Getting back to family basics!
Some of my most fond memories as a child were being called into the house from the neighbors because dad was home and it was dinner time. I cherished dinner with my family, being at school all day, and my dad working long days, it was a time for us all to come together, catch up and bond. Our favorite game was playing “High – Low”. We’d each go around the table and say what the high (best part of our day) was and the low (the worst part of our day). I’m now in my thirties and play this same game with my husband and two young daughters and it brings me great joy to keep the dinner tradition going.
As of late however, dinner has become more and more of a struggle. COVID slammed families together in a way that hadn’t been done before. Moms and dads working from home, children going to school from home. The togetherness was unprecedented, and at times, overbearing. Dinner went from this special bonding time of catching up after a long day, to being together in the same house 24 hours a day and frankly, sick of each other.
Along with my fond memory of my childhood dinner rituals, another childhood memory is stuck in my head as well. Anything that us kids didn’t want to do as a family, my dad would fall back on ole reliable, “Families that [blank] together, stay together.” For example, “Families that grocery shop together, stay together.” or “Families that do laundry together, stay together.” And as my sister and I got older, it turned into “Families that eat together, stay together.” I asked my dad during COVID if he still felt the same way and he laughed. “Yes!” was his response, and while I found that heart warming, I realized, he no longer had young children in the house and was experiencing COVID much differently from how I was experiencing it.
Finally, when restaurants started reopening, my husband and I jumped at the opportunity to take our two girls out to dinner. This was a chance at seeing different faces, and a different scene rather than the four walls of our house and would require different behavior. We went down to Finnegan’s in Huntington Village and to our pleasant surprise, found the restaurant “packed” (per the COVID restrictions of the time). Seeing strangers faces had never been more comforting or welcoming. Being stuck in the house for who knows how long had created bad-behavior at the dinner table due to having two lax parents who at the time had bigger things to worry about, but low and behold, our girls were on cloud nine and were proper young ladies (as they usually were at restaurants pre-COVID).
The experience was life changing. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth. In that moment, we felt normal. My husband and I chatted about anything and everything – – something that seemed to have stopped during lockdown, because let’s be honest, when you’re with someone 24/7, you know what the other is doing, feeling, eating, drinking, etc. There is no mystery anymore. But being out, in a restaurant got us talking like old times and we couldn’t be happier. Our children had smiles from ear to ear and couldn’t help themselves from talking to others at their tables (6 feet away of course). Our little family really got a refresh during that dinner.
A few days later, I called my dad on the phone and told him that I understand why he still stood by “Families that eat together, stay together.” even to this day. Food, I find, brings people together no matter the circumstances, differences, or hardships. It’s not being with different people or eating with different people, it’s maybe just a change of scenery to get you back to where you used to be. Dinner as a family.
Some Kid Friendly Restaurants
Louie’s Grill & Liquors
395 Main Street Port Washington, NY
The name may sound deceiving for a family night out, but the experience is not! Situated right on the water overlooking Manhasset Bay, Louie’s industrial feel has everyone feeling right at home. With seating indoors or outside, the water views, sunsets and the comings and goings of the boats are a natural entertainment for the entire family.
The Foodie Life put Louie’s as one of our favorite family friendly restaurants because they have a great menu for mom and dad with approachable pricing. Being on the water, you have to make sure you get some seafood. Not sure what to get? Start out with the Little Sampler – – 2 Little Neck Clams, 2 Blue Point Oysters (our favorite), and 2 jumbo shrimp, all accompanied by their house cocktail sauce, mignonette and lemon. Don’t forget to try their Maryland Crab Cakes made with lump crab meat and a lemon white wine sauce. Don’t worry about these cakes being filled with breading, lumps of crab meat are all you’re going to see! For your main course, if you are still wanting seafood, their menu is extensive. Whole Branzino, Broiled Seafood Combo of broiled cod, jumbo shrimp and scallops in a white wine sauce served with Jasmine rice, or their Cioppino, which comes with shrimp, scallops, mussels and market fish in a silky tomato and shellfish broth. Wanting to keep your feet on land? No worries! Check out their Braised Beef Short Rib served with creamy mashed potatoes and roasted carrots, or their Chicken Parmigiana.
We didn’t forget about the kiddos! They have their own menu of Fried Chicken Strips, Penne Pasta or Flatbread Pizza. Still more room? The kids are sure to go crazy for the dessert menu! Warm fresh baked fudge brownie with vanilla ice-cream, caramel drizzle and sprinkled with sliced toasted almonds, Giant Rainbow Layer Cake and their fresh skillet chocolate chip cookie, vanilla ice-cream, peanut butter cup crumbles, caramel and chocolate fudge are some of the awesome choices!
10 New Street, Huntington, NY
You don’t get much more family friendly restaurant than Leilu, which is run by an amazing family. James and Meghan LaCourte both spent their lives growing up and living in Huntington. Along with their two young daughters, Leila and Lucy (who the restaurant is named after), James and Meghan nail it on the head of making you feel like you’re part of the family too.
Walking into Leilu you are immediately welcomed with a sense of comfort and home with an edgy modern twist. You’ll find Meghan greeting you at the door and James slinging the most amazing cocktails behind the bar. You can even find Leila and Lucy dining nearby occasionally.
Leilu has amazing seasonal menus which stays true to using locally sourced ingredients and supporting local businesses. Head down on Tuesdays for their amazing Taco Tuesday deals or Sundays and experience their amazing brunch and their to-die-for Loaded Pretzel which comes with a giant warm Bavarian pretzel topped with Leilu’s famous ‘Devil Balls’ and Mac n’ cheese served with house made beer cheese sauce. Have picky little eaters? Leilu is beyond accommodating when it comes to the littles – they will prepare almost anything they want, chicken fingers, pasta, you name it! They also provide coloring books and fun little things to keep the kids busy while mom and dad sit back and relax and enjoy!
To top off all the amazing food and drinks, Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s you can find live music filling the street outside Leilu. Local artists are featured each weekend that you and the family will love!
Bonus Perk: Leilu is a Foodie Card Restaurant Partner, you can save 10% off if you are a Foodie Card member!
630 Old Country Road, Suite LI02, Garden City, NY
Seasons 52 brings a seasonal menu inspired by the freshness of farmers markets where local ingredients shine best along with an award-winning wine list, extremely reasonable pricing and a kids menu, this restaurant is sure to be a hit with the entire family!
Pesto chicken and fresh mozzerella and lobster and fresh mozzerella flatbreads are a great start your meal. Not in the mood for pizza? Try the lump crab cake, Korean BBQ beef skewers or the Ahi Tuna Tartare! Moving to the main, Seasons 52 has a killer fish selection like their brick oven-roasted Chilean Sea Bass served with roasted mushrooms, wild rice pilaf, snow peas all topped with a ginger-sesame glaze or the wood-grilled rainbow trout served with roasted asparagus, marble potatoes and a dill-mustard sauce. They have a great kids menu as well! Mac’ n’ Cheese, burgers, grilled chicken, cheese flatbread and pasta give every kid something to choose from.
Make sure you eat all your dinner! Seasons 52 has a great dessert selection; and if you’re like us, you have a hard time choosing because everything looks so good! That’s why Seasons 52 has mini desserts so you can try them all! Belgian Chocolate S’Mores, Cookies n’ Cream, Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cannoli minis are available plus many more!
Parents can enjoy their extensive cocktail menu – Strawberry Basil Martinis, Honey Lavender Sangria, Peach Riesling Mule or any of their award-winning wines.
Bonus Perk: Seasons 52 is a Foodie Card Restaurant Partner, you can save 10% off if you are a Foodie Card member!