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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: ABCs of the SCV: F is for Family Dinner | 02-09-2013
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The Good Long Road | Commentary by Jennifer Fischer
| Saturday, Feb 9, 2013

JenniferFischerOur “ABC” adventure has thus far included animals, bicycle trails, Central Park, drums and education. Now for something yummy: family dinners in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Toward the end of last year, we decided as a family to  commit to family dinners – primarily at home, with all of us sitting around the table, unplugged.

Sometimes that entails cereal for the boys, a simple salad for me, and a quick sandwich for my husband – perhaps because of a long day or the need to do some grocery shopping – while at other times, it may involve a meal that is much more involved.

The point is not the food as much as it is the family time. And yes, every now and again, we cheat and the boys watch a show while my husband and I enjoy a meal uninterrupted by a 3-year-old with something very important to say, or an 18-month-old who wants something different to eat. But mostly, we cherish and enjoy these family dinners and believe they are something of value for us to establish as a family habit.

Family dinners also, on occasion, include an effort to dine out. With two children 3 and under, this is not a common occurrence, but it does happen enough that we now have a pretty clear idea of what places in the Santa Clarita Valley offer the best dining options for parents with young children.

For us, dining out with little ones means I want to eat somewhere that will not be too crowded or have a long wait, and that is budget-friendly. With that in mind, I share some of our go-to places for Family Dinner when we eat out. Genghis Khan off of Lyons Avenue, which features a Monglian BBQ where you select the fresh ingredients and they stir-fry them for you. This works well because the boys like rice and noodles and I can easily tailor food to their picky toddler taste buds. Plus, the staff is always really great about the kids. Souplantation also works well with families because of the array of choices, healthy options, lack of a wait and, not to be underrated, frozen yogurt.

Burger places are another safe go-to option. We used to love going to Kona Burger before it closed. Five Guys and Red Robin are other good burger options. Pizza places also work well. When we have the rare chance to do a family lunch outing during the week, Roundtable is a good choice, and California Pizza Kitchen is also popular. We like Stonefire Grill, but make sure to steer clear of it on Friday nights. Healthy, family-friendly places that have been recommended to me include Freshworks California Grill on Cinema Drive, and Wahoo’s Fish Tacos.

On the weekend, we also like to enjoy family brunch together and love Egg Plantation, but my recommendation on that with kids is to go on Saturday, not Sunday (too crowded), and go as early as possible for breakfast, to beat the rush. We find that if we get there at 9 a.m. on Saturday, it works out really well. I love that they have Cheerios, color sheets and stickers to keep kids occupied. My trick is  always to make sure I have a small coloring book and crayons with me anytime we venture out to eat, so that if we end up waiting somewhere, I am prepared.

Finally, I am not a huge fan of fast food and really try to limit our intake, but sometimes a take-out or quick, sit-down fast-food family dinner just makes sense. Our 3-year-old prefers Wendy’s or Panda Express, but we can also get away with Subway. (Tip: I just learned that Wendy’s has kids meals for $1.99 after 4 p.m. during the week, but you need to remember to ask for the discount.)

Where do you go for a family dinner out? Do you sit down for a family dinner at home? Do you do “Family Dinner Unplugged”? I invite you to try it – if only for a few nights a week at first. For me, it is one of my favorite parts of the day, and it has really helped improve the ability of our 3-year-old to sit down while he eats, and stay seated. When we are all seated and free of distractions, being at the table  is that much more enticing.

Please stop in at The Good Long Road Facebook page and share your favorite Santa Clarita Valley outings, adventures or explorations. They just might make it into an article – and give us some more ideas for a family dinner out.

 

Jennifer Fischer is co-founder of the SCV Film Festival, a mom of two, an independent filmmaker and owner of Think Ten Media Group, whose Generation Arts division offers programs for SCV youth. She writes about her parenting journey on her blog, The Good Long Road. Her commentary is published Saturdays on SCVNews.com.

 

 

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