My friend recently wrote an article about the quality of children’s food available at restaurants. She describes her experiences of limited, unhealthy choices and being served overcooked food, often to the point that it’s inedible. As I read her story and based on my experiences of eating out with my 13-month old son thus far, I concurred.
However, today, I had to eat my words.
I’ve had a busy time the last few weeks with visitors, work and my writing challenge and today I couldn’t face figuring out a what to feed the monster, as well as tackling the mountain of housework that had grown since last weekend. As my son was rapidly decanting every single dish I have in the kitchen cupboards, I decided I needed to get out of the house, so we headed for the shopping mall.
About 30 minutes into the trip – around 11.30 am – I could see my son was already getting bored, so I preempted the meltdown and we opted for an early lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. As Emily said in her post, there are limited places where it feels acceptable to eat when you have a child that throws food on the floor and screams between each mouthful. Thankfully, the Cheesecake Factory is one of those places.
I was handed the menu, which listed most of the usual suspects available for children; mac and cheese, breaded chicken tenders or nuggets, meatballs; etc etc. Then, at the bottom of the list, I noticed two healthier options; grilled chicken with veg and grilled salmon with veg. I was pleasantly surprised. I opted for the salmon.
After a long enough wait that I had to placate the Bean with a biscuit, the salmon arrived accompanied by mashed potato and carrots. At first glance the carrots looked like the relay batons I’m used to seeing on restaurant plates he receives, but on closer inspection, I was surprised at how soft they were. I mashed them with a fork and they were perfectly edible. Success!
The combination of fish, potato and carrot was a wonderfully healthy and balanced meal and easy for him to eat. It was also a good size; there was more than enough for him and some left over for me meaning, in the future, I know I can order a smaller portion and supplement with the rest of his. It also came with a good choice of healthy and not so healthy beverages – apple juice, milk, orange juice or water. Our server was friendly and attentive and made sure we were comfortably seated with a high chair and room for the buggy. It was a much better experience than I expected and I left with a very happy, and full, boy!
Despite the fact my son’s screaming throughout the meal made me feel a little on edge; no one batted an eyelid and I was made to feel very welcome. It helped that, just as we were leaving, a group of mothers with their kids around the ages of 1-5 turned up and caused mayhem just a few tables down from us. It turns out it’s not just my kid that likes scream between courses! All in all, it was a positive visit and we’ll be back for more meals, perhaps next time we’ll throw in some cheesecake!