Are you Facebook Friends with an employee of one of your favorite restaurants?
Has your kid ever been photographed by the chef because she was the unofficial restaurant mascot?
Do you go to any restaurants and immediately feel like you’re family when you sit down because the waitress comes over and gives you and your kids a hug?
If not, you probably cook more often than I do.
…Or, you may just not be visiting locally-owned restaurants – the epitome of hospitality.
Believe me – I know that with kids, it seems so much easier to go to national, known establishments that give them logo-covered balloons and pre-printed coloring pages – places that you know exactly what to expect and how long it will take you to get in, feed your kids, clean up their unholy mess, and get out unscathed.
But I can say from personal experience that even without pre-printed balloons, local restaurants can do the kid thing even better.
We used to be the most chainy of restaurant eaters ourselves – shamefully even before we had kids. Ruby Tuesday, Applebees, Outback… never realizing what we were missing.
Then, thanks to the people that had the idea years before Groupon, Birmingham Menus, we began buying discount gift certificates for local eating establishments. Some we had already been going to for years amidst our national eating habits like Nabeel’s and The Fish Market, but some we discovered solely because of Birmingham Menus, like one of our favorites, Silvertron.
This changed our whole eating experience.
The food was better. It was fresher, tastier, less expensive, and, as I told you that we discovered while doing our weight loss plan, had much lower calories.
And the richness of history that we discovered was thrilling. Besides learning about our city, I’ve learned so much about my own family by visiting local restaurants. For instance, I knew that he worked there as a teenager, but it wasn’t until after I wrote this post about The Bright Star that I learned my Grandfather took his first steps as a baby in the back room!
After regularly eating local for a while, going back to Applebee’s, in all honesty, felt like eating cardboard. The imagination and freshness just wasn’t there.
But the people at local restaurants impacted us just as much as the food itself. We had real relationships, something that you already know I seek out with voracity.
When I got pregnant with Ali, many of our restaurant friends cheered for us. They anticipated with us and couldn’t wait for us to bring that baby in for them to see. Ali, and then the addition of Noah, only deepened our relationships – something that would never have happened at Ruby Tuesday.
Knowing that your kids are not only welcome but anticipated really makes you less paranoid about their unholy messes.
I’m not saying that we only eat local – we still have a couple of guilty pleasures. But we have discovered that in almost every instance, eating locally wins hands-down in every way.
This week is Birmingham Restaurant Week – an event filled celebration of our fabulous local restaurant scene.
Obviously, it’s a week of heaven for me.
And even better, the “week” actually lasts ten days.
Starting today and lasting through August 28, almost thirty local restaurants are participating this year, all offering deeply discounted three (or more) course meals. Which, by the way, is the perfect excuse to have dessert. I mean, if it comes with the meal…
Their restaurant week menus are all available at the website, and some of them even have special kid’s menus just for the event!
Chris and I attended the Preview Party last night and sampled the offerings from twelve of these restaurants, and you will not regret participating – I guarantee it.
Chris is still raving about the Shrimp and Steak from Michael’s, and I have a new favorite at a restaurant I’ve been going to since I was a little girl – the Spinach Lasagne from Nabeel’s was my absolute best taste of the night.
(Isn’t it beautiful??)
I will be blogging the event this week, visiting at least three of our favorite restaurants WITH the kids in tow to show that eating local with your kids is not only attainable, but preferable. We will be visiting Nabeel’s, Silvertron, and Rojo, and I will be blogging our experiences (and the food) at my other blog, Alabama Bloggers.
If you’re local, be sure to check out Birmingham Restaurant Week for yourself – it’s a perfect opportunity to step out of a comfort zone and try something completely new. And also head over to Alabama Bloggers over the next few days to read about some of our favorite places!
What is your opinion about eating local versus eating at chains?
What are your favorite local restaurants in your city and why?