NorthPark Center: The best Santa and great family dining

I’m not a mall person. They give me headaches, so I just don’t go. Ever, really — maybe once a year.

But now I have kids. The oldest of those two boys is 3, and this whole Santa concept has trickled its way down into his consciousness. So, like dutiful parents determined to enforce their child’s belief in a myth — the truth of which will eventually crush him — we take him to see Santa. (And what better Santa than the NorthpPark Santa? The beard is real, the girth is real and, if you catch him on a good day, the cheer is at least artfully faked.)

So on Monday I schlepped the kids over to NorthPark. We had plans with friends and their kid to check in, get our Santa number and then have dinner at the food court while we waited. Those plans were thwarted when we were told Santa had stayed home sick.
So, again, on Tuesday, I packed my 3-year-old into the car (my husband graciously stayed home with the baby) and we were off. The Northpark Santa people were exceptionally accommodating of those of us who told them we’d been there the previous night . While others were  told to come back the next day and get a number, I was given a quick pass to a short line and we waited a mere 10 minutes for the Santa experience.

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Afterward, my friends and I wanted to have dinner, and not at the food court again. We decided to go to T.G.I. Friday’s. I’m not a fan of chains, but with two preschoolers in tow — and one, my boy, who sometimes acts as if I’ve fed him pixie sticks through the bars of his cage all day — it’s important to choose a place that can handle that, err, level of enthusiasm.

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So, to cut to the chase, here’s what I learned from my twice-in-one-week mall excursions: Northpark is a great place to take the young ones to dinner. The food court is perfect: I can get something at Snappy Salads and my kid can get Chick-fil-A. And T.G.I. Friday’s — and perhaps other places there? — has lounge-type seating outside the restaurant, in the traffic area of the mall, that at least last night was deserted. So we sat out there and the kids were able to move around a bit until their food came. The service was a little slow at first, but once we ordered, the food came quick and the service was efficient.

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What about you? Where do you take your kids for meals? I’m always looking for the perfect family restaurant. I found it one time in San Antonio. It’s called Scenic Loop Cafe — there’s a large and pretty outdoor patio, good live music, great food and a huge playground where the kids can play before and after dinner. If only Dallas had such a place …

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