The experience

So after 36 days straight without going to some of Mina’s favorite places due to our desire to steer clear of the more chain-type restaurants.  I finally decided I would give into her desire to go eat at California Pizza Kitchen in The Shops of Willow Bend in Plano.  She loves this location because she can play in the playground in the mall after dinner.  I previously had to turn down Amazing Jakes and Chuck E Cheese after suggesting we go eat somewhere “fun.”  Bad choice of words but this seemed to be a decent compromise. After double checking with the rulemaster, Mommy, MD, we were off.

Normally here’s where’d you see a picture of the restaurant, so let me tell you an amusing story…  Dusty was joining us this evening so he helped move the kids and gear into the mall.  We were seated right away and Mina got to work on her coloring.  She sticks her tongue out when she’s really concentrating like I do.  I went to get the picture with my handy Nikon D70s.  The auto-focus beeped but no picture.  I tried it several times but soon realized I forgot the memory card.  Oops.  The waiter came pretty quick, which was a surprise (see “The rest”).  We ordered our drinks and Mina decided it was time for a bathroom break.  Mina couldn’t reach the sinks her so I had to stay and wait.  They do have a changing station.

When we came back the waiter had brought the drinks but did not bring the bread; I would need to calm Benji who was already trying to get down.  I asked again.  And a third time.  Each time mentioning it was for Benji.  Last time, Dusty said, “We really need that bread over here, we’re going to have a temper tantrum.” At long last, we managed to get the bread.  3-4 pats of butter latter, Benji was back in smile mode.  We place our orders.  I opt for the Chipotle Chicken Pizza.  Mina gets her usual pizza: Honey Chicken Pizza with WARM pizza sauce on the side for dipping.  You seriously have to tell them to heat it up.  Dusty gets the Five Cheese and Tomato Pizza.  Benji will be sharing.  I do get him some apple juice because he keeps asking and I figure it is better than another stick of butter to keep him happy.

We go thru two loaves of bread before the pizza arrives.  They bring me the wrong sauce for my pizza.  I had asked for extra chipotle sauce on the side.  They manage to get this wrong everytime.  I usually get a lime cream sauce in its place.  Not sure how they confuse the two.  This time I get extra black bean pico de gallo mix instead.  That’s a real mystery since its not even sauce.  The return it and the second time he brings the usual first error of the lime cream sauce.  Strike two.  Finally, he brings the correct condiment on the third attempt.

Benji gets a slice of Mina’s pizza once she picks it clean of chicken.  She gets an extra bowl for Benji to give him some of her WARM pizza sauce since he, too, loves the “dip-dip.”  So, envision, if you would, the picture of Mina being sweet to Benji.  That’s what I would have put as a picture here.

Benji actually eats most of the pizza after a few refills in sauce from Mina.  Mina finishes off the rest of her pizza and is asking to go play.  It has taken so long to get our food that it is nearly 8:30.  The mall would be closing and Mina would not get to play.  Dusty offers to stick around and I go to let Benji and Mina play for a bit before heading home.

The food

The food is pretty good here.  Definitely above average.  They have a ton of pizzas to choose from.  They have some good salads and appetizers.  The pizza tonight was good as usual.  Some nights the crust has been slightly charred but quality is pretty consistent.  They have some pizzas that are served with some exotic toppings like mango or salad.  Then they have your regular pepperoni which Grace usually gets. They have excellent ranch that is a must have for Grace with pizza.  She too loves the “dip-dip.”  You can opt to share a whole salad and a pizza and there will be plenty for two.  Pizzas are generally individual though; Grace never eats all of hers.  Which brings me to…

The kids

So there is a chance that you might be able to share with your kids depending on your family’s tastes.  In ours, our daughter decided sometime ago that she thought pepperoni is spicy, so she hasn’t really eaten it much since.  She ate it quite a bit at one time.  So no sharing here.  Pizza is individual for me and too spicy for anyone else besides.  They have pizza, pasta with butter or marinara, and mac and cheese.  Mina enjoys the pizza a lot here and she also enjoys that it is not a quiet restaurant.  This is quite kid friendly and the food is above average so you WOULD get 3 stars but…

The service

Where can I begin.  I can start by comparing our gripes about this place to The Original Pancake House. We’ve been her countless times as this is one of Mina’s favorites.  I honestly cannot recall a time when we had decent service.  It is so bad that you begin to accept average service as exceptional when you go.  They set they bar that low.  They are generally inattentive and you’ll be lucky to get a drink within 10 minutes. We’ve had to wait much longer at times.  Refills must be requested and so, apparently, bread must be 3 times over.  Don’t expect proactive service here.  You will be disappointed. Its always a shame when a restaurant with decent food gets the service this wrong.  Tonight is a prime example.  Our pizza meal took us 1.5 hours and I even needed to assist a nearby table in waving down their inattentive waiter.  Food wise, The Original Pancake house wins hands down.  Food here is above average, but not exceptional.  Good enough to take the bad service and come back for more, if only just maybe some nights.  I think that we’ve conditioned ourselves to take the abuse. We’ve moved the bar low enough.

The rest

The Shops of Willow Bend is a nice mall.  A little too nice for my taste.  I generally don’t find my way into Brooks Brothers though Grace utilizes a very small product subset of both Neiman Marcus and Escada (small being one product line per store and we’ve never actually bought the product at the Escada store here). The main reason for coming here is the playground for our family.  The have a really nice playground that is great for younger children.  The ground is the soft bouncy type and the play pieces are breakfast items that are made of a soft rubbery material with smooth edges so the areas is completely child proof.  Mina loves this place.  Benji has started too as well.  Benji loves standing on the giant egg yolk and Mina loves helping him get into the coffee cup every time he asks for the help (envision picture here and here).  If you have young children and live near or have plans to visit the mall, you should go take a look.  California Pizza Kitchen has 4 locations in DFW: Dallas, Plano, Frisco, and Grapevine.

Sorry about the camera but here’s a stock photo I found online of my chipotle chicken pizza.  It’s pretty accurate:

Chipotle Chicken Pizza


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