A looming chemistry exam and two toddlers at your knee — what’s a mom to do? Head out for a latte. April Criss sips from a bright orange, bowl-size cup of coffee as she reads from notes and a textbook, while in the next room, her children play happily. The supervised playroom at Four Kids Coffee has been a godsend for the North Canton mother.
“Normally, we come here for play dates. The moms sit and chat and laugh and have a good time,” Criss said. “This is the second time I’ve studied here. I have a final tomorrow.”
The large, bright, pristinely clean playroom has a playhouse and toys “similar to what you’d see at the Children’s Museum in Cleveland,” she said. But it’s what you don’t see that is most important to Criss and other moms: no dangerous allergens.
“We’re giving parents a break and giving kids a place to play, (kids) who can’t go anywhere else because of life-threatening food allergies,” explained Catherine Sackett, who owns Four Kids Coffee with her husband, Jason.
One of their four children has food allergies. Before entering the playroom, all children must take off their shoes and wash their hands.
“People think it’s for hygienic reasons, and that’s part of it, but the main reason is to get rid of any food allergens that might be on their hands, then get transferred to toys,” Catherine said.
The Sacketts opened the Whipple Avenue NW coffeehouse in October. The custom-designed building includes a small meeting room and a pretty patio.
Although the rich, full-bodied coffee and myriad coffee-based drinks are the focus here, Four Kids also offers a small, eclectic menu that includes vegan and gluten-free selections. Food preparation is done in two kitchens, with one reserved for making dishes free of common allergens, including peanuts, gluten, dairy and shellfish.
A good choice for lunch is the black beans and jasmine rice combination, deftly seasoned with cumin, garlic, bell peppers and onion. That deft hand belongs to Jason, who does most of the cooking.
“The original black beans recipe is from my brother-in-law. He’s from the Dominican Republic,” Catherine said. The beans also are served on top of the Barista Salad, Jason’s favorite.
The bakery case offers many temptations to pair with coffee, including a scone du jour, brownies and coffeecake. All the treats are allergen-free, which means Wendy Lazor of Lake Township doesn’t have to say, “You can’t have that” to her 5-year-old daughter, Annie.
Wendy meets other moms at the coffee shop every Thursday.
“There’s a feeling of community here and it helps Annie to recognize there are other kids like her. She loves it here,” Lazor said. “She can pick anything she wants out of the case — usually she has a brownie or chocolate chip cookie.”
Grownups with or without allergies, don’t miss the Mayan — a chocolate cookie with a cayenne kick.
“My sister-in-law is from Mexico and she told us how they spiced their hot chocolate with cayenne,” Catherine said. “We modified our drink based on old Mayan recipes, then developed the cookies from that.”
FOUR KIDS COFFEE
6307 Whipple Ave. NW, Jackson Township
Open Monday through Saturday, 6:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.
$6.50 per hour, additional children $3.50 per hour.