What makes a great family restaurant? And, to begin with, what actually is a family restaurant?
Well, here’s what I think: a family restaurant is a place where the whole family can go to eat.
‘Well, no duh’ you say. ‘Thanks for the insight, Hercule’ you might even say (if you’ve been reading Agatha Christie lately). But there’s a lot to that statement, I believe. The ability to provide good food for people of different ages and tastes at one table is not an easy skill. Sure, you can go to Mickey D’s and get your burgers, fries and sodas; the kids will be happy, but the parents are usually doing their best to grin and bear it while their stomachs and digestive tracts read them the riot act. Or, you can go to a more upscale restaurant and have the kids picking out onions and anything remotely green from their plates while squirming in their chairs.
So the challenge to the family restaurant is this: provide good, quality meals for the parents and at the same time have fun meals for the kids that aren’t too bad for them. And of all the family restaurants we have tried (and we have tried many), we have found that Sweet Jenny’s in Barnegat handles this challenge the best.
Why do we like them so much? Well, let’s start with the look of the place. It looks like a big ol’ log cabin and the walls are covered in much memorabilia. Missing an old Elvis album? It’s on the wall here. And that Three Stooges doll? Here too. And that oversized banner of Frank Sinatra? (Where did you get one of those?) Well, nevermind…it’s here as well. The look of the place is one of relaxed kitschy fun; anything but stuffy.
The menu at Sweet Jenny’s is expansive, but not to the point of being overwhelming. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you certainly have your options. And what we have found after eating there many times is that the quality of the food is always good. We have ordered everything from burgers, po boys and gyros to Mediterranean crusted salmon and tortellini del mar and have not experienced a bad meal. And Julian, while coloring with the crayons they provide, can choose his chicken fingers or pizza and we know that his meal will be better and tastier than (insert national fast food chain of choice here).
The last time we went to Sweet Jenny’s, I was in the mood for one of my favorite comfort meals: a pizza burger. The burger I got was thick, cooked medium (as I had asked), with a nice helping of marinara sauce and gooey melted mozzarella on top. Yum. I should also mention that you have option of substituting the French fries with sweet potato fries. Their sweet potato fries are little half-dollar slivers of joy; sweet, lightly fried and with just enough crispiness.
And then…there’s dessert. In addition to being a full-time restaurant, Sweet Jenny’s has an ice cream stand during the summertime when you can get cones, dishes and sundaes with their homemade ice cream. Thankfully, the customers sitting inside can get their ice cream all year-round. I was first introduced to cake batter ice cream at Sweet Jenny’s. Good stuff.
I should also mention the waitstaff at Sweet Jenny’s. On the whole, the staff is very friendly and professional, and they seem to notice and take care of small details. As a parent, we appreciate that our waiter/waitress will usually do two things: 1) ask if we want to put Julian’s order in right away, and 2) bring out extra napkins without us asking. You feel taken care of, and not like the staff is looking to hustle you out the door.
So…what makes a great family restaurant? It’s a place where the whole can go to eat and enjoy themselves in the process. For us, Sweet Jenny’s is that kind of place.
Sweet Jenny’s – 107 S. Main St (Route 9), Barnegat. 609.698.2228.
By the way…like the new look? It’s green, y’know.
County fairs a’ plenty are going on this week. You have the Burlington County Farm Fair starting…yikes…today! Read about the fair here and here. And you have the Gloucester County Fair and NJ Peach Festival starting tomorrow. Read about it here and here.
Another community farmer’s market is getting started in Burlington County.
The winners of the Ice Cream Festival have been revealed, and guess who won the local competition…and we knew they were going to win!
And yet another famous name in the restaurant world is heading to Atlantic City.