Ratatouille or Chuck E. Cheese? An open letter to Dallas Child Magazine

I picked up the December issue of Dallas Child today and excitedly flipped to Pg.30 to see the featured article “Best for Families – Dining and Destinations” article and boy was I shocked. On the list were Tin Star for Hottest Taco Joint, Babes Chicken for Ultimate Eatery to Share a Meal Family style, Chuck E. Cheese Best Pizza Pie with a Side of Playtime, Rainforest Cafe for Coolest Themed Dining Experience. There were two that I thought were ok, eatZi’s Market & Bakery for Best Healthy Dining and Paciugo’s Gelato & Cafe for Best Spot to Snag  a Frozen Treat. What a sad city we live in if this is considered Dallas’ Best?

What irks me too are the food choices chosen: pizza, fried food, tacos, burgers, M&M pancakes from Cafe Brazil for Best Breakfast Place? Really? Is that all you think our children will eat? The best for our families? Fast food and chocolate with their breakfast?  I’m disappointed that the editors didn’t do more research on what our great city as a foodie destination has to offer families. Why not add in other categories? What about other cuisines – like Chinese or Italian? I’m not talking about food that might be a stretch for kids like Ethiopian. I’m certainly not bagging Chuck E. Cheese, it obviously has it’s place in the market but surely a place like that shouldn’t even have even made it to a list of ‘Best’ anything when it comes to food.

As far as I know, children start off with a clean slate, an untouched palate if you will. It is the adults that shape their diets. Of course they won’t like everything, goodness knows we don’t but why dumb down their palates with limited selection of  mac n cheese, nuggets, burgers, pizza etc? Notice that restaurants who offer kids menus (no matter what the cuisine) will serve the usual suspects to kids but give adults the ‘real food’. Why don’t more restaurants serve children the same food as adults only smaller portions?

Ok, you might say that these restaurants were all voted in by readers so this must be what people want. Well actually, I checked out the Dallas Child’s website and saw there’s a new survey for Best for Families:Best for Moms & Babies and clicked through it. Basically you can only vote from a few options that were chosen by the Editors. I’d imagine it was the same thing for the Best for Families Dining survey. I may be wrong in citing the process but my point still stands that this list is too limited.

Dallas Child is a magazine for parents to get tips and ideas for places/products. It is our job as the media to talk about what’s out there. Why not explore other alternatives? Promote casual kid friendly local businesses who take the time to hand pick their ingredients like Bolsa? Push the envelope and showcase what Dallas has to offer foodwise. Do your footwork or rather foodwork. I’m sure the editors are well aware of our child obesity epidemic. Simply put, our kids are getting fatter. We, as parents should teach our children to make better choices. Encourage them to expand their palates by giving them the opportunity to try new things. They may actually like a buckwheat pancake topped with fresh blueberries if they were given a chance.

Restaurants in Dallas are endearing and accomodating to children. All I’m saying is that there are lots of wonderful restaurants (fancy and casual) that welcome our young eaters. I would be happy to write a monthly column for Dallas Child called “Kid Friendly and Tasty” and talk about some of these options. And when it’s time for the 2011 Best For Families Dining Survey, I would like to offer my services as a writer to help put together a thoughtful, well balanced list (just the way our diets should be).

Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section below or email your thoughts directly to Dallas Child @ editorial@dallaschild.com

Here’s the Itty Bitty Foodies’ take on some of these categories.

Hottest Taco Joint Rusty Taco. Fresh hand rolled tacos made to order.

Ultimate Eatery to Share a Meal Family StyleSi Tapas. It’s all about sharing small plates at this place. And if your child doesn’t like something, you can always order another small dish. Give them a chance to eat something different and try a lot of different food at the same time.

Best Pizza Pie with a side of PlaytimeCibus: fabulous hand tossed pizzas that aren’t too oily plus a great outdoor area for the children to roam around in or go across to Bookmarks library for a fun and educational boost to the system.

Best Spot to Snag a Frozen Treat – While we like Paciugo’s, we ♥ fro yo at I Heart Yogurt with zero fat.

Best Healthy DiningDive Coastal Cuisine. Awesome salads, healthy fresh fish and seafood for the whole family PLUS a kids korner for the children to play in.

Best Breakfast Breadwinners Cafe or Spiral Diner for a completely vegan alternative.

Thanks for listening to my Motherhood Musings

Cheryl Collett is a mom on a mission to expand her kids’ palates and IttyBittyFoodies chronicles their yummy adventures. For recipes and other crafty fun ideas, look under HomeMade or check out the best kid friendly places under Restaurant Reviews where the food is delicious for both parents and children. Get the latest updates if you Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @ittybittyfoodie

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15 Responses

  1. Paciugo has always been our choice for something sweet after dinner. My Caro loves Thai, especially real sticky rice. Years ago when she was little, Dream Café in the Quadrangle was one of our faves. There was a field with climbing toys and a little castle, but sadly a new building took all that away. I think they call it making room for progress?? hummmm…unfortunately $$$$ rule, not progress.

  2. Elaine Villarreal

    I agree. Glad you sent word to the magazine. I read it and assumed they were hurting for advertising sponsors so they got paid for advertising the chains as “best of..”. Our family favorites for Italian are Grimaldi’s in Uptown Village for a free trolley ride and dough to play with while you wait for your food. Also, Villa-O’s off Knox-Henderson for saturday/Sunday family brunches and Monday deals. Both Dream Cafe locations still have fun play areas:). And try highland Park diner on Knox for weekend diner breakfast! Fun and cheap. My kids love sushi and japanese delicacies from the sushi carousel at that Japanese restaurant on North Greenville. I forget the name. That rolling carousel of small choices of fresh yummy aruff around the where the sushi chefs cut the fish in the middle is neat for the big kids too! You just pick your plates as they roll by on the carousel cart in front of you. The tamago-yaki (egg sushi) is delicious!!!

  3. Kristin

    You go, Cheryl! So true. I’m completely with you—especially on the Chuck E. Cheese front. Seriously? Dallas is (still?) the restaurant capital of the world, per capita, and that was a poor take. I will second both Rene and Elaine on the Dream Café—sigh—it used to be so much more enticing for kids, BUT they still provide a tiny play area and there are still reasonable veg and meat options for kids with a side of broccoli and a little variety.
    Sadly, however, I have to commiserate with those parents who say “you know, it’s just not worth it. My kid won’t eat anything but chicken, pasta and pizza.” While my little one ate my ginger sesame kale with relish and considered broccoli, pungent olives, sushi or thai a treat a couple of years ago, his taste buds just changed. A very sage “wise woman” who delivered him (and many Dallas babies) assured me “kids go through phases and their taste buds often become super sensitive as 4-6 year olds” Sure enough, mine spit out, gagged on, or literally threw up a couple of the delicacies he had enjoyed just a year before.
    I have to just wait it out and keep trying! Love the tapas idea. At least you don’t waste an entire entree of food because the sauce is too spicy!
    Keep up the great work!

    1. Kristin – there’s nothing wrong with chicken pizza and pasta. there’s great pasta at Villa O and better still KIDS EAT FREE ON SUNDAYS! They use organic ingredients. And pizza… we like Cibus. plus when you go to real restaurants you have the opportunity to order other kinds of dishes – things that might surprise your child and eat. That’s how we discovered the boys loved lentils – from a trip to Bolsa.

      1. Kristin

        Oh yum—Jack loves Lentils, too, and I have a great easy dahl I’ll have to share with you. Hand-ground spices make all the difference! I did make it a bit too hot one time and he exclaimed “too tasty! too tasty!” It was probably the nicest complaint I’ve ever received. ; )

  4. I totally agree! I love the comment about a clean slate. So many American kids choose the unhealthy alternative because that’s all they are exposed to. Maybe it is because I also grew up overseas, but I see Americans “dumbing it down” in terms of food all the time. I’m speaking about my husband here!!! He would sooner take my daughter to McDonald’s for lunch than just get her a plain bagel at Einsteins (which she likes just as much and has way less fat!)
    we rarely eat out these days because my little ones dont have the patience, but when we start again, I will try some of these places you suggest…

  5. Patricia

    Love the special effect snow falling on your page! Yes, you are right about all of the fast food the children are being encouraged to ingest. If child obesity rates continue the generation growing up now…will not live as long as their parents. In fact, I read the average life expectancy for the children born today is 55 years old! With childhood obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and a host of other ailments being on the rise Dallas Child magazine should offer parents to choose healthier recommendations.

  6. Terry

    Cheryl, as a fellow writer (and avid reader of DallasChild), I understand where you are coming from (in regards to child obesity and variation of eating habits). However, perhaps you should do your research on the voting process. I did the voting process for both surveys and there were options to enter in your own choice at the bottom of each question. In fact, I just voted today for the Best for Moms and Babies.

    Also, you said it irks you that they chose pizza and tacos as some of the food items, however you suggested pizza and taco places. Slightly hypocritical, don’t you think?

  7. Gwen

    I would be very interested in the follow-up response from Dallas Child. I think their ‘best of’ was… at best…. sloppy and at worst, schmuck to appease or attract advertisers. What was their editor thinking? Was this written for a narrow readership demographic? And if so, don’t you think they might need a few new ideas? For goodness sake we ‘are what we eat’ and we are also ‘creatures of habit’. Dallas Child has a responsibility to encourage good eating habits and disseminate information about healthy options – at EVERY opportunity. Forget the catchy subtitles please, and Dallas Child please redeem yourselves with a follow-up article on ‘real food for long and healthy lives’.

    1. I emailed my letter as well as put a comment on their facebook page. They said it was voted by readers. But if you go thru their other survey (currently online now), there are already preselected choices that were selected by editors which is why I’m so disappointed that Chuck E Cheese even made it to the selection as Best Of (especially when it comes to food!!)… And even though like Terry said in the comments that there was an option for you to put in your choice, I would think most people going thru the survey will pick one from the selection.

      And why not add things like thai, chinese, italian etc? I see heaps of kids out there eating when I’m at these types of restaurants. Like i said in my blog – the list was too limited and I’m disappointed it was touted as Best for Families.

  8. Vyvy

    Thanks Cheryl for writing this! I feel exactly the same…..except I can’t write as eloquently as you! I don’t know where the idea originated from that children will only eat pizza, mac and cheese, hamburgers and chicken nuggets but it is a horrible idea. It really saddens me to see what little emphasis and joy people take into food preparation, teaching their children about food and also what they put into their growing childrens bodies. Though I hate seeing parents who eat crap feed their kids crap, I loathe it even more seeing parents who knows what is good for their bodies and taste good feed their children the easiest, crappiest, tasteless processed foods around. I really don’t understand how that is okay. I often see fit moms sitting around eating nicoise salads and sipping orange spice tea at Neiman Marcus while their slew of children( whom appear to be on their way to being obese) noshing on fries and chicken nuggets or snacking on their umpteenth bag of goldfish crackers for their lunch. It’s really not any more expensive to allow your children to eat “well”. Sara and I often switch to vegetarian a few nights to save money, we go to Cibus for their happy hour on Fridays with friends and get a margarita pizza or a cheese pizza with assorted mushrooms and truffle oil for $6! That is cheaper than chuck e cheese! Yogurtland, across from NP mall….we went tonight and bought 3 “normal” small bowls of yogurt with kiwis, strawberrys and pomegrants in it for $6 TOTAL! I have also learned that you can eat well on the cheap because you become more careful with your buying… you tend to buy for quality rather than quantity so you end up eating smaller portions and throwing away less. Our fridge becomes bare in about 3 days! So you end up spending less, become more inventive with your meals, teach your children valuable lessons on pleasurable/adventurous eating and nutrition and you are more fit! WIN WIN ALL AROUND! :-). Thanks for taking the time to write to Dallas Child. Dallas can do better for our kids!


    1. ” I have also learned that you can eat well on the cheap because you become more careful with your buying… you tend to buy for quality rather than quantity so you end up eating smaller portions and throwing away less. Our fridge becomes bare in about 3 days! So you end up spending less, become more inventive with your meals, teach your children valuable lessons on pleasurable/adventurous eating and nutrition and you are more fit! ”

      Vyvy – I love this comment. It is so true. Also my other money saving tip is to go good restaurants early (easy to do that with kids!) bc they usually have a happy hour menu. For instance for our family of 4, we order 10 plates usually at Si Tapas and the bill is $35 (INCLUDING a large pitcher of sangria). We go for their $2 tapas meals and it’s awesome.

      Thank you for writing to Itty Bitty Foodies!

  9. Bravo! Awesome topic! We took our kids to the Ritz Carlton for Christmas Eve lunch and they were delighted. It was so much fun to see their enchanted faces taking in the whole experience. The staff was so sweet to them and all the children there that day. Dean Fearing even came over and shook hands with them and asked them how they liked everything. The whole meal was a delight. And it was a very proud moment indeed when just this month they declared McDonalds as “yuck!”

    I think Dallas Child would be doing itself and its readers a great big favor by hiring you to write for them.

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