By far the greatest test on my patience during our recent trip to the San Jose area has been eating lots of meals in restaurants with the kids. Our very first dinner of the week at a fresh mex place called Chevy’s was a disaster of great proportions. Ruthie kept getting up from her seat, was grabbing things across the table, shouting, sassing, and generally being a brat. Oh, and she’s discovered that if she says she has to go potty then we jump up immediately to tend to her – so there were many false alarms that evening as well and I was getting fed up with her manipulations.
I made several trips to the bathroom with her for a private, terse rebuke of her behavior, but to no avail. She was simply not going to cooperate. I can’t remember what the final straw was, but at one point before I had even eaten half my meal, I took her from her seat, asked Bryan to have the food packed up, and marched Ruthie out to the car for a spanking, and when we got back to the hotel she got a long time out.
Eating out is not easy for kids, I admit. I usually cut her a lot of slack because it’s not easy to sit still for that long, and that particular evening we were all tired and cranky from travel. The next night we ate at the hotel which provides a full meal buffet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and it’s FREE. You can either eat in their cafe area or bring a tray of food back to your room. The hotel also provides a full breakfast spread every day, including scrambled eggs, sausage or ham, and oatmeal, among other things such as fruits and breads. If you have to stay in a hotel with kids, I highly recommend paying a little extra for one that provides more than just pastries and cold cereal in the morning – the extra amount you pay for the room and amenities will never come close to what you’ll spend eating in a restaurant for every meal.
Other things I did to avoid eating out a lot is to stock our kitchen with a few basic lunch and snack items, and one night we stopped at a Trader Joe’s to pick up some dinner items. The kids had a small cheese pizza, and Bryan and I had huge spinach salads and Asian marinated chicken that we thawed in the microwave. Including some snacks and other goodies, this all came to only $24, which is by far much less than we would pay in a restaurant after tax and tip.
And finally, while most chain restaurants are kid-friendly, I would definitely do your homework before committing to a meal. One night we decided to go in to downtown Palo Alto for dinner and ended up at The Cheesecake Factory. They have high chairs and booster seats, but they do not have a separate kids menu. I repeat, they DO NOT have a kids menu, but rather claim to have kid-friendly food items. Setting aside the fact that their menu is REDICULOUSLY huge with, like, fourteen pages of options, their portion sizes are also REDICULOUSLY huge. I ordered the kids a meatloaf sandwich to share, and what came to our table was a meal of such great proportions that I never would have been able to finish it myself, not to mention my inability to get my mouth around the thing.
In contrast, we drove in to San Francisco’s Pier 39 on Sunday night after visiting the Golden Gate Bridge to find some dinner, and ended up at a surfer-themed place called The Wipe Out Bar and Grill. They caught my attention immediately by posting their kid’s menu outside their door along with the main menu. I may have paid three times the amount for a serving of Kraft macaroni and cheese than if I had purchased a box and made it myself, but the peace and tranquility I enjoyed while sipping a giant margarita and eating ‘shark bites’ for appetizers was priceless.
So all and all we survived this portion of our trip for the most part, with only a few stressful occasions. As an extra special bonus, Bryan arranged for one of his co-workers to watch the kids on Friday night so we could enjoy a nice dinner out ALONE. We ordered a bottle of French wine at a French Bistro and spent two whole hours drinking and eating and talking. Long, slow, dinners are my favorite kind of date, and my husband gets four stars for that special treat.