365 Restaurants, 2 Kids, 1 Giant Fiasco
“He didn’t take a nap today.” This is never the statement you want to hear before taking your kids out to dinner to an untried restaurant. We hopped in the car not knowing where we’d eat dinner and as we discussed our options, little Benji fell asleep. We settled on Brooklyn’s, a restaurant we had noted on our way to Gloria’s (one of our favorites!) at Firewheel Mall once before.
The minute we walked in the door I was a little wary. First, I had Benjamin draped across my shoulder sleeping and there was a huge menu hanging before us with too-small-for-me-to-read print. I attempted to leave the dinner decision making to Ogre; however, I was barraged by questions about which salad and which pizza and which pasta… I was unaware that at some point Ogre went to have a table bussed so I could lay Benjamin down somewhere to sleep while we waited for our order. I saw the cleaned table, but was not comfortable sitting down after noting a sign that directed us to allow those who order before us to sit down first. So I stood there with Benji for fifteen minutes while the Phipps clan chose dinner. I’m pretty sure Ogre rolled his eyes at me.
We finally decided on the Tossed Asiago Ceasar (individual), Bronx Italiano Pizza (large), and the Gnocchi (we opted for the individual sized vodka sauce with no alcohol content). I waited by the soda machines while Ogre ordered dinner and at some point, Benjamin stirred, hit his head on the coke machine and woke up. Then he threw his head back and cried. Great. After stalking the patrons who were getting ready to leave and settling Benjamin down, we found a booth. Ogre collected our drinks and found silverware for us. When we were all settled, Mina’s first questions was “Is this a loud restaurant?” Yes, it was. This is great when you have kids because your child’s voice is drowned out by the masses. No one has to hear your kid scream “NO!” or cry for no apparent reason. Benjamin, cranky and crying at times, was worrying me because he had no food. The boy likes to eat, it makes him happy. I was hopeful that they would send out some bread. Mina and Ogre went off to investigate the games at the back of the restaurant. Their report was that it was free, but all the games were not appropriate for her age (she’s four).
While they were gone, the salads came. Apparently, our pasta came with a small side salad. Benji and I started working on these as Mina and Ogre came back from the games. Mina was instructed to eat her 3 pieces of lettuce and some pieces of tomato. She tried it with the Italian dressing and did not like it so Ogre brought her some Thousand Island dressing. We gave some to Benji, who was quite pleased with this dipping sauce. Ogre asked one of the waitresses who happened by if we would be getting any bread. She informed us that it normally comes with the pasta, but that she would get us some. She came back and warned us to be careful since the bread had “just come out.” Of where? We’re not sure, the bread was maybe warm…at best. But, at least Benjamin had something to dip in his Thousand Island. Ogre and I finished off the Caesar salad as the Gnocchi arrived for the first time. I cut the pasta into pieces for Benji, and found the centers to be quite cool. Initially, Ogre thought it was warm, but a second sampling proved to be to cold for him also. We sent it back for another try. Benji cried when the gnocchi left.
The pizza came out very soon after the gnocchi. They put the plates under the hot pizza pan and set this on our table. The waitress told me not to touch the pan. I queried the waitress how I was supposed to get the plates out from under there. She said she wasn’t sure, but managed to get them out from under the pan for me.
It was fun to watch Benjamin with his gnocchi and sausage, expertly dipping into his sauce and asking for “mo” when his tray got low. It was the usual challenge to get Mina to eat any of her vegetables, but she made a valiant attempt eating her tomatoes (she promised that she did not throw them on the floor), her lettuce (that she dipped in the vodka sauce) and her pizza (which she informed me was “the hardest” to eat since it had tomatoes on it.) Ogre and I worked on the pizza while awaiting the Gnocchi, which finally arrived after some prodding by Ogre. We finished off dinner with one leftover slice of pizza to take home and ordered the Chocolate Cannoli for dessert. We let Benjamin try some of the Chocolate Cannoli and were rewarded with an enthusiastic dance. Mina stuffed her face with as much of the Cannoli as possible and with a mouthful said, “Yum, yum, yum, I’m the Cookie Monster!”
The overall menu: A nice variety of salads, sandwiches (including pitas), pizzas, and pastas. There was an Antipasto salad (ham, genoa salami, proscuitto, with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and peppers) and a Rustica Chicken Salad (field greens, roasted garlic, olives, sundried tomatoes, and onions) that caught Ogre’s eye among the salad choices. Their pizza selections included a “thin, round, hand-tossed” variety, a twice baked square that is thick, and a one-inch thick stuffed meat pizza. Their pizza topping choices were expansive, yet traditional. They seemed to have your garden variety pasta choices, but they do describe these as “homemade.” One thing I really liked about their menu is that you could order most of the dishes either individually or “family style.” This would be great for families… that can agree on dinner. Isn’t that always the key?
Kids menu: Everything on the kids menu was $3.25. Choices include a one topping slice of pizza, pasta with marinara sauce, pasta with alfredo sauce, chicken fingers, mac n’ cheese, and five cheese ravioli. These all come with a free fountain drink. I was able to eyeball some other tables with kids menu items, and the pastas looked to be a nice sized portion, definitely more than my 4 year old could finish.
Tossed Asiago Caesar $5.99: Romaine lettuce tossed with a creamy asiago Caesar dressing, croutons, and shaved parmesan. I was very surprised at the size of this “individual” portion. It was enough to feed at least two people or be an entree by itself. The description overpromised, and the dish underdelivered. I thought it was on the spicy side. After complaining about this to the husband, he informed me that it was the bottom choice of the ones he was suggesting to me when we were standing in front of the big sign. Hmmm, I don’t really remember him telling me that. Overall, he thought it was “average.”
Gnocchi (+vodka sauce) $6.99: This potato pasta was served with a creamy red vodka sauce and came with a small house salad and choice of dressing. Their first presentation for us was too cold and had to be sent back. When served at the correct temperature, Ogre and I both like it. The sauce was creamy and a somewhat sweet taste to it. I actually don’t prefer Gnocchi, but theirs was quite tasty. Mina and Benjamin ate it without any problems at all. In fact, I think Benjamin ate the largest portion of it! Mina recounted that she had mashed potatoes at lunch and during dinner informed us that we were now eating “mashed potato pasta.” Yum.
Bronx Italiano Pizza $16.99: The tomato sauce was, again, somewhat sweet and covered with Italian sausage and pepporoni, chopped tomatoes, scallions, garlic and roasted red peppers. The slices were large and required either a knife and fork (me) or two hands initially. Ogre couldn’t quite fold it up to eat so we wouldn’t call it classic New York Style pizza, but we both agreed it tasted great. I would rank this pizza as one of the better pizzas I’ve had in town! Unfortunately, we don’t have much of a kid review, as Ogre gave Benji the crust from one of his slices that was still tainted with crushed red pepper. This is where the “loud restaurant theory” comes into play. No one could give us stink eye when Benjamin screamed in pain after taking a bite. Whoops. And Mina begrudgingly ate her slice of pizza, but her comments revolve only around the fact that she “had to” eat tomatoes. At least she ate them.
Chocolate Cannoli $2.50: The picture on their paper menu looks delicious! It is a hard pastry shell covered in a chocolate shell and filled with a smooth sweet mascarpone and dotted with mini-chocolate chips. Ogre loves cannoli. I do not. So from a cannoli-lover, he said that it was quite good. I thought it was edible. Not bad, but I wouldn’t order it on my own. And the kids, of course, loved it!!
The layout of this restaurant is kind of strange. When you walk in, there are massive boards with the menu items on it. I think this can cause quite a bottle neck, especially when there are first-timers (us) who can’t decide what to order since the mom is not really listening to the dad and one kid is antsy while the other kid is asleep. In fact, we had people behind us waiting unbeknownst to us for awhile until we realized that the problem we were causing and told them to go ahead. Then you cruise around to order and only then should you find your seat. We dined on a Thursday night, and the rest seemed quite busy. There was not readily available seating for us when we were ready to sit down. The aisles are very narrow, making the space seem a little cluttered and cramped.
I think this restaurant is still going through some growing pains. It is a relatively new restaurant. There were lots of servers moving around, and once someone asked us about drinks toward the end of our dinner. I assume by design that our table was not assigned a specific server. We got the usual “cute kid” comment even while Benjamin was throwing bread all over the floor, so that always makes my dining experience a little less stressful. We did have to send the Gnocchi back, but I believe it came back out as soon as it was ready, it just took some time. Our table number did say “Perfection takes time.”
This seems to be a very kid friendly restaurant. They have a nice selection on their kids’ menu (which we did not partake in). Our kids loved the food and we were able to share our dishes with them. The restaurant is loud enough to drown out your child’s unusual vocalizations, yet, we were still able to converse about Mina’s query “How come sometimes you can have scary dreams in your eyes?” among other things. For the kids who are probably 5 and older, there are free games to pass the time also. No one seemed to mind about the mess we were making and there seemed to be an endless supply of napkins nearby. Benjamin was irritated when he had to wait on the warm gnocchi, but other than that was happy as a clam despite his lack of sleep and rude awakening and Mina ate her veggies without puking. THAT made this a GREAT experience with the kids!
Total price: $40.64
Childsplate.com chronicles our journey to find the perfect family restaurant. We are looking for restaurants with excellent food and a great attitude towards kids, even the whiny, cranky ones! We will be headed out to a different restaurant every single day to provide ourselves (and you) with some entertainment and good information about DFW area restaurants. We hope you will visit frequently and use our experiences to create some fun dining experiences of your own! Watch out, DFW, the Phipps family is going out to eat!