Disney’s BOMA :Introduce your Kids to African Foods

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Ceiling Decor
Disney’s BOMA African Food: Weird Decor
During our last Walt Disney World vacation, we had the opportunity to introduce our kids to the foods of Africa at Boma restaurant located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Boma’s Decor

With the largest continent for its inspiration, both the lodge and its flagship restaurant showcase the African fauna and flora in their décor.
The restaurant features an open-plan kitchen so diners can observe the working chefs as they prepare the vast array of buffet dishes offered.
The venue’s ceilings decorated with tent- like colorful canopies and the artfully positioned painted terracotta pots contribute to the African boma theme.

Furthermore, the circular kraal design of thatch-roofed huts, earthy colors; and the fragrance of exotic spices provide a fun way to introduce kids of all ages to the wild bushland of Africa.

The Mickey-engraved mismatched chairs add just the right amount of the necessary Disney-esque whimsy to the Disney’s BOMA African Food: Inside Decor

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Table DecorBoma’s Food

Boma’s dinner menu boasts an eclectic mix of ethnic flavors, but those who are not adventurous need not to worry as American and European staples are available too.For kids, that won’t try new foods: the family-friendly eatery offers a special kid food station with baked chicken legs, chicken bites, mashed potatoes, spaghetti and even macaroni and cheese.

Dinner is served in an all you can eat buffet style providing a feast for the eyes before it even reaches the mouth.The buffet layout is slightly unusual with desserts on the left, salads and soups in the middle and meats /fish dishes on the right.

For travelers not acquainted with the dishes; there are description cards in front of each, and staff members can answer questions about ingredient which is especially important for guests with food allergies.

The spices and flavor are unique and appetizing. In truth, I can say that for all of the savory dishes, there is something for everyone, even vegans, and vegetarians.The salad section was an interesting fusion of African and American salads featuring: watermelon rind salad, chicken with chili cilantro, tabbouleh, spinach and quinoa and even an apple- jicama pasta.
The Lavash flatbread with the three hummus dips and various couscous salads were our personal preference.

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Red Soup
Disney’s BOMA African Food: pap

As avid soup fans, we just HAD to try all the soups.
There were several: Coconut Chicken Curry, Carrot, and Ginger, Harira made with lentil with sausages, Zanzibar Crab, and a spicy Mulligatawny.
We tried hard to pick a favorite but decided to give all of them a standing ovation.Noteworthy is the Mielie bread – a delicious African cornbread that was a worthy accompaniment to all soups.

The entrees are probably the best introduction to African food.
The Pap; an African cornmeal grits, Fufu a mashed yams and potato mix, Bobotie: curried meatloaf-like casserole and the two stews: Karaieme Seafood with vegetables and Chakalaka a tomato based one.
There are meats of all cuts and shapes roasting on spits, otherwise known as rotisseries.
There are wood fires for authentic grilling and stone ovens for the casserole-type dishes; all prepared with the freshest ingredients depicting traditional dishes of African countries like Tunisia, Ghana, and South Africa.
The meat dishes included pork, chicken, beef, lamb, fish and seafood prepared in various styles; grilled, baked, roasted and marinated to cook over an open fire.
Don’t miss the Masai Matar: a Kenyan style pesto with pecan and roasted peppers.

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Beef

Disney’s BOMA African Food: African PieIf visitors still have room after sampling all these tasty choices; there are desserts!
From the bread and Rice Puddings to Kenyan coffee-tarts and cassava cakes, there are multiple tempting options.
The venue most popular dessert is the Zebra Domes, which are soft mini petit-fours filled with Amarula Cream –a liqueur from South Africa mousse, encased in a creamy white chocolate shell.

On the same note for those of legal drinking age; the Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurant claims to have the largest selection of African wines outside of Africa!
For those that have never tried the world famous wines the restaurant’s wine flight options are a good way to start.

Boma also offers some unique beers and cocktails.
We liked the Habañero Lime Margarita made with Tequila, Habañero Lime, as well as their Magical Star Cocktail with Organic Mango and Passion Fruit Liqueur, Coconut Rum, and Pineapple Juice.

For non-alcoholic guests like our son, the Odwalla Lemonade topped with Wildberry Foam is an excellent choice though all meals come with a complimentary soft drink selection and free refills.

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Chocolates&Cupcakes

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Desserts

Autism Dining Tips

  • We thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience at the Boma, and it was an excellent way to introduce our son with autism to delectable culinary delights the biggest continent in the world has to offer.
  • The Boma staff like to try to accommodate those who have special dietary needs so do communicate with them about what each dish contains and if you or your child can eat it.
  • Since Boma is a very popular restaurant, it is vital to make reservations up 180 days in advance unless you are willing to go at off-peak times.
  • We recommend you go off hours and bring electronics to occupy your kid since reservation times are approximate.
  • If you discover the wait time to be too long; be sure to ask for a beeper and take the time to explore the hotel’s vast souvenir store.
  • Every hour there’s a short music performance that features drums is quite loud and lasts ten minutes.
  • Ask to be seated in a far corner if your child is sound sensitive or bring ear plugs/headphones along.
  • This restaurant offers no character encounters, but we loved the complimentary tour, given after dinner, by trained staff to watch the wild animals with night goggles in the backside of the Animal Kingdom Lodge resort.

  • Disney’s BOMA African Food: Colorful Wall

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Restraunt View

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando

A cowfish is a little marine boxfish that lives in the coral reefs across the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It has little horns on top of its small face that make it resemble a cow, but it has the body and tail of a fish.
This concept of two-creatures-in-one is how the Cowfish restaurant we dined at on our last visit to Universal’s City Walk Orlando was born. The owners took two favorite foods – Burgers and Sushi – and created a new type of combined fusion dish aptly nicknamed The Burgushi!

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando FACADE

Location

The Cowfish restaurant is located in Universal ‘s revamped City Walk Orlando Florida next to several other well-loved eateries like Vivo, Margaritaville, Emeril’s and the Hard Rock Cafe.

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando FISH

 

The Décor

One can feel the fun vibe the restaurant projects right from the entrance -where a giant yellow cowfish welcomes kids ( and adults) providing the perfect opportunity for a pre-meal ‘selfie.’

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando NET

Once inside, the colorful furniture and wall hangings set the mood preparing the patrons for a unique and fun experience. The restaurant is large with a layout that encompasses two levels with both indoor and outdoor seating.

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando BALCONY

The outdoor area is an excellent choice for visitors who wish to enjoy the theme park fireworks while eating dinner.
The venue features an open kitchen, which means that diners can watch the chef and kitchen staff preparing the dishes on the menu.
Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando LAMP

Don’t miss the chance to say hi to the restaurant’s cowfish mascot! The fish, peacefully swimming in a giant bowl next to the hostess desk, originally from Indonesia can grow up to eighteen inches long.

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando REAL FISH

Turns out, the fish is highly sensitive to noise and can be quite toxic to even other cowfish, and so it lives a solitary life.

The Food

Since this was our first visit to the chain, we wanted to get a sampler of several foods and drinks to share and enjoy.
Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando BAR

I ordered the ‘cowfish bento box’ that included a burger and sushi combo along with sweet potato fries (a restaurant staple), Thai cucumber salad, edamame and spicy tuna roll. My husband and son opted for the ‘ fusion specialty bento box’, which was similar to mine except their box came with four pieces of firecracker rolls ( quite spicy.) And of course, we had to try the famous burg-ushi.

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando ENTREE

We also wanted to try their trendy spiked shakes, so we ended up sharing two different ones. Our ‘ Chocolate To Dive For’ (Vanilla Ice Cream with Amaretto and Godiva liqueur) and ‘Orange Ya Glad I’m Back ‘ (Vanilla Ice Cream, Orange Sherbet, Vanilla Rum and Orange Vodka) were a hit!

 

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando BENTO

 

The Experience

Not just about the food; Cowfish is a great interactive experience for the whole family!

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando SCREEN

When guests arrive, they are assigned a tiny fish swimming at the bottom of the virtual aquarium. As time passes, and their table is close to becoming available, their designated fish gets bigger and starts swimming to the top of the aquarium.

‘Why didn’t anyone think of this earlier? ‘asked my son with autism who was mesmerized by the game and didn’t even notice he’d been waiting for a solid ten minutes outside.

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando GAMES

In addition to the video game, the restaurant supplies several old-fashioned games like bean bag throw in patio waiting area, to entertain active kids while their parents can enjoy a relaxing drink from the bar.

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando ELECTRNICS

Once inside, there are interactive touch-screen tablets at the tables that give diners access to the menus and video games. The “Build-your-own-Fish” game caught our attention as a fun way to create a customized fish before watching it join others in the massive virtual aquarium displayed on the giant screens,

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando MENU

The Cowfish chain, with other branches in North Carolina, has received good press and accolades nationwide. In the Relish magazine, it made the 10 Outrageously Good Burgers Across America list, and Rachael Ray in her “Everyday With Rachel Ray” publication mentioned it as a notable family-friendly restaurant.

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando DECOR

 

Autism Dining Tips

If you are visiting Universal Orlando, Cowfish is a great family-oriented place to go to after a busy day at the park.

The helpful staff was ready to answer our son’s questions, and the orders came relatively fast even though the restaurant was busy.

The restaurant offers a kids menu with the usual grub. Our son ordered a bento box although the PB&J sushi roll looked seriously tempting.

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando RESTROOMS

The place is large with outdoor and indoor seating so temperature- sensitive travelers with autism can be well accommodated.

The restaurant caters to a variety of dietary needs so make sure that you communicate with the staff prior to ordering.

It has an open-plan design with high ceilings, which amplifies acoustics. If your child is sensitive to noise, bring headphones to reduce the sound.

Savoring Burgushi at Cowfish Restaurant Orlando SIGN

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype?

For the past several years, we’ve wanted to try out Giordano’s, a very highly rated Pizzeria chain with numerous branches city and nationwide started over 200 years ago in Torino, Italy.

The chain referred to as ‘Chicago’s Best Pizza’ has been awarded prestigious titles by renowned institutions like NBC, CBS Chicago, New York Times, Chicago Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune.

When we finally got the chance we were not disappointed!
We wandered into the Prudential Plaza Millennium Park branch on 130 E Randolph Street for a quick dinner since it was close to our hotel , Chicago’s Swissotel.

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype? sign

 

The Restaurant

The décor is rather simple with wooden furnishings and red and white large-checked gingham tablecloths, but the emphasis here is definitely on the food.
Giordano’s claim to fame is their deep dish pizzas and based on our personal experience rightfully so. The pizzas are made fresh to order so that the waiting time can be long; anywhere from half an hour to 45 minutes depending on the type of pizza ordered.
Our server was excellent; not only promptly answering all our son’s questions but in letting us know what to expect.

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype? table

We went at 6 pm on a Friday night which meant that we didn’t have to wait as long, but it got crowded pretty soon.
While we waited for our pizza, we had appetizers of bruschetta and salad; both were impeccably seasoned and delicious!

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype? brushcetta

When the pizza came, it was everything we envisioned it to be -the thick crisp crust with the stretchy and stringy cheese and the freshly cut tomato topping totally lived up to our expectations.

Autism Dining Tips

  • Giordano’s is open every day of the week from 11 am to midnight. It is important to know that they do not take reservations so you cannot make advanced bookings
  • The waiting times are long and even though the pizza was worth waiting for, I recommend that you go early to avoid the crowds and get served sooner
  • Prepare your child for the wait and bring along a tablet or phone to keep him/her busy.
  • If your kid gets antsy while he or she waits, they can go to the back and watch the kitchen staff prepare the dough and make the pizza!

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype? pizza

  • Though the Chicago venue mostly recognized for their deep pan stuffed pizza; they also serve other Italian dishes like pasta, salads, and even deli sandwiches for lunch.
  • The chain offers gluten-free crusts on the menu, so it is important to place your order accordingly and let the staff know if your child has gluten sensitivities.
  • The premises flooring is flat and even and suitable for wheelchairs.
  • The tables are pretty close together, and the noise level is high especially as the restaurant fills up; so remember to bring headphones for your child to be able to block out loud sounds if necessary.
  • The portion sizes are relatively generous, and there is a children’s menu available.
  • Do make sure that you communicate with the staff and ask questions to be sure that you have understood the menu and selections.

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype? cutting the pizza

 

Dining at Jaffa’s Itzik Hagadol Restaurant


We first visited Itzik Hagadol in Jaffa, Israel back in 2011.
We were walking back to our beachfront hotel – the David Intercontinental, after spending the afternoon in the famous Jaffa flea market. We loved the restaurant so much that we’ve since made going back there a family tradition of sorts.


Dining at Jaffa's Itzik Hagadol Restaurant salads

 

As you come up David Raziel Street from Tel Aviv’s beachfront, you will find the restaurant in a nondescript old building dating from the turn of the previous century. The display of different meats in the window reminds you that this is mainly a steak house.

Dining at Jaffa's Itzik Hagadol Restaurant mosaic
Decor

The two rooms are decorated sparsely with long dark wood tables close to each other for a cozy atmosphere. Patrons who are a mixture of tourists and locals all know to come here for the food rather than the ambiance.
Unless you have made a prior booking, service is first to come first served. Often there are long lines of people waiting for a table. If you or your child are unable to wait for a long time, it is recommended that you call ahead to reserve a place since it does tend to get crowded in the evenings and weekends.

The Food

Even though the restaurant prides itself on its meat, we go there for the 20 or more salad selections (many vegetarian and gluten free) on the menu.
They have a superb appetizer platter that includes tahini, carrot salad, eggplant made three ways, falafel, Israeli chopped salad, cabbage salad, egg salad and an assortment of tomato salads.
Our favorites are the spicy Moroccan, the cold minced chicken liver salad and the roasted eggplant salads that never cease to leave us craving for more.

The refillable salad spread (that you can get as your main course or as an accompaniment to any of their meat dishes) comes with a Laffa – flat bread, fresh and hot out of the stone oven. We wash the meal down with a pitcher of nana (mint) lemonade that they squeeze and prepare daily on the premises.

The menu selection is long and varied, and it usually takes my son several minutes to choose and…come to the same decision each time; he likes their mixed grill skewer platter, which features a combination of chicken, beef and lamb.
I usually order the Romanian kebabs unless I feel adventurous (yes, I know the calories…) and order the grilled goose liver.

Dining at Jaffa's Itzik Hagadol Restaurant lemonade
They do offer ribs and steak as well as cooked fish, but this is a place that most come to for the excellent meat skewers.

If you still have space for dessert, which you probably never will – don’t leave without trying their Malabi, a light and creamy rosewater pudding with a refreshing and delicate flavor.

Over the years, we’ve found the servers to be courteous and friendly; they even remember our son by his name.
Last time we were there and, as usual, couldn’t have any dessert the server packed a malabi to go for us to enjoy in our hotel room later.

The Jaffa restaurant originally opened in 1996 by a father and son duo with a space that accommodated less than 60 people. Since then, it has expanded to two larger dining rooms that can seat many more guests.

Because of its reputation and success, in recent years, the family has opened a second location in Encino California too.

When you visit Itzik Hagadol (Translated as ‘Big Itzik’) it is recommended that you walk to the restaurant or catch a taxi as parking is not easy to come by, particularly in the busiest times since Jaffa is a bustling city and space is a commodity.

Autism Travel Tips

  •  For any sensory issues, this place is best enjoyed off hours when the noise level is reduced.
  • If your child is sensitive to the smell of cooking, ask for a table away from the kitchen, which shouldn’t be a problem.
  •  If your child gets antsy while waiting for their food, you can take them to the front of the restaurant and let them watch how the Laffas  bread area  is freshly baked.

 

Address

3 David Raziel St, Jaffa,Israel

Phone

057-943-8970

Dining at Bucharest’s Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant

 

Caru’ Cu Bere, translated as “the beer wagon”, is a German style beer house restaurant on Stavropoleos Street in the Lipscani district of Bucharest.

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant street seating
The Restaurant

Originally opened in a different location, it moved to this venue in 1899. The Gothic Revival style building is famous for its Art Nouveau dark wood panels, vaulted ceilings and stained glass window interior, and it has been a staple landmark in the Romanian capital for over a century.

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant menu

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant woodworkDuring our last visit to Bucharest, we decided to stop there for an early dinner after touring the city’s  Old Town. The elaborate restaurant menu boasts over 100 dishes, and as it is very popular with tourists and locals, one usually needs reservations. Luckily for us, on that day they weren’t too busy and we scored a table within a few minutes.

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant glasswork

The evening we came in they had musicians and dancers performing folk music and it was quite loud in the main dining area. Also, Romania still allows smoking in restaurants, which is a challenge for our son who suffers from asthma. Luckily but the hostess was very understanding and accommodated our request to get a table in the non-smoking area and away from the noise.

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant musicians
We brought the i-Pad along for our son which was beneficial, as the restaurant had WiFi and it helped occupy him during the relatively long wait for our order.

One of the features my husband and son appreciated since they don’t read Romanian, was the fact that the servers all spoke English, and they even had an English menu describing all the different foods and ingredients, so they didn’t have to keep asking.

Reading through the extensive list was a somewhat lengthy process, and we took our time deciding what dishes to try while munching on the peasant bread and drinking the Romanian Ursus beer (us), and a freshly squeezed glass of apple juice ( our son.)

 

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant inside roomThe Food

We finally ordered three salads; the fish-egg Icre, the roasted eggplant Vinete, and roasted pepper Ardei grasi.
The eggplant salad was thick but smooth, and we liked the Icre (fish egg salad) since it wasn’t too oily.

 

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant decor

Next we sampled their Ciorba soup which is similar to Serbian bean soup, and we each had a mini kebab mititel with mustard.

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant appetizers

 

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant ciorba
We decided to share four main dishes so we can all get a taste of the different cooking styles of the region. We ordered Dovlegi Umpluti, which is stuffed squash, Tocanitza, which is a beef stew, Sarmale, the Romanian version of stuffed grape leaves, and slow roasted pork cutlet. They all were served with a side of Mamaliga, a stove-top boiled polenta. We unanimously found everything delicious but slightly salty.

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant sausage

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant dolmasThough the portions were on the large side and we were full, we felt that we couldn’t leave without trying their famous Papnasi.,The stuffed fried Romanian dessert. These cheese fried donuts were fresh, fluffy and topped with the best black cherry we’ve tasted in years.
Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant stew

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant apple drink

Autism Travel Tips

*Make sure to call ahead and make a reservation for evening dining, especially on weekends.
*Plan to dine early if your child is noise sensitive. The restaurant is famous and hosts large groups at times adding to the decibel level.
*The restaurant offers an extensive variety of Romanian dishes but doesn’t really cater to special needs diets.

Dining at Bucharest's Iconic Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant dessert

 

 

Thanksgiving Buffet at Embassy Suites’ Oxnard Coastal Grill

 

 

The Embassy Suites restaurant has held a special spot in our hearts for almost two decades now.
It is there we have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, met with out of town friends; and for our children growing up it was the place to take them to play in the sand on a clean beach after Sunday Brunch.

So it was only natural that I would want to try their Thanksgiving Brunch after hearing from the manager that they had brought in a new chef and revamped their menu.

The Atmosphere

The restaurant located inside the Mandalay Beach Hotel overlooks both the hotel pool and Pacific Beach. The building is a modern spin on Spanish colonial style and boasts high vaulted ceilings. The décor in dark hues of brown compliments the multiple arch domed windows and the light tan walls.
Arriving as a party of five we called ahead and made a reservation, as we did not know how busy it would be.
We arrived five minutes ahead of schedule and were greeted by the restaurant manager who showed us to the table promptly. Our table overlooking the ocean was in the center of the large dining room but still an adequate distance from other diners to give us enough privacy.

The festive champagne buffet with tables placed in a U shape offered a blend of traditional holiday dishes along with regular brunch dishes.

Thanksgiving Buffet at Embassy Suites' Oxnard Coastal Grill Restaurant setting
The Food

We started with the seafood station that displayed poached shrimp, Baja sea scallops, New Zealand mussels and smoked salmon. We passed by the make your salad station before heading on to the main attraction – the meat carving stations with turkey, lamb and beef.

There were other entrees served; like salmon in herb cream sauce and mushroom ravioli but in all honestly we came for our yearly turkey fix, and we got it.

As dark meat lovers, we enjoyed a helping of that first dark turkey meat, but it was hugely popular with our fellow diners, so the supply was soon depleted. Somewhat disappointed we turned to the white meat, and it was surprisingly delicious – moist and very well seasoned.

Of course we had to try all the traditional sides which included roasted yams with marshmallows, lemongrass coconut basmati rice, Parmesan mashed potatoes, green beans, and stuffing. My personal favorites were the yams though I admit it was the roasted marshmallows that I shamelessly filled my plate with, along with the moist and multi-textured stuffing which is a killer recipe I wouldn’t mind stealing!

Thanksgiving Buffet at Embassy Suites' Oxnard Coastal Grill Restaurant foodThe dessert table looked particularly inviting, so we all tried the assortment of pies and cakes they offered. As one that abhors pudding of all sorts, it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to try the bread pudding. Luckily my son who happens to like the dessert insisted I sample a piece. And I can I say that I’m sure glad I did! The bread pudding made with blueberries was fluffy and unlike others that are slightly tart. In fact, it was hands down the best part of my meal.

We would have liked to conclude our meal with a specialty coffee, but as it wasn’t included in the price of $51 per person, we opted for the house coffee that was somewhat bland and not as strong as I had hoped for.
Worth mentioning was the attentive staff that began with the restaurant manager at the beginning of the meal and continued to the end with Betsy our server, who continuously came around replenishing our drinks and clearing the empty plates.
We got a kick out of meeting the new chef who was overseeing the buffet and was extremely friendly and graciously answered my questions.

Autism Travel Tips

We were grateful that the restaurant was relatively quiet and though busy, never felt crowded.

The venue is a good place to take children to, as you can incorporate a fun and sensory walk on the beach when they get irritable.

Pink’s Los Angeles Iconic Hot Dog House

Love Hot Dogs? You Must Try Pink's outside

The Story Behind the Name.

Started back in 1939 as a pushcart vendor near the corner of La Brea and Melrose, Pink’s Hot Dogs is an LA institution that has been featured in many movies including the Muppets.
In fact, back in the eighties, long before I ever set foot in LA, I remember hearing about how Madonna met her then husband Sean Penn while standing in line at this very restaurant.

 

Love Hot Dogs? You Must Try Pink's van

The iconic food venue, celebrating 75 years this month has expanded over time and offers their fantastic service in several other locations like Ohio, San Diego, Connecticut and Las Vegas as well as operating stalls at many southern California summer fairs.

 

Love Hot Dogs? You Must Try Pink's door

The original Hollywood eatery we like to frequent was built in 1946 and is a relatively small but quaint place for diners to come and get their hot dog fix.
The indoor area walls are decorated with a growing number of photos of celebrities who stopped by and enjoyed the food.

The Venue

It’s perfect for antsy children to explore while their parents are dining while the outdoor ‘patio’ area with tables further apart and plenty of shade under the large beach umbrellas, is quieter and better suited for special needs families.

Love Hot Dogs? You Must Try Pink's menu

The Pink dining experience starts while waiting in line.
It moves surprisingly fast considering how long the lines can be at times.

Before you even order your food, you get to look at how the food venue evolved through the decades and choose your hot dog from their extensive menu.
Can you believe that there are 31 different varieties to choose from?
Our son with autism who hates standing in line for anything enjoys checking out the old photos displayed and chatting with fellow customers.

Love Hot Dogs? You Must Try Pink's more menu

The colorful menu provides not only written descriptions but pictures too.
As well as offering hot dogs, burgers( including a burger dog combo called ‘Jaws’), must try side dishes like chili fries and onion rings to go; they even have desserts.
Portions are on the large side so younger children can share a hot dog with a sibling. With prices ranging from a basic dog at just over four bucks to a three dog extravaganza that is ten dollars and change, the prices are very affordable.

Love Hot Dogs? You Must Try Pink's VIP

As the leading hot dog eatery in Hollywood, many of their combos are named after the celebrity that created them.My son picked the ‘ Martha Stewart’ a dog with mustard, relish, onion, chopped tomato, sauerkraut, bacon and sour cream and the ‘Ozzy’ a spicy Polish hot dog with nacho cheese, American cheese, grilled onion, guacamole and chopped tomato as his favorites.

Love Hot Dogs? You Must Try Pink's LOOT

Mine turned out to be the Philly cheese steak dog with grilled steak, grilled peppers, onions topped with American and Swiss cheese as well as the 9-inch stretch dog with mustard, onions, cheddar cheese topped with a generous helping of tasty chili called the “Brando,” yes, named for Marlon.

Love Hot Dogs? You Must Try Pink's FRONT

 

They even have Souvenirs

For the out-of-towners who wish to remember the visit, as well as the collectors among you, be sure to check out their cute souvenirs especially the pins, shirts and beaded bag in the form of a hot dog.

Love Hot Dogs? You Must Try Pink's PURSE

Autism Travel Tips

What makes Pink’s, even more, unique is the owners’ dedication to helping special needs families.
Not only have the Pink family and their establishments been very active in many local charity events but their autism awareness is commendable.
During the interview with the owner, I mentioned that some patrons with autism might not be able to wait in line to order food. Both him and his lovely sister assured me that if customers call and place their order by phone a few minutes in advance, the restaurant’s  servers will ensure that the food is ready by the time they arrive so they won’t have to wait at all!

Love Hot Dogs? You Must Try Pink's WELCOME

 

Disclaimer: All or part of this experience were provided free or at a reduced cost for review purposes.All opinions are solely that of the writer and cannot be bought or swayed in any away.

 

Taking your kids with Autism to the Cracker Barrel Restaurant

As a family living in California, we officially refer to ourselves as ‘Cracker Barrel’ -Deprived since the chain doesn’t have any restaurants in our home state.
To fuel our obsession with the family-friendly chain, we make a point of visiting every Cracker Barrel restaurant we pass, even if it means in some cases driving out of our way.

Last month we were delighted to discover a branch right next to the hotel we were staying at the time, the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells and, needless to say, our kids insisted on having lunch there.
If you have never been to the Cracker Barrel and want to know what the buzz is about; here are our six reasons why we love the chain and keep returning for more.

Six Reasons Why We Love the Cracker Barrel Restaurant outside

The Price

You simply can’t beat the price for a sit-down lunch or dinner!
For under $30 a family of four can enjoy a hefty lunch or dinner with large portions, two vegetable sides orders, unlimited soda drinks and corn muffins.And if a guest isn’t too hungry, he or she can order off the kid’s menu.

The Taste and service

We just can’t get enough of their fried country cooking!
True, it isn’t very dietetic, and I probably wouldn’t recommend eating it on a day to day basis, but still; their fried chicken and apples are pretty much to die for in our book.
For a venue with such turnaround, it is pretty surprising that their staff is still always so patient and friendly.We’ve been to many locations and have yet to encounter rude, or slow service.

The Rocking Chairs

Our son saw the rockers and was immediately hooked!
In fact, the first time we ever dined at a Cracker Barrel back in Houston, Texas, he had to be bribed into even entering the restaurant since all he wanted was to sit outside and rock.
Nowadays, he looks forward to eating his fried apples but still insists on a twenty-minute stint on one of the display rockers in the front of the store either before or after a meal.

Six Reasons Why We Love the Cracker Barrel Restaurant food

The Store

The store next to the restaurant is a ‘tchotchke’ exploration cove you can spend time (and money) in.Our son with autism never gets tired of finding new items to buy and candy to sample.
The store carries most of the old-fashioned games, candy and CD’s one can think of as well as country inspired home wares and even clothes.

The Country  Decor

Perfect to occupy our son when he gets bored or antsy, the country inspired artifacts displayed on the wall have always added to our overall dining experience.The old fashioned advertisements and memorabilia are not only fascinating but make patrons feel like they are visiting older family members.

Table Fidgets

For years, our sons fidgeted with the salt and pepper shakers or squabbled in restaurants with no Wi-Fi.
But that was before we discovered the  Cracker Barrel. Nowadays, they spend their time playing with the connect four and giant chess sets available at the tables and always have a good time.

Have you taken your kids to a Cracker Barrel Restaurant?
What was your experience?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disney’s ‘Be Our Guest’ Restaurant

 

The Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom that opened its doors in the fall of 2012, is truly a must-dine experience for all visitors but especially for die-hard Disney fans who enjoy themed dining.
Our son is a huge Beauty and the Beast fan so we decided to surprise him and take him there one evening to celebrate his birthday.

Know before Booking

Highly popular with diners, this Magic Kingdom gem needs to be pre-booked and is done so up to 180 days in advance because of its popularity.
If you have your heart set on dining there and didn’t make a reservation, you might just have a small chance to snag a place by checking the online bookings daily for cancellations or even asking the hostess. at the entrance

Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant knights

Checking in

The location for check-in was a bit confusing to us, as the signage wasn’t clear, but we were pointed to the area in front of the castle near the drawbridge. We checked in, got a beeper and waited about 20 minutes until they were ready for us.

Arriving guests can choose to dine in one of three dining halls – the Rose room, Ballroom or the West Wing;  and staff members will try to accommodate them depending on availability.
Our son was over the moon when we were assigned to the West Wing room as he had previously requested.

Welcome

As a tribute to Lumiere, the restaurant greeters let a guest from every party lead the way to their assigned table holding the lighted candelabra.In our case, it was our son who got to do so, while the greeter described the other rooms we could visit after our dinner.

Decor

The elegant restaurant makes visitors feel like they have just stepped into the enchanted world of Belle and Beast from the moment they cross the drawbridge. The attention to detail is impressive; from the sophisticated chandeliers, grand columns and painted ceilings, to the elaborate use of digital electronics depicting snowfall in the ballroom window, and paintings that change features in the West Wing.
Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant tapestries

The Ballroom that also serves as the main dining room is a replica of the ballroom shown at the end of the movie; complete with painted cherub ceilings, grand chandeliers and picturesque snow-capped woods in the window.

The Rose Room, brightly lit, filled with artwork and boasting a giant music box of the Beast dancing with Belle in its center, is the quietest of the three rooms. and is best suited for sensitive noise patrons.

The West Wing is the most detailed by far but dark and somewhat loud, which might be frightening for younger kids. This room has the most artifacts to explore including the glass with the rose petals falling off and the slashed portrait of the Prince that reverts into the Beast every time lightning strikes.

The Library, filled with books and movie memorabilia, is the area where the Beast greets his guests. Guests wishing to get a picture should be prepared to sit and wait in line, albeit a short one, since he is the only character that consistently makes an appearance every night.

Our son loved all the rooms but spent most of his time in the West Wing mesmerized by the portrait changing every fifteen minutes.

Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant magic

So how was the Food?

Since we had dined in other Disney restaurants before, our expectations were not too high, so we were pleasantly surprised by the quality.

The menu is French and offers an excellent assortment of appetizers, soups and entrees along with wine or beer – the only food venue in the Magic Kingdom to do so!
My son and husband ordered the French Onion soup topped with a crouton and gruyère cheese which was a bit salty, while I got the seasonal salad trio with three individual bowls: roasted beet, raisins and orange salad, green bean with roasted shallots, and watermelon, radish and mint salad.
My husband and I each enjoyed a glass of wine while my son opted to get a natural fruit punch – sweetened with organic cane juice and wild berry extract topped with, in his words, “The best!” lemon-lime foam in a lit-up cup that became his souvenir.
For the main course; we all opted for the sautéed shrimp and scallops with seasonal vegetables and mushrooms served in puff pastry with a creamy lobster sauce, which proved to be wonderful. We were all happy with this choice.

But the best was yet to come in the form of dessert!
We had heard about that ‘grey stuff’ that Lumiere recommends in his song and were eager to try it.

We didn’t have to wait long as the waiter brought over some for my son’s birthday, along with a candle and a signed card from Beauty and the Beast.
And yes, it turns out Lumiere was right ,is was delicious!

Service

Our server was attentive and very patient with our son who does take longer than most, to decide what to order.
She also asked us whether any of us had any food allergies since she said the cook could prepare gluten-free dishes upon request.
As this is a popular sit-down restaurant and tends to be busy especially at dinner time, guests should expect a meal to take anywhere from an hour and a half to two.

Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant dessert

Autism Travel Tips

 

  •  I highly recommend watching “Beauty and the Beast” movie before you go as it will help you remember the details and compare the restaurant to what is shown in the movie
  • Bring electronic devices to occupy the kids while you wait outside for your table.
  • If your reservation is for an early dinner, you might want to bring an umbrella to shield yourself from the sun since there is no shady area to wait in.
  • Make sure to mention to the hostess if your child has noise sensitivities and ask to be seated in one of the quieter corners away from the commotion.
  • If you choose to dine in the West Wing, be aware that there is quite a bit of noise – thunder sounds and announcements about the arrival of the host (the Beast) every fifteen to twenty minutes.

 

 

 

Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World

A long time Disney aficionado friend of mine, Nancy Pistorius, had recommended that we give celebrity chef Cat Cora’s Greek-inspired restaurant a try, so on an evening last May, while staying at the Boardwalk Hotel, we wandered into Kouzinna.
Greek for ‘kitchen’, Kouzinna is decorated in dark brown artisan furniture. The open-concept restaurant makes you feel right at home before you even taste anything. We appreciated that the tables are set far enough apart from each other eliminating the crowded feel, and the noise level was minimal which is important as our son is noise sensitive.
Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World inside

 

After seeing us come in, exhausted  from a fun-filled day at Epcot, the attentive staff was more than accommodating; seating us at a quiet, corner table in really good time. That was just the beginning of our wonderful experience.

The service

Our server was really patient; not only spending time explaining each dish to our son with autism, but helping him customize his order exactly the way he liked it: little cream, sauce on the side and no dill or mint on absolutely anything!

The food

My husband and I shared the Kouzinna Spread Sampler. It consisted of hummus, charred eggplant, similar to the Romanian Zacusca my mom used to make, and Tzatziki with warm pita bread slices. I ordered the Avgolemono, which is an egg and lemon soup, that had the right amount of flavoring and texture without being too sour or thick.
My son ordered his favorite dish,fried Calamari, that he fondly nicknamed ‘mini Ursulas’ in reference to the octopus in his favorite movie The Little Mermaid and he had no problem polishing off his plate.
Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World foodWhile waiting for our main course, we got a kick out of watching the chefs in the restaurant’s open kitchen prepare othepatrons’ dishes in flaming copper pans and wood burning ovens. Our main dish was the Kouzinna sample trio of char-grilled lamb burger, mini Pastitisio, which is Greek lasagna, and cinnamon stewed chicken with orzo. So tasty!

Though we were pretty full, we did not leave without trying freshly made Loukomades (Greek donuts) drizzled with warm honey and cinnamon. They not only turned out to be a perfect way to top off a good dinner but left us craving more.

So, come back we did-the very next morning for breakfast.

Once again, there was a minimal wait for a table without prior reservations. The morning staff were just as friendly and accommodating for our son with autism as those from the previous day.

The breakfast

After reading the menu twice because it was that hard to make up our minds, we all ordered their ‘breakfast pizza‘. Picture a warm pita bread with a thick layer of house-cured salmon and soft scrambled eggs topped with capers, bacon and dill over a thick layer of Tzatziki sauce. Delicious! We were so impressed because it took less than fifteen minutes to arrive at our table!

As we waited and gazed out the window at the people passing by on Disney’s Boardwalk, my husband and I slowly sipped our Bloody Maias  (spin off  the traditional Bloody Mary)– a heavenly blend of vodka, honey, lime juice, Bloody Mary mix and dill, while our son savored his all-natural lemonade topped with wild berry foam.

As this was our very last day in Walt Disney, we decided to end our vacation on a sweet note with a dessert and ordered a classic golden waffle topped with mascarpone cheese, honey and chopped pecans.

 

Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World drinks

But it turns out the sweetest treat was yet to come. You won’t believe what was waiting for us when we asked for the check!
The Maitre d’ and server had heard our son rave about the food and lemonade and decided to surprise him with a parting gift – a beautiful hardcover celebrity recipe book signed by Cat Cora!

 

Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World book

Talk about great customer care!

Sadly, the contract between Cat Cora and Disney is slated to come to an end on the last day of September 2014. We are very sad to see this chapter come to a close.

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