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Eating Out (As Painlessly As Possible)

November 5, 2009

kids-eat-free-rochester-ny1Here’s a fake letter from a reader that I have completely fabricated:

“Dear Mouse House Kitchen,

I have a 2 year-old, and I’d like to know if you can recommend some good restaurants to take him to.  I live in the United States.  Thank you.

Sincerely,

John D’oh!”

John, thanks very much for your question.  Coincidentally, I too have a toddler, so I can speak to your question with first-hand experience.  Indeed there are some places that are much better for keeping toddlers from running amok than others.  Let’s start with national chains:

Cheesecake Factory – they will bring little ones a plate with sliced bananas and bread, a good distraction while you are pondering the phone book-sized menu.

Uno Pizza – they have “make your own pizza” on the kid’s menu.  They bring dough, sauce, cheese, toppings and an apron.  The kids make the pizza, Uno’s cooks it.  It’s really fun for them.

Moe’s Southwest Grill – kids eat free on Sundays, and it’s fun for them to watch their taco or quesadilla or whatever being made behind the glass.

Subway – again, seeing the food being made can be entertaining, and their kid’s meals come with a toy.

Chuck E. Cheese – bad pizza, fun stuff for kids.  Check your sanity at the door.

Red Robin – they have balloons.  Kids love balloons.  And the kid’s meals come in a cardboard car.

McDonald’s – I am certainly not endorsing the food, but they have frickin’ playgrounds at most of their restaurants…remember, this is about having lunch or dinner without apocalyptic meltdowns.

I’m sure there are many local favorites in your area, but for those of you in the Northeast, here are a couple more places where you should be able to keep those toddlers from being a mealtime nightmare for at least a few minutes:

99 Restaurant – nothing specific for kids, but they will bring a bowl of popcorn to the table (by request).  This works well as a bribe for good behavior.

Smokey Bones BBQ – their kids menu has several pages of activities, and they have TV volume boxes at each table, so you can choose which of the dozen or so TVs you want to listen to…buttons and sounds are good distractions.

Please send me any suggestions you have – this list can be a valuable resource for parents of toddlers!

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