Atmosphere: Ten different restaurants in one location. Fancy fast food. Comfortable, pleasant surroundings.
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays until 10 p.m. Sundays from noon until 6 p.m., but not all restaurants are open.
Price Range: Hot dogs start at $1.30, to $4.25 for the barbecued chicken and rib platter. Yogurt is available by the bowl for 75 cents.
Credit cards: None.
Special facilities: Easy entrance from the shopping mall or from blue level parking. Highchairs and booster chairs available. Smoking and nonsmoking sections.
"I hate pizza."
"No, I want chicken."
"Yuck, not chicken again, I want corned beef."
The family restaurant argument has begun. Many children dine out so frequently these days that a tug-of-tastes often begins before the family ever leaves home.
The Eatery was designed to handle such problems. Its 10 restaurants offer almost unlimited combinations.
While the Eatery is similar to other fast-food establishments -- you serve yourself and find your own table -- there the similarity ends. Scores of popular American and foreign foods are available in a comfortable setting where you can go for a snack or a complete meal. The restaurant is located at the end of the mall's second floor.
Besides providing an easy solution for a family whose members have different tastes but still want to eat together, the Eatery is a convenient eating place for weary shoppers and patrons of the malls' five movies theaters.
Before playing The Eatery game, familiarize yourself with all the foods you can sample. Look for a table as you walk from one end of the room to the other.
We were a family of five, with grandma helping us cover the meal possibilities. She enjoyed a Chinese platter of two lightly breaded chicken breasts that had been quickly fried and served with rice, an egg roll, tea and a fortune cookie for $3.35.
The chicken was surprisingly tender and not overcooked, but it was covered with an unnecessary chow mein sauce. The other items were also fresh and not oversteamed. Other appetizers and entrees are available from fried won tons to shrimp tempura.
At first glance the prices may seem a little high, but the portions are large and the food is good. Some of the platers, in fact, had more side dishes accompanying the main course than you might want.
Such is the case with the combination chicken and rib dinner ($4.25). The chicken and the ribs were not overcooked but they were both glazed with the same sweet, sticky barbecue sauce. The half-chicken and two large ribs were accompanied by cinnamoned applesauce, a roll and a baked potato. The potato was cold.
The third main dinner we sampled was from the Pot au Feu, an establishment that tries to add a little flair to tedious menus by making its presentation in English and French. This is not difficult when the offerings are soup, salad, roll, desert and drink.
Inflexibility is a problem here -- you are allowed all-or-nothing choices. The soup or the salad can be ordered a la carte for $2.75 with roll, dessert and drink. Or, for $3.75, you can have both the soup and the salad and the other items.
Since the soup and the salad are both good, your problem is one of size. You cannot have a cup of soup and a salad bowl, or a small salad and soup bowl. Large sizes of both are the only way you can try both together, but they barely fit on the tray. That should be a clue to someone.
Soups change daily and represent three distinct tastes. The night we were there, it was a cream of mushroom, a chilled sunrise and a Japanese spinach and steak.
I chose the chilled sunrise, which was prepared as a gazpacho minus all the seasonings. It was good, nonetheless, swimming with bite-sized cucumbers, onions and peppers. The soups here are ambitious and usually successful.
For children, The Eatery offers other exciting possibilities. It is always fun to select frozen yogurt as your entree and to top it with fresh strawberries. At $1.10, it is a best buy. The yogurt is the creamiest around and reminiscent of soft-serve ice cream.
In addition to the yogurt, the other offerings at The Body Shop fare as well. The vegetable bake with fresh broccoli, mushrooms, eggs and cheese rivals the Italian zucchini casserole with its accompanying spinach salad for top honors. I knew you'd forget this was fast food.
Our son, on the other hand, likes to list his nutrients as sauerkraut for a vegetable and a bologna slice for extra protein atop a kosher-style hot dog. Fortunately, he nibbles from everyone's platter and is most content with the combination of tastes.
Desserts can be a problem at The Eatery. There is one counter devoted exclusively to satisfying your sweet tooth, but it seldom does an acceptable job. The cheesecake ($1.10) tasted as if it had been sliced in the morning and then put in the refrigerated case all day. It had. Other selections from this counter have proven it to be the weak link the total operation.
We were extravagant by ordering platters for each adult and by sampling a large variety of offerings. Our $20.15 bill for three adults and two children could have been reduced by ordering shared foods such as pizza, or individual portions rather than whole platters.