Have you ever been meaning to go somewhere for ages, and then once you finally get around to going you can hardly believe that you haven’t ever been there before? Otherwise known as the Dakota Tavern. Now I know what you’re thinking, and no, my parents are not THOSE parents. Every Sunday the Dakota (the gritty hipster country bar known for ear-ringing, foot-stomping, hooting and hollering live music and ne’er a mixed drink in sight) hosts it’s weekly Bluegrass Brunch that is 100% kid friendly. And did I mention complete with live Bluegrass band? I have been begging the parentals to take me to the Dakota for as long as I can remember, and they finally stepped up. In fact, I loved it so much that we’ve been twice in the last month … which is a good thing, because it’s damn hard to get decent pictures in this place (the lighting leaves much to be desired)!
First things first, leave your strollers at home folks. There is a tiny tiny space at the top of the stairs (the Dakota is not accessible for anyone on wheels) where you might be lucky enough to snag a spot for a folded stroller, and there is a narrow hallway once you’re downstairs where I saw a few more (again, folded) stashed. We toted Stella along in her carseat, and even that was pushing it space-wise around our table, so if it’s at all possible, enter on foot. We drove and then walked from the car. There’s usually a fair amount of street parking in the area, as there are fewer parking restrictions on a Sunday.
Second, if you’re not willing to time it pretty perfectly, come prepared to wait. The first time we arrived right around noon, and we ended up in a line up the stairs with a half hour wait, which is not always pretty with us small folk. Luckily I had snagged a quick snooze that morning and was in fine form, thanks to some foresight on Mom and Dad’s part. Brunch starts at 11am, so when we got there the first wave of diners were still eating. The band plays half hour sets with fifteen minute breaks, so likely people weren’t quick to clear out in the middle of a set, which is completely understandable. In any case, once we were finally seated the line died down and the crowd cleared out a bit. If you’re not up for the wait (keeping in mind you’ll be waiting on a flight of stairs), I would definitely recommend getting there promptly at 11am (as we did on our second visit … although we still had to wait for a little bit), or more around 1pm, when the traffic is significantly less.
And a warning to the highchair sticklers … there are none. Mom and Dad managed to keep me corralled just fine in a rounded back chair with arms. Under normal circumstances I’d be pissed about the lack of suitable seating, but come on … the Dakota’s first and foremost a BAR. Besides, if you’re anything like yours truly you won’t spend much time sitting at your table, but more on that later.
Now for the food: this brunch is not for picky eaters. There is no menu, and the food is all you can eat served ‘family-style’ ($14 for adults and $7 for kids, though our server didn’t charge for me). So the Dakota cooks up scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes and homefries, and slices up some fruit, and serves it up on a big platter in the middle of your table for everyone to serve themselves. For the price, the food isn’t spectacular (to be totally honest, I was too mesmerized by the band to eat much of anything) but it’s good solid fare and we all left suitably stuffed. My favourites were definitely the pancakes and the sausages; orange juice and coffee is included.
But onto the best part. The band. Oh the band! You have to see it to believe it, but man these guys are good. And did I mention my friend Patrick was in the band? On our first visit we didn’t know he was playing until we got there, but it was a nice surprise, and it was super cool to know someone on stage. :) There is a space cleared right in front of the stage for dancing, and let’s just say this kid spent pretty much the entire meal on the dance floor. Quite brilliant when you think about it actually … what kid wants to sit through a long weekend brunch at a restaurant? Well at the Dakota you don’t have to … you can leave your grownups to their chatting and bust some moves along with the band. Mom snapped some pics, but they really don’t do my moves justice … that said, pictures will have to suffice because all our videos turned out too dark.
Basically, you gotta go. Like, yesterday. You can thank me later.