Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Family Dining Chronicles - Foster's Grille

I formulated an ingenious plan today in the shower. You see, Stella was going to be gone all day today, until well after the kids were going to be in bed. I had to come up with some way to entertain the kids for the full 14 hours of their day. My plan was kids shows in the morning, watch "Iron Man" together complete with popcorn for lunch (they ate really big breakfasts, don't judge me) then some free play time, then an early dinner at the newly opened Foster's Grille (119th and Metcalf behind the IHOP), with maybe a cameo by Stella. That would get us to the evening which would mean we could play a game (Blunders, Making Learning Manners Fun could be the game) or Wii Fit Rhythm Parade. That's a good full day that would keep the kids in line.

Foster's Grille intrigued me because they have hot dogs, hamburgers and hot wings in a kid friendly atmosphere, but not so kid friendly that they don't have beer on tap (in fact they had 5 taps, nothing more exotic than Boulevard Wheat). This is just the kind of place I'm looking to take my kids to eat. I'm hoping for good food, just because I have kids doesn't mean I'm checking my taste buds at the door. Unfortunately, that is exactly what places that cater to families have decided to do, dumb down the food to the point that it no longer has any taste (at best) or tastes awful (at worst).

Foster's appeals to more than just families so I was hoping for some good food. When we walked in the first thing the kids noticed was the Nascar looking car on the ceiling with Minnie Mouse hanging from it. My 2 and a half year old likes to point such things out by yelling "Minnie Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Minnie Mouse" as loud as he can upon seeing Minnie Mouse (or Lightning McQueen or Woody from Toy Story or any character from any movie he may have seen). Luckily, Foster's Grille is just the sort of place that can absorb a little kid's yelling. Not that it's loud or full of unruly kids, just that the noise doesn't strike anyone as annoying. The music is turned up loud enough to combat any kid noise and there's plenty of things to look at without having to get upset at someone else's unruly children. Since I have 3 kids under 5, this is the perfect atmosphere for me.

The ordering system at Foster's is a little different. You go up to the counter and get a menu pad and check the items you want, one sheet per customer, a little like ordering sushi at Kona. You can fill it out at the counter or or take it back to your table. The problem is, not all the menu items are on the pad and there didn't seem to be a place to write in additional items. When seated, my back was to the menu board behind the counter so I didn't know what other items there were nor did I know how much anything cost. I would have liked to have gotten onion rings, but I had no idea how to actually do that. I ended up getting 2 cheeseburgers with fries and fountain drinks along with 2 glasses of freshly squeezed lemonade. All the burgers and sandwiches come with fries and a fountain drink, so when I saw the price of the burgers, $8.95, I was taken aback but with fries and a drink, it seems in line with every other place of this type. I also ordered 3 hot wings, just to try them. I liked the option to just order any number of wings that you wanted. The whole meal cost $25, I can shave $5 off that total next time.

The food came out in short order. They called our names, we acknowledged it was us and they brought us our food. I split the kids' cheeseburger in 3 pieces and it was plenty to feed all of them. They also shared the fries which I would guess were about 50% more fries than you typically get with a meal. And the fries were just perfect wonderful specimens, the fries you wish Five Guys had. The kind of fries that scream to have malt vinegar poured over them instead of dipping them in ketchup. The kind of fries, you can forgive a substandard hamburger for. They were very nearly the perfect french fry, nice and crisp on the outside, fluffy fresh on the inside, nicely salted and wonderfully flavored. Seriously, go for the fries, don't substitute a garden salad for 95 cents. If you do, I will punch you in the nuts.

The cheeseburger was cooked very nicely to medium instead of medium well like most burgers. I enjoy that. I'd like to say the burger was great, but it wasn't. It lacked flavor, a little salt would have gone a long way. The cheese was plentiful, and helped bring a little flavor, but not quite enough to say this was anything better than an average burger. The hot wings, though, were very good. I wish they had other flavors other than buffalo, but, sometimes menu simplicity is warranted. I don't fault them for keeping it simple since the wings quite tasty, juicy and left me wanting more. I may even go with the wing entree (12 wings with fries and drink for $9.95) next time.

I love lemonade and drink a lot of it. I can safely say that the lemonade at Foster's is definitely not worth $1.85. It just wasn't very good. It didn't have the tartness I look for in lemonade.

The kids enjoyed themselves immensely which is saying something since no crayons were involved. I've yet to find the key to figuring out why the kids like certain restaurants and don't like others. But, restaurants that have crayons, ironically, are typically not that kid friendly. Foster's just didn't need to stoop to the crayon pandering. They also had enough food items that I can enjoy that I think we can keep Foster's in the rotation for family dinners. I should also note that the staff was super friendly and very willing to help out an outnumbered parent. I received multiple offers of help with carrying drinks, getting anything we might need like lids and straws etc. Some of this can be chalked up to a new staff on the second day open, but I think training shows. I think going forward we'll think of Foster's Grille staff being very friendly.

This is the first in a continuing series of family dining posts. It seems that most restaurant reviews in town leave out the family dining aspect of restaurants and eating out with my family is 95% of my eating out experiences. I know I'm not alone in this, so hopefully these reviews will be helpful to those of us in a family way. As stated above, what I'm really looking for is restaurants my kids will enjoy and have good enough food that I can enjoy them too. We're not taking the kids to Bluestem or Extra Virgin, so we need to find quality restaurants that are cheap enough that we don't mind if the kids don't eat everything on their plates. Also, I don't like the name I've given this, so if you have any better ideas, leave them in comments.


Dan said...

Great post, and it fills a big void. Even though my kids are grown and gone, you're right that the dining with children experience is not featured in reviews very often.

Maybe this is too "adult" for your tastes, but Hooper's does a hotdog special for Saturday lunch that draws lots of families, and it was a favorite of my kids when they were young. (Maybe it's not a good thing that my daughter knew how to tie a knot in a cherry stem with her tongue before she was a teenager, but that's the way our family rolled . . . )

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. With 2 young kids, I appreciate the family focus. I am not going to take them to super nice places, but I don't want to stay at home every single night either.

MoxieMamaKC said...

I totally love the idea of family dining reviews. I'd love to know of more places where people don't stare at us if we bring our daughter. Gov. Stumpy's is my personal favorite when we want a "grown up" meal.

jill said...

Ditto on Stumpy's though The Well is pretty kid-friendly especially earlier in the evening. We haven't been to Julian yet but a friend went last week with her kids (during the week) and was surprised w/the amount of families.

JH said...

I was thinking about going to Foster's today. I'm glad I saw your review: I like to have some idea of what I'm getting into when I go to a new place.

Anonymous said...

Who takes your pics, your 3 year old?

Bull E. Vard said...

I take the pictures with my Flip. I try to do it incognito so I don't get asked any questions.