A Quick Rant.

We are just back from a magical trip to Disney. Everyone says that there: “Have a magical day.” We are mean New Yorkers/New Englanders, so we wanted to punch most of the Cast Members (that is what they call employees there) when they told us to have a magical day. Here is what we looked like when things were magical:

And when the magic wore off:

Despite our surly nature, we had a great trip. including some wonderful meals. But I have a bone to pick with Disney. Actually, it isn’t limited to Disney, but to most restaurants. I hate Kids’ Menus. We got the Disney dining plan, which if you haven’t been to WDW yet, is a prepaid point system so confusing that my Harvard MBA husband couldn’t figure it out. My issue is not the confusion, but how they feed children there, and in most restaurants around the country.

The problem: Disney requires kids to eat off the kids’ menu on the dining plan (unless you pay for them to be adults – in our case it would have cost an additional $500+). Garrett almost cried at every meal because he was limited to three lame choices (chicken, burger, mac n’ cheese, or some variant of same), while we had glorious meals. Why do restaurants think that kids can only eat boring things? And boring things over and over? Why is everyone complaining about obese children when they don’t let them eat interesting, delicious, and usually healthier food on the regular menu? In Disney’s defense, the restaurants tried to offer healthier versions of the typical kid food; but it was still kid food, and it was extremely limiting.

I, of course, have a solution. Let kids (or everyone, really) order half sizes of the regular menu items. Regular menu items are too big for kids (and for most normal people, but that is a rant for another time), and are expensive. Who wants to drop $25 on an entree when you don’t know if the kid will like it? But you might spent $10 or $12. And you would have so many more choices. When we are limited by the Disney dining plan, eating in a normal restaurant, I never even show my kids the kids’ menu. I usually suggest some appetizers for Kyra, who has a smaller appetite. Garrett gets to order off the regular menu, although occasionally will just order two appetizers (usually one is shrimp cocktail – the boy will not be a cheap date).

Here is the reality: with the exception of weird kids like Garrett, most kids will take the easy, familiar, delicious (gross!) taste of hot dogs, kraft mac n’ cheese, or chicken fingers, when offered. It has little to do with taste, and much more to do with the comfort of familiarity. But if you don’t even show it to them, but instead offer them spinach dip, pasta primavera, fish tacos, dumplings, or whatever it is that is on the menu, your kids will be eating a better variety of food. So don’t do it. Throw away the kids’ menu, or just color all over it (they are good for something). And if you work in or own a restaurant, stop trying to improve your kids’ menu, and throw it out.

One bright spot among the kids meals we were offered was at the California Grill at the Contemporary Resort. This was an amazing place and the adults had a beautiful meal – don’t miss it. Although I still would have preferred to avoid kids menus altogether, the kids’ menu was high end, and the food for the kids was presented beautifully from start to finish. The highlight was Garrett’s crispy rice sushi dessert:

So cool. He was delighted. But he still made us share half of our meals so he could try the real sushi, lamb pizza, and yellowtail snapper. OK, I am done with my rant. I sound angrier than Hurricane Irene today.

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