This California-based outlet might be steep for classic American diner fare, but its $2 kids meals are a hit
Reviewed by Rachel Feit, Fri., Jan. 9, 2009
Daily Grill11506 Century Oaks Terrace, 836-4200
Monday-Thursday, 11am-10pm (bar until 11pm); Friday-Saturday, 11am-11pm (bar until 12mid); Sunday, 11am-9pm
Like most parents, especially working parents, I am continually pulled between the urge to order an easy weekday meal from a restaurant and my better judgment not to spend the extra cash. After all, regular meals out for an entire family can become an expensive habit. So when I heard about a recent promotion offering $2 kids lunches at Daily Grill in the Domain, I knew I wanted to investigate. This California-based outlet is a sleek interpretation of a classic American eatery whose concept blends studied chic with timeless comfort. Here, framed black-and-white photos of Fifties movie stars in various Hollywood restaurants line the walls, a fully stocked bar dominates one-half of the restaurant, and snug booths define much of the seating area.
Like diners of old, the nostalgic menu features classics such as chicken potpie, meat loaf, fish and chips, meaty hamburgers, and ample-portioned desserts that reach for the sky. A dressed-up dinner menu of steaks, pastas, fish, and chicken dishes reads like a greatest-hits list from the past 40 years. However, unlike diners of yesteryear, regular meals at this uptown Daily Grill can bring a gold-studded price tag. At lunch, most sandwiches and burgers start at $10. A BLT runs you $8.95, while a tuna melt with fries will set you back $11.50. OK, so the portions are huge, and it is conceivable that two people could split a sandwich. I'll also give extra credit for the fact that the tuna melt, on crisp grilled rye and dripping with cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and flavorful tuna salad, was an excellent rendition on the genre. Nonetheless, when I drop $12 on a sandwich, I generally expect to eat something a little fussier than a tuna melt.
Still, as I recently discovered with the kids' meal specials, good values can be had here. For an unspecified time, all kids meals at Daily Grill are just $2 (with purchase of adult meals) and include a fountain drink, any item off the kids menu, and ice cream for dessert. A few weeks ago, I took four 8-year-old boys to lunch there. Their responses were overwhelmingly positive, and generally, the kids were impressed by the restaurant's clubby atmosphere. Two of the boys stated that "the food was great, and the service was great." And it is true that the waiter was very patient and completely unbothered when one of the boys spilled his drink on the table. However, neither did he make any moves to clean it up, leaving us to manage with saturated root-beer napkins as a centerpiece.
The kids menu offers more variety than most restaurants. Just about everything kids love is on it, from hot dogs and macaroni and cheese to pasta with tomato sauce. I was delighted that the children's chicken nuggets were made of real chicken breast, cut in strips and flour-dusted to order, and the fish sticks were actually just miniature versions of the same fish and chips featured on the adult menu. My own son ordered the kids cheeseburgers, which were the size of White Castle sliders and served on fresh brioche-style buns. He greedily devoured both of them. "Those were the best burgers I ever tasted," he declared. The kids also uniformly loved Daily Grill's crispy shoestring fries. When asked how Daily Grill compared to McDonald's – the gold standard of restaurants for most 8-year-old boys – one child responded, "McDonald's is down here [holding his hand close to the table], while this place is up here [holding his other hand above his head]."
Mom's opinion of Daily Grill is slightly more tempered. The food is competent if somewhat typical, but with careful ordering and planning, Daily Grill can be a bargain for families.
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