affiliation with neighboring hipster institution Stueben's--and its ping pong tables don't hurt either. Sure ping pong sounds kid friendly I suppose, but when I think new hip restaurant in uptown, I don't immediately round up the wife and squirmy two-year olds and pile in the Wagon Queen Family Truckster.
But Ace is fully prepared to take good care of your kids. Ours were greeted with the typical coloring placemats and crayons, but also diverse menu options, of which we chose the steamed bun plate.
It came out on a brilliant red tray, the cool kind with all the dividers and shit. Besides the steamed bun, there was a pile of bright green edemame and a fruit salad of strawberries and mango. And for utensils? Tong-like kiddie chopsticks.
Ace got everything right for my kids and the adult plates that got passed were also mostly very good, but among some flashes of brilliance was some mediocrity. On the good side were the crispy beef and fried Brussels sprouts. The thin strips of honey-ginger sweet beef were wholly satisfying and crispy indeed; while the (also crispy) Brussels sprouts and chiles were simply perfect.
The soup dumplings were also good. Simple foods like this often are, and Ace did well to leave it alone.
On the not-so-good side was a fish dish that my wife ordered. So forgettable, in fact, that I don't remember anything else about it.
Also worth mentioning was the admirable though not very spicy house made kim chi. And the airy steamed buns filled with braised short ribs.
While my kids did enjoy eating with tongs (they really do, and would attempt to eat every meal with big BBQ tongs if allowed), they love little bits of ice even more. For dessert Ace offers flavored, shaved ice--for free. My boys slurped and savored in silence for the last 10 to 15 minutes of the meal. That is nothing short of miraculous.
I loved Ace. Maybe not for every single plate I ate, but for how much my kids ate, and how well we were all treated. So parents, add this one to your list, and for you fun loving single kid-less types, don't worry, we all eat dinner at like 5:30, so we will be out of your hair long before anything really fun could happen anyway.