When we moved to Kalamazoo in September 2010, we immediately looked for restaurants to take our young family for dinners. My wife and I truly enjoy going out to dinner, but with a family, it’s difficult. We have twin four-year-old boys, and a five-month-old baby girl. The boys will pretty much eat anything that is put in front of them, which makes things easy.
We like to stay away from the chain restaurants as much as possible, but it’s hard to find smaller restaurants that are “kid friendly” enough. When I was compiling these three restaurants, I chose them based on location, atmosphere and variety of food, for both parent and adult.
bd’s Mongolian Grill
5311 S. Westnedge
Portage MI 49002
Young kids absolutely love this place – especially my two young lads. You can give them the freedom to build their own bowl, mix and matching meats, vegetables, and other add-ons. You will have to watch when it comes to the sauces and watch that they put in their bowl (it could be spicy).
From a nutritional standpoint, it is generally healthier because many of the items are fresh, or without preservatives, and, as a parent, you can monitor what they are putting into their bowl. The cooking style (it’s cooked on a flat top grill, with minimal oils) lends itself to be healthier as well.
I did find the table set up to be less than desirable. The dining area has high, industrial ceilings, and creates a louder eating area. This makes conversing harder with young families, and sometimes the children are more focused on their surroundings, rather than their dinner.
401 East Michigan Avenue
Kalamazoo Michigan 49009
Out my three selections, this is the closest to a “fine-dining” experience as it gets. Food Dance offers the highest quality of out of the three restaurants that I chose. Instead of trying to do justice to their culture or view, I’ll just share what Julie, the owner of Food Dance, has already said:
“For me it’s important to know the values and practices of the people we buy our food from. Caring for the planet, my community and my health are decisions I consciously make. I try to eat well because I just feel better. Knowing where my food comes from matters to me.
Long before it became a trend in our society to eat locally (for so many cultures this was and remains their only choice, lucky them) I found that shopping at the Farmers Markets made the food I was cooking taste much better. Here at Food Dance, we’ve found the same rings true. I know it makes it more challenging for our chefs to prep all this fresh food and our wait staff to remember all the seasonal changes that show up on our menus, but they taste the difference so they feel it is worth it. We hope you feel the same way.”
This pretty much sums up the feeling that you get when you enter the doors of Food Dance. The menu is eclectic to appease the foodies, but I found it also offered enough variety and different items for the children. My boys each ordered two different items. Caleb ordered the “Niman Ranch Pint size Burger” which was little too large for a 4 year old, at a quarter of a pound, but it was made on a fresh bun, and came with hand cut fries.
Owen, who apparently has my courage when dining, wanted something different and went with the “Hokey Pokey” — which I think he chose completely by name. It was a ham, turkey and cheese sandwich with a fruit side. He gobbled it up, so that was a good sign.
5330 West Main Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Yes. It’s a chain. But there is some value with chains. The food is generic and non-offensive to where you know, generally, what you are getting. Also, they tend to be positioned for families and are kid friendly.
The down side is that I know that the food is has been frozen, or canned, or pre-prepared, and loaded with preservatives.
Also, they have great pricing packages for couples and families.