Restaurant Reviews

So-So Food, Great Fun: More Than Making the Best of It at Little Matt's

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Little Matt's: a desirable destination for the pickiest of toddlers, the most exhausted of adults and everyone else in between. This restaurant's laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere makes it a "fast and fun" place (as the wall painting states) to enjoy some simple, good comfort food and some kid-friendly, classic arcade games.

Pulling up to Little Matt's feels a bit like hopping onto the set of Pleasantville. Nestled alongside West University Elementary, this strip of Edloe has a decidedly old-school, small-town feel. Diagonal street parking in front of American flag-bedecked storefronts, a town hall and postage-stamp fire station just down the street, and the cheerful din of a Little League baseball game in the park adjacent all lend the place a homey charm even before you pass the row of bright red picnic tables out front and head inside.

...As we walked in, the first thing I thought was, "OMG IPADS!!!" Yes, the Facebook legend was true. There, in front of my ecstatic face, was a counter mounted to the wall with six of the devices in metal cases, ready to be played with. The iPads, I think, are a good way to avoid having us grumpy children tugging at our parent's sleeves when we're waiting for dinner.

I'd been talking up the iPads for a while, trying to generate some enthusiasm in a couple of kids who often find themselves dragged out to restaurants that might not be their first pick, to put it diplomatically. Little Matt's is different. I think it's fair to say that they've asked to eat there every night since our first visit, and that first, technologically enhanced impression surely has something to do with it. It's a good strategy, having those iPad stations right up front. They'll give you a chance to figure out what in the heck is going on.

There's a bit of a "tribal knowledge" problem at Little Matt's. If you've not been before, you won't be entirely certain what happens where and in what order. We had a brief staring contest with the young woman behind the cash register, who seemed to expect us to know the drill. We didn't. To save you a few minutes of confusion: Pick your order from the menu on the wall across from the giant pile of candy (more on that later) and deliver it to the cashier. Listen for your name as you join the arms race for open tables (you seat yourself). There seems to be a black-market trade in unused chairs. Regardless, you'd better have a plan before they call your name, lest you wind up juggling an order of chips and guacamole, silently begging those stragglers with the four-year-old to get up already. Once you find a seat, find your kids. They'll spend the remainder of the meal dodging back and forth between the table and the games, stealing a few bites and a few more quarters with every return visit.

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Nicholas L. Hall and Cecilla Hall