Sunday, December 2, 2007

Joy To The World, My Dinner's Fun!

My first Christmas Miracle of 2007:
We had dinner. In a restaurant. With the girls. And it was enjoyable.

I swore that I would not be one of those parents that stopped dining out when I had kids. After Belle was born, I had no problem keeping that commitment. Dining out with one child was easy, even desirable, just for the simple fact that I didn't have to do any cooking or cleaning up afterwards.

Dining out with two children is not pleasant. Especially my children. Its not really their fault, I'm the one who thought it was a fabulous idea to get pregnant with my second child before the first was even nine months old. In the last two years I have had several restaurant experiences with my children where I either needed a drink or we needed to head for the door. Most of the time I was downing my drink as we ran for the door.

We have found two restaurants that we risk going to with our children. The first is a pizza parlor, so it doesn't really count. The second is a restaurant called Beaches. The big selling points? First, it's loud. Second, it is located on the Columbia River. The kids can watch boats and airplanes all dinner long. Third, for dessert the waitress takes our children away from us. The kids get to pick out a toy and make their own ice cream sundae. It is wonderful, but we have never had a perfect dining experience there.*
*Our failure to have a idyllic dining experience at Beaches is completely our fault and should not reflect negatively on the restaurant.

This weekend we celebrated Jeff's birthday. Jeff wanted to go out for dinner, but wasn't in the mood for pizza and we didn't have a reservation at Beaches. We decided to brave the unknown and go to Big Al's. It wasn't that much of a risk, It's a bowling alley with an arcade, bar and restaurant. What we were really risking is terrible food and kids who didn't want to stay at the table. What we got was a completely different experience.

The restaurant is really a sports bar. Luckily we arrived during the first overtime of the Oregon verses Oregon State football game. The sports bar area was filled with people in orange shirts yelling and screaming. Our table had a wonderful view of all the craziness, perfect kiddie entertainment until their food arrived.

We were not expecting the diverse and succulent sounding menu that Big Al's had to offer. Jeff ordered braised ancho honey pork and I went for the feta vinaigrette marinated chicken breasts topped with a Kalamanta olive, tomato, cucumber salad. Yummmm.

The kids were losing interest in their dinners by the time our food arrived (we ordered the kids food right away so we could avoid a hunger meltdown). Belle discovered that if she stood up in our booth and look over the wall she could see pool tables. Jeff was concerned that she would drop a french fry on some unsuspecting pool player. Once we set the ground rules (perfectly okay to stand up and watch other people, not okay to drop your food on them) everyone was happy. Jeff and I enjoyed our dinner, engaged in adult conversation and marveled at how well the whole experience was going.

We had a wonderful evening. After dinner we played in the arcade. They have a great selection of kids games that yielded tickets that we later exchanged for prizes. We spent $10 on games and went home with a lipstick and crown for each of the girls. Now we have enough crowns for everyone, even the dog.


The Sports Mama said...

My favorite family dinners out are ones that I don't spend cringing, hiding my face from the surrounding tables, or whispering "Would you STOP that!!" :)

lattemommy said...

Glad to hear you had such a good time! I know what you mean about dining out - we did really well after the Princess was born, but now that there are two it's a little tougher. However, we do brave it on occasion. It can be really hit or miss, though.

Nap Warden said...

First of all, love the crown on the dog! Second, it is a big deal to be able to eat out with no melt down! Kuddos to you!!!

Rachel said...

Well, that picture is just too darlin'!
Dinner with two kids is always such an adventure!!
Glad it went so well!!

Amy Bennett said...

We are just now getting to the point where we can enjoy dinner with both girls and not spend half the time in the lobby.

SuburbanDaddy said...

I remember exactly the day we had our first bad experience eating out with kids. We had only one kid at the time, 6 months old, and we went for sunday brunch at a nice place. My wife and I took turns pacing by the bathrooms with the baby so the other could eat. Something about eating as fast as you can, alone, just ruins the experience. It's been all chuck e cheese and mcdonalds playlands ever since.