Any decent places for families to eat out?

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Luviesmom

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We have been extremely disappointed going out to eat lately. Bad service, long waits, food not cooked properly. We do live in a smaller town, maybe part of the problem.

We have two smaller girls and usually an entree is enough for them to spilt. Heck, even hubby I and may spilt an entree.

We have learned to never order a steak. Never done correctly. We have had two steaks cooked correctly in our life. Biltmore and a place in Charlotte, but looking at 40.00 per entree. We just can't afford that.

Maybe we are too picky. I do enjoy going out together as a family every once in awhile. Last night, we went to a local mexican place, took 40 minutes for food to arrive. My oldest daughters chicken was raw in the middle. Forgot youngest salad. Just a nightmare. Have any of you noticed food quality/service has declined in last three years?

My husband and I decided last night, I will just cook dinner and we can do something special afterwards. Bowling, skating, geocaching . It is nice to get out and do things together as a family bUT disappointed and quality of food and service nowadays. My husband says I am not vocal enough. If I get food that isn't correct, I usually suck it up. Except last night, when my child's chicken was raw in the center. That took another 15 minutes to correct. I almost threw in the towel and went to McDonalds.

Do you have a restaurant you consistently have good food and service?
 

Susie

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I just moved to deep east Texas, to a town with 30,000 people, and a surprising number of national chains. However, the best restaurants here are at the locally owned places. Not the national chains. It sort of shocked me.

Ask around, ask the cashier at the grocery store. Ask the folks at church. Ask anyone who appears to have been there a while.
 

Luviesmom

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I sometimes almost wonder if it a generation gap regarding service. I was a waitress, so I try not to be a biatch. But you see them now, on phones, taking selfish "selfies" during shifts. I think on next 5 years, probably have robots bringing out plates. My biggest tips meant I was very attentive to needs. Just doesn't happen now.
 

snappyllama

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They recently opened a chain restaurant from Texas here in Charlotte: Chuys. They have real tortilla chips and yummy chimichangas (they called them chuychangas). Their fajitas aren't very good though. We also have a tiny taqueria nearby with fantastic Mexican street food.

I recently moved from Colorado to the Charlotte NC area. The service here is sooo much better. I chalk it up to southern manners. The food is better too.

In general, I've had pretty good luck using Trip Advisor and Yelp to look up places before we go. In Colorado, it was still terrible, but at least we got edible food more often.
 

dixiedragon

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Check out Yelp, see if you can find some good local places. Also, try Googling "best Mexican food in city name" "best pizza in city name" etc...you may find newspaper articles that point you to something new. My current favorite Thai place - voted Best Thai in my city - is in a gas station. Yup. It is awesome. I would never have gone in their if somebody hadn't mentioned it.

BTW, It's called Hoover Food Mart. The Restaurant inside is called Blue Pacific. http://www.al.com/bhammag/index.ssf/2015/07/i_ate_thai_food_from_a_gas_sta.html

RE: steak - steak is a good cut of meat so it's easy to do it yourself at home. Costco has good prices and good quality, btw.
 

IrishLass

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I agree with Dixie- Yelp can be your best friend when it comes to dining out.

We seem to experience the best food and service at local, family-owned restaurants. We are blessed with 6 that are close to us that we are very fond of. One is an Indian restaurant, one is Chinese, one is a diner, one is a pizza place, one is a breakfast/brunch place, and one is a Greek/Mediterranean restaurant.

It's too bad you are not able to get a good, reasonably-priced steak where you live. At the family-owned diner up the street from us, they have a wonderful cook who really knows how to prepare a steak to order. It comes out perfect every single time and it's the least-expensive steak in town (that we know of, anyway). We always make sure to give him a complimentary thumbs-up when we leave. We hope he never leaves, but if he ever does, we hope he trains his replacement first. lol

We've found chains to be very hit and miss- both the service and the food. I remember a horrible experience we had at our local IHOP chain one evening a few years ago. We got seated and were given our menus, but no one ever came to our table to take our order (not even our drink order!) in spite of the place being practically empty and the wait staff passing by back and forth to wait on other nearby tables (teens/young college-aged staff). In all our years of dining out, this had not ever happened to us before, so after ten minutes of waiting, we decided that instead of saying anything to any of the staff, we would just wait and see how long it took for someone to come to our table, just for the heck of it (we were in a good-natured, experimental kind of mood). Well, after 30 minutes of being totally ignored, our stomachs were starting to get restless, so we got up and quietly walked out without a peep, vowing to ourselves never go back to that particular IHOP, and then drove to the family-owned diner I mentioned above where we get treated like absolute royalty.

We noticed a few months ago, though, the IHOP was under new management, so we ventured back in to test the waters out, and lo and behold- the service was absolutely wonderful. We were actually waited on by the new manager ands she seems to be really on top of things. They've since been redeemed in our eyes and we've been having good service there now every time we go in no matter who waits on us.

Not to be too much of a negative Nelly against chains, there are 2 fairly new chains to our area that recently opened up, and so far, so good- both have had consistently good food and wonderful service at very reasonable prices- Cheddars Scratch Kitchen and Pieology (a pizza place). I especially love Cheddars because they serve a wonderfully yummy ,perfectly cooked (never dry) blackened salmon that I am able to order in a lunch-portion size for dinner, which is just the perfect size for me. I also love their southern green beans and mac & cheese.


IrishLass :)
 

earlene

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Do you like pizza? When my boys were little it was one of our favorite places to go for a family meal out. I could always get a salad and what boy doesn't like pizza? Well, my youngest started wanting burgers so eventually we started going other places, too. They both really liked the 'all-you-can-eat' places. They'd have contests of who could eat the most shrimp at the Sizzler. I don't think that chain exists anymore.

I still like pizza parlors because now most of them have salad bars and I can usually get a fairly good selection of vegetarian options at a salad bar. And many pizza places sell more than just pizza. Some have other Italian food options as well. But when they have the early-bird buffet (good option for families and retirees) it's all you can eat pizza and salad. This tends to be a pretty affordable family outing and service is not usually an issue, other than seating and bringing drinks.

Another option that my husband & I like, but is not always available near small towns, is Olive Garden. The service is usually very fast because they like a good turn-around time for the tables. Although it may not have enough options for kids and the prices aren't exceptional really. But the family style salad is all you can eat and they do the same with soups.

I love Mexican food, but sometimes I've been disappointed and sometimes I've been totally thrilled. It just depends. In our small town we have limited options for eating out, too. When you live in a small town, even if all the restaurants are excellent (not the case here, btw), you can still get tired of the same thing all the time (theoretically.)

We have two Chinese restaurants in town. One where the food is excellent and well priced; we go there at least 2 or 3 times per month. The other one does really good business with their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, because they are right downtown and conveniently located for local businesses. But the food is really not very good and we don't go there anymore since the new restaurant came to town. But my granddaughter used to love their won ton soup when she lived here.

As far as service decline, I have definitely mention things like wait staff using their phones and taking selfies on the floor to the manager or owner of the restaurant. Not only is it unprofessional, it's disturbing from a hygienic standpoint.
 

BattleGnome

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I'll also add to the "go local if you're having issues."

I work overnights and if we go out I tend to want an actual meal for dinner, not pancakes. It seems easier to get breakfast food during "dinner time" but the reverse is rarely true at a chain. Most chains have heat and serve food to keep quality consistent between restaurants (I have friends who have worked at various chains tell me this) a local place doesn't need to be consistent with anyone but theirselves.

Also, maybe try a Chinese restaurant. Portions are easily family sized and meat is bite sized, if anything is undercooked there are bigger issues you'd probably notice first. Many Chinese places do everything fresh and by hand, I'll assume there's a 90% chance that's the way you cook at home (with the occasion frozen pizza or something). In my experience, if the person greeting you at the door has an accent they're either the owner or related to the owner and thus have a stake in making sure you'd be willing to come back.
 

Seawolfe

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Here is a funny suggestion for eating out with kids, but my nephew loved it - sushi!! Small plates that come quickly, lots of different things to try. Even the edamame and soup are kid friendly. If anyone doesn't like raw fish, get tempura rolls, if anyone doesn't like seafood, get tamago (egg) sushi, or udon noodle soup, or veggie rolls.

Another odd idea is hitting up happy hour - the prices are reasonable, we get finger food, it's a good way to try the food at a new place.

I sympathize with quality eating out - there is only ONE place we will buy steaks at, the rest of the time we cook them at home. I never order chicken - I HATE dry chicken and my hubby makes it better. Find a few good reliable places - I'll add to the local places over chains wagon, we rarely eat at chain places.
 

Luviesmom

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Haha! Love talking food! Yeah. Agreed all of above. Local places are the best. One of our favorites is a local chinese. We call him the soup Nazi. We always order hot and sour soup, only tofu. If you don't place your order fast enough, he will hang up on you.

He knows us now. Oh you, 7299! I do like to eat out as a family bUT service, quality is sucky . Thanks for the :).
 

Scooter

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Luviesmom... so you are in the Sandhills. Are you close to Fayetteville? If so then you are not that far from the Triangle. I have favorite places in Durham... they are all locally owned. Durham for some reason has a lot great locally owned restaurants, but not so many chains, at least not near downtown. If you want suggestions up this way, let me know.
 

Luviesmom

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Scooter McTooter, we live near Pinehurst. Don't get to Durham too much. Last time we were there, DPAC ate at Blu Oyster Bar? Terrific! Like I said, a yearly treat with 2 youngins'. ;)
 

Scooter

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Scooter McTooter, we live near Pinehurst. Don't get to Durham too much. Last time we were there, DPAC ate at Blu Oyster Bar? Terrific! Like I said, a yearly treat with 2 youngins'. ;)
Oh that sounds nice. To tell the truth Durham has gotten SO expensive lately, it's just nuts. $18 for a footlong sub. People move down here from Brooklyn and think it's cheap. Gack.

If I had kids I do not know what I would do. For really good (spicy) Chinese food, there is Gourmet Kingdom. It is more authentic than most, but spicy. Their lotus root is good. This place is in Chapel Hill.

Guglhupf in Durham is nice. It is Alsatian, meaning lots of really nice French pastries and hearty German meat and cheese plates... and the best unsweetened ice tea I have ever had anywhere. As a 9th generation Southerner, I know my ice tea. :)

Speaking of Southern, Mama Dip's in CH is good. Crook's Corner is great but a little pricier.

If you are a vegetarian, Fiction Kitchen in Raleigh is incredible.

Favorite hangouts in Durham: Toro (wood-fired hipster pizza) Dashi (hipster noodle shop) and Motorco (more hipsters! great beer selection, and very affordable variety of small plates...) These are all in downtown.

21C is one of the nicest bars in the new Durham. It is in a hotel that has a free 24-hour modern art museum on four floors. So after a drink, you can go look at art. Also they have bathrooms with see-through walls. More art!

But my favorite brewpub is Ponysaurus. The beers they make are pretty well balanced and the food trucks are always good. It is in far east Durham though.. not close to too many other things...for now.

Durham, it ain't what it used to be. When I first moved here over thirty years ago the most notable thing about downtown was the smell of curing brightleaf wafting through the air every fall. I miss the old Durham but love the new Durham.

http://www.southernliving.com/travel/tastiest-town-durham-north-carolina

http://wncn.com/2016/06/15/durham-residents-not-surprised-city-named-foodie-capital-of-the-south/
 
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TBandCW

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They recently opened a chain restaurant from Texas here in Charlotte: Chuys. They have real tortilla chips and yummy chimichangas (they called them chuychangas). Their fajitas aren't very good though. We also have a tiny taqueria nearby with fantastic Mexican street food.

I recently moved from Colorado to the Charlotte NC area. The service here is sooo much better. I chalk it up to southern manners. The food is better too.

In general, I've had pretty good luck using Trip Advisor and Yelp to look up places before we go. In Colorado, it was still terrible, but at least we got edible food more often.
We had a Chuy's when we lived in So Cal. Loved it, especially the nachos!
 

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