Editor’s note: O’Charley’s is a sponsor of Chambanamoms.com.
I have probably eaten at O’Charley’s in Champaign more than the average bear. When my daughters were younger, it was an ideal spot to satisfy everyone: They all consider themselves mac-and-cheese connoisseurs, and combined with a willingness to eat broccoli — I repeat, they were willing to eat broccoli — it was a place we could make everyone happy.
But then something happened. Broccoli didn’t seem as appealing (though I can still get them to eat it if I really, really implore them). And they discovered that mac and cheese is a staple at many other restaurants, not just O’Charley’s. So, added all up, we visited O’Charley’s less frequently as time chugged on.
But not me. I went without them, and I didn’t often leave disappointed. I order the same thing every time — it’s what I do; shout out to Kristina, who knows my order by heart — and it works for me. (For the record, I dig the chicken tenders with barbeque sauce.) But on my last visit I took the two youngest kids with me. Neither could recall the last time she’d been there.
I wasn’t concerned; I knew they would find plenty to eat. And as it turns out, I was right.
The O’Charley’s kids menu is bigger than the typical half-dozen items that many restaurants offer. Bottom line: Most kids will find something they’ll like. I was betting that mine would order mac and cheese, of course.
I lost the bet.
They both picked alfredo pasta. And though that’s one of the few dishes that don’t come with a side, we surmised it wouldn’t be enough food as a single item. So we dug into the list of side items and found — right below the aforementioned broccoli — one of their favorites: mandarin oranges! Two orders, please!
This might be an appropriate time to mention that kids eat FREE at O’Charley’s — every day. One kid eats free for each adult entree. I ordered “the usual” and, because it was Tuesday, I got a bonus: It’s all-you-can-eat for chicken tenders on Tuesdays. (Not that I needed more than the usual amount but it’s a nice insurance policy.)
The kids demolished the chips and queso — “Not too spicy, not too mild,” my 10-year-old said admiringly of the queso — and then received their dinners as soon as they were ready, and before my meal came out. Another bonus.
They weren’t disappointed. We had wondered if my 10-year-old would be filled up by a child’s portion and, well, once we saw the size of the dish, there were no concerns. Even a starving fifth-grader will be satiated by the size of the portion.
And the quality? Check.
“I like it because there is enough sauce, so the noodles aren’t bland,” she said.
And the 7-year-old, unsurprisingly, snapped up her mandarin oranges before she did anything else. They were in heaven.
Though neither finished their pasta, we had to get dessert, of course. Right? What’s a meal without dessert? So we ordered the Goo Goo Crunch, which, if you’re from the South or have visited there, might be familiar. A Goo Goo Cluster is a well-known candy bar in the South (you’ll find them around here in the lobby area of any Cracker Barrel). It has chocolate, nougat, caramel and a bunch of other sugary goodness. Again, despite supposedly being “full,” the girls somehow found enough room to demolish it before I could get more than a decent look at it.
A couple notes for your visits to O’Charley’s:
–Wednesday is Free Pie Day. You get a free piece of pie, although keep in mind it does not work in conjunction with Kids Eat Free.
–If you are sensitive about air conditioning, you’ll want to bring a light jacket or sweater. Like many restaurants these days, the AC is kept at a level that might leave some uncomfortable.