Ethan Gruenenay, foreground; Ellie McKee, background; and Austin Gruenenay, right; enjoy some time at Roo's Cafe, an indoor play place that gives kids a chance to work off their energy while their parents relax with a coffee or a smoothie and chat with friends. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Local News

A place for kids to play, and for parents to get away

By From page A1 | July 20, 2014

If you go

What: Roo’s Café, a children’s play place with food for adults, too

When: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. daily

Where: 2939 Spafford St.

Admission: Free for infants up to 12 months, $3 for ages 13-24 months, $7 for ages 2-5; discounts are offered with purchase

Info: www.rooscafe.com

Virtually every Davis parent with little kids has looked longingly toward the giant play structures at fast-food joints, envisioning entertainment and energy release for their kids, which spells respite for the parents.

But then the struggle begins: Do I really want to feed my kids that food? Do I want to eat that food?

If only there were a healthy alternative. Oh, and wouldn’t it be amazing if it actually had a bit of adult style, hip even, with a menu to appeal to adult taste buds, too.
Now that parental dream has come true right here in Davis, with the opening of Roo’s Café last December. The eatery, at the corner of Fifth and Spafford streets, combines a colorful children’s play area with a sleek spot where adults can enjoy a gourmet smoothie or nibble on a panini and chat while the little ones are grandly entertained.
“It is very cheery and the kids love it, and it has comfy chairs for us moms,” said Davis mom Lori McKee as she sipped her Arnold Palmer iced tea (tea/lemonade), escaping summer’s heat. “It is a great place, especially to take the younger kids while the older ones are in school or at other activities.”
Necessity sparks invention
The idea for the café sprung to life after owner Ru Zheng became a mother and tried to get to the park each day with her now nearly 4-year-old son Kai. The question quickly became what to do when it is raining or in the intense heat of the Central Valley summer.

Having heard of places around the country that combine space for adults with a playground for kids, she determined to create one right here in Davis. A café was a natural for Zheng, who began working in her family’s Chinese restaurant when she was 11 years old.

“I loved the idea of a place for parents, where you can get a cup of coffee or sandwich and not be completely surrounded by kids like at home,” Zheng explained. “I knew it could be sophisticated and still have a fun play area for the kids.”

Leather chairs and sophisticated colors make it feel more like a New York coffeehouse than a kids’ play place.

The Roo’s Café menu includes pastries baked fresh daily, healthy smoothies, gourmet coffees and teas, and sandwiches like The Italian Job panini, with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and fresh basil on a grilled ciabatta.

New items debut all the time. The latest: the Banho Mi, a Vietnamese hoagie, and Thai iced tea.

And for kids, there is everything from a fruit cup to healthy chicken nuggets, from a yogurt parfait to an edamame-and-hummus platter.

Roo’s Café has begun to introduce classes and special events for both kids and adults. There is a music class on Saturdays at 11 a.m. that is included in the price of admission.

“We wanted to make it fun for a child to be able to take a class, then the family can just stay and play,” Zheng said.

And for adults, Roo’s Café will debut its first Date Night later in July. From 6 to 8 p.m., while the kids have supervised play inside and eat dinner, the parents are invited to relax out on the patio while they enjoy a three-course gourmet dinner and music.

What’s next?

In the future, Zheng plans to add more classes and mini-summer camps, along with family-oriented events such as a Kids Fair.

“We really want to be part of the community, to be a service to families in Davis, and part of that will be to bring together in one place all the various organizations that offer services, activities, and products that families would be interested in,” she said.

Roo’s Café is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. All-day admission to the play area is free for those up to 12 months old; $3 for ages 13 to 24 months; and $7 for kids ages 2-5.

Entrance is free for up to two kids with a $20 purchase, 75 percent off with $15 purchase, 50 percent off with a $10 purchase and 25 percent off with a $5 purchase.

Each additional child is $3.

For more information, check out www.rooscafe.com.

Heidi Bay

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