Saturday, April 28, 2007

Top Ten Things a Kid-Friendly Restaurant Should Have

When I am doing my reviews, and when I recommend a restaurant to a fellow family, I usually keep in mind several attributes that a restaurant should have to be considered kid-friendly. You know, besides good food, which is a given. So, in no particular order, here is my Top Ten List of Things a Kid-Friendly Restaurant Should Have:

  1. Other families eat there
    They must know something, right? Plus, their kids may drown out my kids.
  2. There's a place to run around or take a little one who's having a meltdown
    Places with playgrounds are great as are big waiting areas or even just a little (safe) space outside the restaurant to just have the kids run off some steam.
  3. Entertainment/activities to distract the kids
    Crayons and coloring menus are probably the best. Also good are TVs (but only if they can be tuned to cartoons), open kitchens, aquariums, and even watching video games in demo mode (yeah, my kids like to do that). We'll let our 7-year-old bring his Nintendo DS but the problem is getting him to turn it off when the food arrives.
  4. Kid-friendly food and drink menu items, with smaller quantities and prices
    Kids love pizza, chicken fingers/nuggets, Mac-n-cheese, grilled cheese and hamburgers/cheeseburgers. If a restaurant has a few of these items, most kids can find something to eat. I also look for an item or two from that restaurant's cuisine so my kids can branch out a little bit, for example, in a Mexican restaurant offering a kid-sized burrito, taco, or quesadilla. Oh, and don't forget about the drinks! Soda alone doesn't cut it. I want a place to offer at least juice (not just orange) and milk. However, my little one prefers lemonade and chocolate milk so I'm very glad when those are on the menu.
  5. Appropriate cup/utensil options for kids
    Speaking of the food and drink, they should be served properly to the kids as well. Plastic cups with lids and straws are a must (especially the straw!) as well as not serving the big honking steak knives to the kids.
  6. Stable and clean high chairs and booster seats are available
    Luckily, I don't have to worry about this anymore, but I know a lot of parents do. I remember pulling over high chairs and they wobbled so much I was sure it would fall to pieces as soon as I put my baby in it. It's also important to have a place to put the high chair - some of these places with the high bar-like tables can't accommodate a high chair as well.
  7. Clean floors
    'Cause I know my 3-year-old is going to end up down there anyways. 'Nuff said.
  8. Servers/hosts that cater to my children
    Really important to have friendly servers that act like they truly want to serve my kids. I also like when they ask if we want the kids' meals delivered first or with the adult meals, when they come by with extra napkins, when they bring small munchies such as crackers before the food is served, etc.
  9. The right loudness...
    So that other patrons won't notice my kids being loud, but not so loud that we all have to shout to hear each other. There's nothing worse than when your kid yells and every head in the restaurant turns to look - yikes!
  10. Short wait times
    On getting a seat, on giving our order, on getting our food, on getting our check - kids' patience levels are pretty short. My Hubby's is as well so it is a bonus all-around if we don't have to wait long for anything.

There you go, my personal Top Ten. Do you all have any others to add?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Restaurant Review - Fuddruckers, Festival Bay Mall, end of International Drive, Orlando, FL

A couple of weekends ago, Hubby, the boys, and I were at Putting Edge glow-in-the-dark indoor mini-golf at Festival Bay Mall, when we started to get hungry for lunch. We decided to eat at Fuddruckers in the mall since the boys were hungry for cheeseburgers and we were not in the mood for McDonald's. Fuddruckers is located at the main entrance of the Festival Bay Mall in what is becoming the mall's "restaurant row." There is also a Dixie Crossroads there (see my review here and they are finishing up a Cricketer Arms English Pub and a Bergamo's Italian Restaurant (both relocating from the Mercado Center, also on I-Drive). Fuddruckers is the only one of the four to also have an entrance inside the mall besides an outside one.

When you first walk into Fuddruckers, you are "funneled" along a narrow pathway that leads to the ordering counter. Along the way, you pass several menu boards, along with a display of raw hamburger patties - I guess so you can gauge how big of a burger you would like to have? At Fuddruckers, you can have a 1/3 lb, 1/2 lb, 2/3 lb, or even a full 1 lb burger, with all sorts of toppings. There's also salads, and grilled and crispy chicken sandwiches, sides (all burgers are a la carte - if you want fries, you'll have to order them separate) plus a whole dessert counter. The kid's menu offers cheeseburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese, chicken fingers, all with fries on the side (lucky kids) or mac-n-cheese. For $3.99, the kid's meals come with a drink and a cookie as well. Hubby wasn't feeling "burger-y" so he ordered the All-American Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($6.69) that comes with smokehouse bacon, mushrooms, and American cheese on a bakery fresh Fuddruckers bun. He then took the boys to find a table while I finished the order. I chose one of the Specialty Burgers (meaning some premium toppings are already included), the Southwest Burger in 2/3 lb size ($6.89), which comes with guacamole, pepper jack cheese and smokehouse bacon. Both boys wanted cheeseburgers and I upgraded their drinks to chocolate milkshakes for an extra $1.49. I was then handed a milkshake-shaped sign with a number to put on our table and was asked for a name for the order. The order taker said our milkshakes would be delivered to us but to come back to the counter when our name was called to get the food.

I arrived at the table with the sign and drinks for Hubby and me. The seating area is large, but feels very crowded. There are square booths and circle booths, and regular tables and high tables. There is pretty much no place to put a stroller and if you have a high-chair child, you'd better hope one of the regular tables is empty because that's the only kind that can accommodate a high-chair. About 5 minutes later, the kids' milkshakes arrived, which was good because it was something to keep their attention. Hubby wondered why they took the sign with the number on it when the shakes were delivered - how were they going to deliver our food now? I explained that, no, we had to listen for our name and then go back up and get the food. He thought that was very inconvenient for parents, especially if there is only one adult and a bunch of children - how would you keep track of your kids when you are going up to get the food? With so many other "fast-casual" restaurants today delivering food right to your table, I wonder why Fuddruckers hasn't adopted this as well. About 15 minutes later, our food was ready and I went up to the counter to get it. There are no trays for you to get your food with so I had to juggle the three burger baskets and one chicken basket on my way back to our table. The boys both wanted ketchup and mustard and BB wanted tomatoes, pickles and lettuce, too, on their burgers so I had to go back to the toppings and sauces bar to fix up their burgers. It's actually a pretty nice spread with fresh veggies and other toppings including onions, salsa, jalapenos, relish, BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, mayo, and about 4 different kinds of mustard. Back to the table again and now Hubby got up to fix up his chicken sandwich how he wanted it. My Southwest burger looked really good as is so I didn't feel like I needed any additional toppings. After cutting up LB's burger into quarters and BB's burger in half, it was now time for me to eat! Yum! The mix of guac, pepper jack cheese and bacon really gave the burger a great taste. Plus, I just love Fuddruckers' bakery buns. They slather them in butter and then toast them and they just taste perfect with the burgers. Hubby thought his chicken sandwich was okay - the chicken was a little dry but otherwise pretty good. Both boys did pretty good with their burgers and fries (homestyle cut and seasoned) but only got halfway through with their shakes. It's not clear when you are leaving whether you need to bus your own table or not but we didn't see any garbage cans so we left everything on the table. As we were leaving the table, though, a server did come by and start clearing our table. She also reminded us to get our kid's meal cookies at the bakery counter and that we just needed to show our receipt. That's right - the cookies! We had totally forgotten about those. I went by the counter and got two kid's chocolate chip cookies on our way out. I really like the food at Fuddruckers and the boys enjoy it too but Hubby doesn't like how it is so "self-serve" focused. I tend to agree and I'll have to make sure I have another adult with me when I bring the kids back.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Restaurant Review - Shane's Rib Shack, 155 Cranes Roost Blvd, Altamonte Springs, FL

Update 2/10/08: I've heard a rumor that Shane's Rib Shack in Altamonte may have closed. Can anyone confirm that? I know the Kissimmee location is still open.

There's a new rib/BBQ chain in town, with one location in "Uptown Altamonte" and the other in "The Loop" in Kissimmee (with more to come according to their website). It's called Shane's Rib Shack and it is brought to us by Raving Brands - the same folks that came up with Moe's and PJ's Coffee Bar. We tried the Shane's Rib Shack in Uptown Altamonte for lunch one weekend - Grandpa, Grandma, LB, BB and myself. The decor is really cute - the look they are going for is that you are ordering from a "shack" and then go sit on the "porch" behind a screen door on "disheveled" tables and chairs - but of course you can tell that everything is brand-new and is just supposed to look distressed.

When you walk into Shane's Rib Shack, there's a large order counter with an equally large menu board behind it. The menu is a bit overwhelming with offerings for Sandwiches, Platters, Plates, Wings, Starters, Sides, Salads, Tenders, Drinks, and a Kids Menu. I had to have the order taker point out the Kids Menu for me because I actually couldn't find it at first. Kids' offerings are $4.49 (except for the Cheeseburger that is $4.29 for some reason) and come with a regular side and a small drink. Other choices are Chicken Tenders, Grilled Cheese, Cheese Sticks (I thought this was strange - since when are cheese sticks a meal?), and Mac and Cheese. BB picked Mac and Cheese while LB picked Grilled Cheese (okay - so maybe Cheese Sticks aren't that weird). At this point Grandma went with the boys to find a table for us. Whoops - I didn't ask what the boys wanted for their sides - I went with cole slaw for BB and baked beans for LB. Then I had to figure out what I wanted. From what I could figure, the Platters were for the larger appetites such as full racks of ribs or rib and chicken combos - they ranged from $15.99 to $19.99 and came with Texas Toast and 2 large sides. Plates were a little smaller than that such as half a rack of ribs or BBQ pork or chicken - they ranged from $7.99 to $12.99 and included Texas Toast and 2 regular sides. I decided to go with one of the Sandwiches because I didn't feel that hungry. For $4.49 to $5.29, there were different types of chicken sandwiches, a cheeseburger, or BBQ pork. I went with the "BIG DAD" Chopped BBQ Pork Sandwich for $5.29 that seemed to be the "signature" sandwich. For an extra $1.99, I made it a combo with a regular drink and regular side - I chose the cole slaw as well. Grandpa got the Half Baby Back Ribs plate for $12.99 and ordered Grandma the Smothered Pork Sandwich for $5.09. We then received a number to post on our table so the servers could deliver the food to us and went through the screen door to our table.

When I arrived at the table, LB had apparently taken off half the roll of paper towels that are placed on the table for messes and was rolling it into a big ball. I took him with me to get the drinks to hopefully distract him. Shane's has sweet tea - my favorite - and also Sweetened Peach Tea as well. I got a sweet tea for BB and a lemonade for LB and headed back to the table. Grandpa was now examining the BBQ sauces that were on the table - Original, Spicy and Hot. There are TVs in the dining area, which is good, because it took about 15 minutes for our food to arrive at the table. While the boys were digging into their food, Grandma was surprised by her entree. She had ordered the Smothered Pork Sandwich which she assumed was the chopped BBQ Pork smothered in sauce - logical, right? Instead, the Smothered Pork Sandwich is actually the chopped BBQ pork on top of... cole slaw. Hmm, don't really get the "smothered" thing unless this is a Southern specialty that I am not aware of. It does say it is "with slaw" on the menu but that is in the smaller type and that could mean that slaw is served with it. Also very unusual, my sandwich was served on the Texas Toast while Grandma's was on a plain bun. This is also detailed on the menu but just seems random whether sandwiches come on the bun or the Texas toast. Grandma declared her sandwich "okay" despite the slaw but said her collard greens on the side were excellent. Grandpa said his rib plate was good, although small, and that he liked the collard greens as well. My BBQ Pork sandwich on the Texas Toast was good (and messy) but I would have liked the BBQ Pork to be piled on a little more - it is called the "BIG DAD" after all. BB liked his whole meal and LB did pretty good with his grilled cheese. However, I made a mistake with the baked beans - he didn't like them and instead tried to steal all of Grandpa's fries. In all, the food was pretty good, although nothing outstanding, but definitely a place to try if you are in the area.

Copyright © by Restaurant Mom. All rights reserved.