Ask anyone with kids and I bet they'll agree that finding a good neighborhood restaurant that appeals equally to children and adults is like finding another clean soccer sock when you're late for practice. Around here, there's no shortage of candle-lighted spots for date nights, or kiddie joints that specialize in burgers and chicken nuggets, but leave parents desperate for an adult beverage. If you choose to dine in the vicinity of a mall, you're sure to find plenty of chain restaurants with crayons galore, mediocre food and zero atmosphere. A good local family restaurant, however, is a rare commodity. The new occupants of 403 N. Ridge Road hope to fill that void in the 23229 ZIP code.
The owner of Cuisines Restaurant & Catering, Tammy Flinn Farley, recently moved her operation from West Broad Street to the Tuckahoe Shopping Center, opening Flinn's, a casual dine-in or take-out spot with a focus on classic American food. She still operates the catering business, Cuisines, out of a space behind the restaurant. With the ghosts of at least two failed restaurants (Graffiti Grille and River's Ridge) haunting the awkward triangular building, I can't help but think Flinn's faces an uphill battle.
I have high hopes, though, when we find a bustling dining room filled with happy families on a Tuesday night. The space looks about the same as it did as River's Ridge, minus the nautical dAccor and white tablecloths. The layout of booths and dark wood tables and chairs, and the long, clubby bar running along one wall all look familiar.
The menu, however, signals a different vibe altogether. Rather than osso buco and duck breast, the Flinn's menu is made up of traditional sandwiches, wraps, entree salads, a few pastas and some grown-up meaty dishes. It's extensive, reasonable and child-friendly. There's a separate kids' menu that includes mainstays such as hot dogs, grilled cheese and spaghetti. If your child can't find something to eat here, then you should probably get comfortable eating at home for the next 18 years.
The service is a little slow, perhaps because of the very full house, but cheerful, as are we, until the food starts to arrive. Other than my older daughter's hot dog, our meals are disappointing. My New York strip steak, ordered medium rare, is cooked to proper doneness, but is dry and has about as much flavor as a tire. It doesn't help that it's served on a purple plastic plate — a fate no self-respecting hunk of beef should suffer. As for the sides, my collard greens are canned and bland, and the macaroni and cheese is uninspired. The marinara on the chicken Parmesan is too sweet and tastes of overcooked tomato paste. My younger daughter won't touch her partially congealed mac and cheese, but does enjoy the spaghetti from the chicken Parmesan. The chocolate Acclair cake is so rich and cloyingly sweet, a few bites is about all my tooth enamel can handle.
During two subsequent lunch visits, I'm relieved to discover that if you stick to sandwiches, you have a better chance of enjoying your meal here. The Spencer, a burger inside a grilled cheese with grilled onions, is as artery-clogging and delicious as it sounds. The homemade crab cake sandwich is heavy on crab and light on filler, with a tangy tartar sauce, and the honey-mustard chicken wrap is a basic but successful combination of chopped chicken, lettuce, tomato and honey mustard. The veggie sub is a fresh and tasty medley of sautAced vegetables and cheeses. For sides, stick with the onion rings or potato salad.
Almost everything in the appetizer line-up comes out of the fryer. The chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks are the best of the bunch. You won't miss out by passing up the buffalo wings or fried mushrooms.
The large and reasonably-priced menu — most items are less than $10, with just a few entrees in the $12-$15 range — and the kid-friendly vibe might warrant a visit to Flinn's if you're in the neighborhood. But it's not the ultimate family restaurant I've been searching for. S
403-B N. Ridge Road in Tuckahoe Shopping Center
Lunch and dinner: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Brunch, lunch and dinner: Saturday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Brunch: Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Bar open after dinner hours Monday-Saturday