Travels with Children

The adventures I embark upon with my four young children.

Archive for Family-Friendly Restaurants

How Long Has This Been Going On?

OK, I’ll admit it.  When I’m out on adventures with the kids, we sometimes (gasp!) eat at McDonald’s.

We have a pretty standard order, and it’s usually in the same ballpark price-wise.  Today I was surprised at the price, and since my husband was along, I actually had time to look at the receipt in detail.  I was shocked and disappointed when I went back to the counter to question the manager.

My order for the kids was this:

  • 1 Hamburger Happy Meal, French Fries, Chocolate Milk, menu price $2.60.
  • 2 Chicken Nuggets Happy Meal, French Fries, Chocolate Milk, menu price $3.20.
  • 1 Chicken Nuggets Happy Meal, Apples, Chocolate Milk, menu price $3.20.

But on the receipt it looked like this.

  • 1 4NUG/AD HPY ML TOY $2.30
  • 1 HAMB/FRY HPY ML TOY $1.70
  • 2 4NUG/FRY HPY ML TOY $4.60
  • 4 CHOCOLATE MILK $5.80

These receipts have never been the easiest to decipher, which is probably why I didn’t figure this out sooner.

The “$5.80” is what caught my eye, so I broke it down, and found that I was paying $1.45 per milk above the Happy Meal price on the receipt.  This brought the Hamburger Happy Meal to $3.15 and the Chicken Nuggets to $3.75.  Each Happy Meal was $.55 more than the price in the menu.

I went to the counter and asked the manager about it.  I was directed to the “prices may vary” asterisk by the Happy Meal options and informed that the milk costs more than the pop does, so the Happy Meal with milk does as well.  (The asterisk was next to the french fry/apple dippers choice as well, but they cost the same, at least at this particular restaurant.)

I’ve been ordering milk with Happy Meals as long as I’ve had kids eating solid foods, which is about 7 years now, and this is the first time I’ve noticed that the milk cost more.  When my oldest was a toddler, the Happy Meals only cost $.10 more than the All-American meal (hamburger, small fries, tiny drink) so I would splurge and spend the dime to get him the little toy.  As my life got more hectic, I didn’t pay as much attention to the prices because I was just trying to get everyone fed and out of the restaurant in a well-behaved manner.  How long has this been going on?

What’s your experience with kids’ meals?  Do the healthier options cost more at other restaurants (fast-food or sit-down) as well?  I’m feeling really foolish right now and would love any insight you might have.

And, yes, next time I go in to McDonald’s, I’ll be pricing out the following: 1 hamburger, 3 4-pc. Chicken Nuggets, 1 medium or large fries, and 4 waters, to see how much these Happy Meals have really been costing me.

How do I love thee, Famous Dave’s?

Famous Daves

When we’re on our outings, it’s often over a mealtime. While sometimes we pack a lunch or grab fast food, at other times we look for one of our favorite restaurants. Because we have a child with a food allergy, we’ve learned that some restaurants are more allergy-friendly than others. And some restaurants are more kid-friendly than others. Combine an allergy-friendly, kid-friendly spot with some good food, and it’s at the top of our list.

Which brings me to Famous Dave’s.

I first ate at Famous Dave’s about 10 years ago. I was married but didn’t have kids yet, and I thought the food was pretty good. My brother-in-law, however, thought it was a really cool place because there’s a roll of paper towel on the table instead of some fancy napkins. At the time, it was just a rib joint to me. Family-friendly was not yet on my radar.

Fast forward eight years or so. We were in Duluth, Minnesota, and our first-choice restaurant wasn’t open for lunch on Sunday. Famous Dave’s was just a few doors down, and not only were they open, but we were the first ones in the door at 11:05 a.m. (That’s an important fact when dining out with kids. Lines=bad. Not busy=good.)

We did our usual spiel for the hostess. “We’d like a table for six, with one high chair, non-smoking, four children’s menus. And could we please talk to a manager; our son is allergic to peanuts.” When the manager came out, he had a list of all the ingredients in every food item in the place, and allowed us to peruse it and then follow up with any questions. Score one for Famous Dave’s. (FYI for peanut-allergy families: the last time I checked the ingredient listings, there were a few desserts with tree nuts, but none with peanuts, and the only “may-contain” for peanuts was in the corn muffins. Everything else appeared to be peanut-free. Of course, you’ll always check each time, but I was happy with the menu.)

Dave’s also gets family-friendly points for the usual kids menus with crayons and activities. Our kids retold the jokes from the menus about a hundred times over the next few days. They have chocolate milk. And they have ribs on the kids menu. Really good ribs for a reasonable price.

Prices? For a family that eats around 11 a.m. or 4 p.m. when dining out, you can’t beat Famous Dave’s. They have early bird specials from 11 to 5 (although it varies from site to site–Mall of America’s end at 3 p.m.), with some really good choices for under $10. Our entire family has eaten at Famous Dave’s for only about $8 more than our typical meal at McDonald’s.

If the kids menus don’t keep the kids occupied until the food comes, Famous Dave’s is great for a game of “I spy.” We’ve done the entire “find the alphabet” game in there as well. And reading the back of the staff’s t-shirts is entertaining, too.

Finally, there’s always music playing at Famous Dave’s. Kind of a Cajun hillbilly style music, and it’s not so loud as to be annoying, but loud enough that it covers up little voices. It’s also the kind of music that kids love to chair-dance to. Watching them be-bop to the beat is one of my favorite Famous Dave’s pastimes.

Yeah, we love Famous Dave’s.