The gastroeconomic scene in Phoenix — and in cities nationwide — has come a long way. Where once existed only big box, big chain superstores, a new generation of restaurants have emerged. Organic is in. Health and wellness have become a priority.
We are more aware than ever of the importance of what we put into our bodies and, thanks to Tiger Moms and French Moms and Moms Who Instagram, we are making better decisions about what we put into our children’s bodies as well.
In 2017, there is a laundry list of restaurants in every major city, and many smaller ones, too, that offer locally sourced food and kid's menus, and whose sustainable practices mean you can feed your family #blessed with the knowledge that you are doing something good for you, and for them, and probably for the world.
This is not that list.
This is a list for all you road warriors out there, beating a path down the sizzling hot asphalt, screaming at your kids to put their shoes on – not because you’re a tyrant, but because you don’t want to end up in the ER to treat their third degree burns this summer. (Though, silver lining, the ER A/C works great.)
This is a list for those of you with small children who are sick of the Science Museum, and the Children’s Museum, and the glorified, expensive fish tank that is the Aquarium.
This is the list for when you are just plain tired of shelling out upwards of $75 for a family meal (only $3 of which your children will even touch), and just want something easy. A place that is cold. A place where your kids can run around with no one judging or glaring. A place – dare I say it? – a place like McDonald's.
It’s great that you want to feed your kids foods that are non-GMO and artificial color-free, but even kids (and definitely us moms) need a “cheat day” once in a while.
You don’t consider yourself germaphobic until you see a ball pit. The mere thought of jumping in and finding a Band Aid in your hair is enough to cause an involuntary retch. Enter, Chick Fil-A. Most locations (and there are many) have a play structure that is small, well-maintained, and outfitted with a handy stack of hand sanitizing wipes at the entrance. (I usually stuff 25 of them in my purse on the way out the door. Thanks, Chick Fil-A!) The kids' area is enclosed by glass and almost entirely soundproof, which means you can enjoy your chicken sandwich in relative peace while your kids inhale sock fumes and careen off of (maybe BPA-free?) plastic slides in plain sight. Get their chicken nuggets grilled if you want, but if you’re looking for absolution, I hereby grant you permission to go fully-fried, and never look back.
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Peter Piper Pizza
Often referred to as the “Las Vegas of Childhood,” Peter Piper Pizza IS "the pizza people pick". That is, if those people happen to be exhausted parents who just want a beer and slice while their kids gamble happily nearby. As a bonus, the experience is great practice for their first bachelor or bachelorette party on the Strip a few years down the road, as the kiddos throw “tokens” (money) into “games” (slot machines) that will essentially chip away at their college tuition fund with the push of every button. If you haven’t been to a PPP lately, I recommend you take a walk through the
casino play area and see for yourself. They even have a game that is a miniature version of beer bong (sans the beer), complete with red Solo cups and a ping pong ball. Take your kids to tutoring all summer if you want to, but I would argue that the real college prep is happening — for a fraction of the cost — at your neighborhood Peter Piper.
We all know that somewhere in the world, millions of Happy Meal toys are meeting a Toy Story 3-like end in an incinerator. But it’s hard to care too much about the noxious gases entering our atmosphere during those 80 or so seconds that your child is the happiest you’ve ever seen him, clutching his little Beanie Baby, or Mario figurine, or whatever the hell is in those bags. I don’t know if McDonald’s started the toy-in-the-meal tradition, but I do know that they’ve perfected it by sticking a hot-ticket, pop culture-generated, usually gender-specific, item in each little bag or box of grease. Allow yourself a moment to lament the corporatization of America, or gender as a socially engineered construct, or whatever it is about the toy that bothers you specifically, and then let your kid enjoy his fucking Happy Meal. He may not remember the teachable moments you’re spouting from the front seat, but goddammit, he’ll remember that toy.