I had a curious craving for chicken wings last Sunday and a trip to Hooters satisfied both my hunger and my curiosity.
Had I just been hungry for hot wings, I could have gone to Buffalo Wild Wings or even the grocery store. But, I was equally parts famished and interested in the family-friendly policies of the Hooters chain.
The Wife and I would occasionally eat at Hooters in the days before children. It took a bit of coaxing, but she eventually fell in love with the spicy chicken sandwich. Back then, I never really paid attention to the crowd. This time, I wondered if kids would be welcome.
Would the innuendo-laden franchise known for its sexy servers have high chairs? Is there such thing as a Hooters kids’ menu? And if so, does the “More Than a Mouthful” burger come in a junior size?
These and other questions swirled in my mind as I pulled into the parking lot after Sunday mass. The Ludwig family was among the first customers of the day. To my surprise, another family had been seated before us.
I was relieved. Part of me wondered if The Wife and I would be the only parents in the restaurant with children. I feared having to eat my wings as construction workers and bikers stared at my family shaking their heads in disapproval.
A hostess seated us near the other family and quickly gathered a couple of high chairs. As we sat down, our waitress greeted us with a smile and crouched down to present my two toddlers with black-and-white children’s menus that doubled as coloring pads and crayons.
I really doubted that Hooters would be so accommodating. It’s not like two boys under the age of three are the target demographic for this restaurant. And yet, Hooters had all these little welcome distractions that kept my sons from becoming brats at the dinner table.
Of course, the meal wasn’t without its share of uncomfortable moments. My 2 ½-year-old son was enthralled by all of the Hooters T-shirts, hats and other gear hanging on the walls. Most items were innocent, but I was glad he didn’t spot the mouse pad featuring a Hooters girl whose chest doubled as a wrist cushion. It just begged to be squeezed.
Then there was the kid’s T-shirt that read, “Future Hooters Girl.” That was sort of awkward and made me question if I would still be eating at the restaurant if I had daughters instead of sons.
Regardless, our food came fast – another important factor in successfully eating out with children. The boys split a grilled cheese and our Hooters girl gladly brought it to the table as The Wife and I enjoyed our wings. They continued to nibble as we later devoured two spicy chicken breast sandwiches.
After the meal, I took Bubba to the men’s room. He’s still pottytraining, and I had downed about a dozen iced teas. We finished our business. and I looked around the room for a changing table, thinking I might return with my 18-month-old who needed a fresh diaper.
Alas, there was no changing table to be found. Proof, Hooters may not be the most family-friendly restaurant, but it’s hardly the least.
Image credit: Josh Ward, Flickr
Howard Ludwig is a former business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.