Dan McGuinness Pub
Friday night the monkeys (Satchel, 7, and Jiro, 5) and I joined 3/4 of Team Chockley (Steph, Connor, 6, and Chloe, 3) for a jaunt through the Snowy Nights event being held in the Botanic Garden’s My Big Backyard exhibit. Once the four kids had gotten most of their wiggles out we headed to nearby Dan McGuinness Pub. I had heard lots of raving about their kids’ meals and I needed to see firsthand. It had never once occurred to me to take the kids to Dan McGuinness. It’s a pub! Okay, okay, that’s never really stopped me before, but the fact that it’s an Irish pub makes the "Hey let's eat dinner at a bar!" idea less appealing to me. Besides, I’m not a fan of Irish food. There, I said it.
Friday also happened to be the first night of Hanukah. Traditionally Jews celebrate by eating greasy potato latkes. The oiliness is supposed to be reminiscent of the miracle oil that burned for eight days while the Jews un-defiled the great temple. I figured we could celebrate with some other greasy bar food item and that Dan McGuinness’s proximity to Target would be conducive to the second tenet of Hanuakah--showering children with gifts. (I’m not making this up! Jews know how to party.)
Steph and I separately coached our kids on what sort of behavior we expected in the restaurant and once they were ready to comply, we went inside. It was a little after 6pm and only a few tables were occupied. We were the only two adults who chose to bring kids with us, however. I felt like we were getting the eye--especially after the waitress plopped us down at a table right smack in the middle of the dining room--but it was too late to back out. I turned to Steph, “They wouldn’t have an awesome kids meal if they didn’t want us to come with kids, right?”
There were a few booths with individual flat screen TVs, but our party of six was too big. Steph pointed out that the TV might actually make the meal worse. I agreed. The kids were content to watch soccer out of the corners of their eyes on the surrounding wall mounted flat screens between coloring, chatting, and eating.
Steph and I both immediately started scanning the very impressive beer menu. Newcastle for me and Blue Moon for her. Both on tap!
Now about those kids meals. I scanned the menu and didn’t see them. (I had also scanned the website the night before.) I looked at the paper place mats the kids had been given to color to see if there was a menu printed there. Voila! I asked Satchel read the choices. “Chicken tenders...Oh, I want chicken tenders!” he exclaimed.
I’d been duped! “Read the whole menu,” I said.
“Chicken tenders, grilled chicken, grilled cheese, peanut butter and banana sandwich, corn dog nuggets--” he was interrupted by Jiro who starting shouting for corn dog nuggets. I don’t know exactly what a corn dog nugget is but I do know that I don’t want my kids to eat one.
I turned back to Steph. “What’s so great about these kids' meals?” I asked. She pointed out that the last kid's menu item was a veggie plate and that each meal came with two side items and ice cream and cost only $4.95. The side items list was on the main menu, quite extensive and included a number of vegetables. Clearly having Satchel read the menu out loud was the wrong way to go. We could have merely read the list of side items. Vegetable plates all around!
Steph decided to get Chloe the PB&B and Connor, of course, wanted Chicken Tenders. Steph chose french fries and roasted apples as their side items. She ordered a Roast Beef Au Jus sandwich with fries for herself.
I had started on the adult menu and noticed that they served Scotch Eggs. (Two hard-boiled eggs wrapped in seasoned sausage then fried golden brown and served with a seasoned Dijon mustard.) Hard-boiled eggs and sausage are two of Jiro’s favorites. They also had Satchel’s favorite, potato soup. I commenced swaying them towards the adult menu items and with very little effort was successful. I decided to get the Shepherd’s Pie (uh, maybe I do like Irish food after all!) with a side of steamed broccoli (for Jiro) and spinach casserole (for Satchel).
Once we had ordered everything, I stopped the waitress from leaving the table and added, “I feel compelled to order some fried pickles.”
Steph took Chloe to the bathroom and I played Tic Tac Toe with Jiro. Connor and Satchel were busy giggling and drawing at the other end of the table. Before Steph and Chloe could come back, the fried pickles arrived. I pictured them as spears in my mind, but they were chips. Piping hot and served with a ranch dressing, they totally hit the “Let’s eat grease on Hanukah” spot. I couldn’t convince Connor to try one, but both Jiro and Satchel ate several (minus the ranch).
Chloe and Steph returned and Steph informed me that the bathroom was lovely and that Chloe had a “first”. She went in solo and did her business without assistance. Steph, who doesn't like pickles, also thought they were tasty. Before she could help me finish them off, two waitresses arrived with arms full of gigantic plates of food. Satchel’s soup bowl was at least twelve inches round. The kids’ meals came on gigantic trays (with an addition of carrots and ranch). Steph’s sandwich looked huge and my Shepherd’s pie was definitely hearty--especially with two gigantic bowls of veggies on the side. Jiro’s Scotch Eggs were the only thing that looked relatively normal sized.
I took pictures of everything, but it was fairly dark and I hate using a flash, so none of my pictures is worth sharing.
Of all the food gracing our table, the chicken tenders and fries were the most popular. Steph traded a handful of fries for half of a Scotch Egg and Connor was generously sharing his chicken and fries with both Satchel and Chloe. Jiro eventually ate half of one Scotch Egg and three bites of broccoli under much duress. Satchel picked at his soup for thirty minutes and managed to eat about half of it. (I had asked if it came with green onions and they said no, but I didn’t think to ask if it was made with celery. I believe the green chunks prevented Satchel from wolfing it down.) Satchel also reported that he was not a fan of the spinach casserole.
I can only surmise that Satchel and Jiro simply weren’t hungry. We’d had a hearty snack of edamame on our way to the Gardens and hot chocolate while there. That may have done it.
My Shepherd’s pie was delicious and I’d definitely order it again. (It came with a wonderfully greasy donut on the side that both Steph and I were scared to eat for fear of never buttoning our pants again.) The sandwich also seemed to be a winner.
The kids had managed to behave really well the entire meal which is a true testament to the power of practice makes perfect. It isn’t easy to go out to dinner with other kids and stay out of trouble, but they did. We had very little squirming, only a burst or two of loud talking, and not a single spill! The latter, no doubt due to the fact that all of the kids received their waters in cups with cone shaped lids with only a small opening for a straw. 100% spill proof!
The waitress came over and Steph and I expected the bill, but instead she asked, “Are you ready for the kids’ ice cream?” We didn’t have to answer because the kids did. I worried what was going to happen when only Connor and Chloe received the ice cream that was free with the kids meals, but before I could formulate an explanation the speedy waitresses (who I’m know guessing are also moms) came out with four saucers of vanilla ice cream. Oh but that’s not all. They had a small basket with chocolate sauce, caramel, raspberry, and sprinkles. They left it on the table for the kids to have free reign.
Amazingly, all four kids took appropriate amounts of topping and ate dessert while pleasantly carrying on conversation.
“That’s a damn fine kids meal,” I said to Steph.
What I forgot to say was, "Let's do this more often!" Thanks for a great evening, Steph!