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Natalie Barrett
Elle making herself at home by the yellow couch at Toasters

Editor’s note: Natalie Barrett experiences what it’s like to dine out with her 3-year-old daughter, Elle.

No matter what is going on in the day, Elle is very dependent on her bowl of cereal each morning. She loves it, and I rarely mess with it.

It's definitely not my proudest moment of the day. I would love to be the mom who cooks pancakes and eggs every morning. But in reality, that’s not what happens.

We recently had to get to the airport early to drop off my husband for a flight, and there was zero time for cereal. I threw Elle in the car and off we went. After the drop-off, I was starving and Elle was grumpy. I was about five minutes away from driving through McDonald’s (which would have been another one of my not very proud moments) when I passed Toasters in downtown Salt Lake City on 151 W. 200 South, directly across from the Salt Palace Convention Center.

I pulled up, praying they would have something for my grumpy 3-year-old at her most picky moment: breakfast.

We walked in and it was love at first sight between Elle and the bright yellow couch sitting front and center. “Mom! It’s your favorite color!” Elle gleefully announced. The restaurant may not be used to kids — either that, or my child screaming about a couch was a little shocking because the patrons turned and stared.

I’m not one to pay attention to those things, so we went about our business. Elle jumped on the yellow couch and looked at the pictures on the newspaper clippings. I made my way to the counter and ordered breakfast sandwiches of cheese, ham and eggs on croissants.

When it comes to kids, my experience has shown that appearance is worth more than all the seasonings and ketchup in the world. Meaning, even if I am serving celery, if I cut it into sticks and call it french fries, it is going to get eaten. For Elle, the yellow sectional invited her to play, relax and love breakfast, something I probably couldn’t have accomplished on my own.

The other thing experience has shown is that familiarity is king. This is why many parents are all too familiar with mac and cheese. We know it works every time, and so do our kids. Why fix something that isn’t broken?

When our food came, Elle saw the croissants and panicked. She had never had this weird, swirly, flaky bread. I told her it's delicious, took a huge bite, being all too animated with how I loved it. But Elle didn’t budge.

My next attempt was, “It tastes like a donut! You will love it.” This worked like a charm.

Croissants do remind me of donuts, but this sandwich was far from the standard donut breakfast. The price wasn’t far from a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich, but as far as the quality, they weren’t even in the same country. My sandwich had fresh eggs, melted cheese and layers of salty ham. It looked like an egg sandwich I would have made at home (if I cooked breakfast for my family). I was in breakfast heaven and picked up the paper to take a five-minute reading break until my next errand called.

Elle and I relaxed on the couch, eating our donut-esque sandwiches. We had survived the early-morning airport run.